Health as a Value
Health as a Value
This chapter discusses how health is viewed and valued by the Jewish community. Popular views within the Jewish community on matters of health fell into three main categories of complaint: general (problems that might afflict anyone in the adult population, irrespective of age or sex), female (those connected with fertility, birth, nursing, etc.), and childhood (those specific to infants and children up to the age of religious maturity). In east European folk culture, including its Jewish variant, the term 'health' was colloquially understood as the state of full vitality. Attributes that fell within the scope of this concept included vigour, energy, ruddiness, and even the broader quality of longevity. The epithet a gezunter yid (a healthy Jew) designated not so much a person free of illnesses, but rather someone strong and fit, even in some contexts exuberant. Aside from vitality, another constituent element in the state of full health in Jewish folk phraseology was one's aesthetic appearance. A fundamental indication of illness was the loss of 'colour', a pale physiognomy. For the traditional Jewish population, health was one of the most significant factors in everyday life. And this conviction was echoed in everyday greetings and language. Poverty was spoken of as a fever, and, in general, physical ailments were used as synonyms for all misfortunes, regardless of whether these 'plagues' were material in character or not.
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