In this week’s Torah reading we read all about the kohen examining people to determine whether they were afflicted by tzaraat, the leprous curse. It was a physical inspection which had spiritual implications. The person might be pronounced tahor (pure) or, G‑d forbid, tamei (impure), all depending on the results of the kohen‘s examination.

I couldn’t help thinking about going to the doctor for the requisite annual medical examination, or “physical.” We go through the routine checkup—height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and stress tests on the treadmill and up and down the little staircase.

It was a physical examination with spiritual implications

But have you ever thought of going for a “spiritual”?

What’s our “height”? Do we walk tall? Are we proud and upright Jews, or are we apologetically stooped and bent over by the burden of an inferiority complex?

What about our “weight”? Are we on a well-balanced diet of Torah, the sustenance of our souls, or do we suffer from spiritual malnutrition?

And how is our heart doing? A Jewish heart doesn’t only pump blood; it pumps warmth and love. A healthy Jewish heart is the emotional center of the person. It emotes and feels the pain of another. And healthy hearts are inspired by events that point unmistakably to the hand of G‑d in the world. If we aren’t feeling what we should be, then we might be suffering from blocked arteries.

When the doctor took my blood pressure, I immediately made the obvious connection—tefillin. I remembered the story of the simple farmer who went for his first medical checkup. When the doctor checked his pressure, he asked what that was all about. The doctor explained patiently that he was checking the heart rate. “But why are you holding my arm if you want to see how my heart is?” “When I check your hand,” replied the physician, “I know how your heart is.” The hand that gives charity, for example, indicates that it’s connected to a healthy Jewish heart.

A Jewish heart doesn’t only pump blood; it pumps warmth and love Then came the stress test—up the stairs and down the stairs, up again and down again, and again and again. How do we handle the ups and downs of life? Are we smug and arrogant when we’re up, and dejected and depressed when we’re down? How do we deal with stress? Do we trust in G‑d that everything has a purpose, and a positive one at that? Or do we become angry and bitter at life’s unkind twists of fate?

Finally, there was the treadmill. I really dislike treadmills. After two minutes, I said to the nurse I’d had enough. “The doctor said you must do four minutes,” she informed me sternly. “Four minutes?” I cried. “This feels like four hours!”

Life can be a tedious treadmill. We find ourselves running and running and getting nowhere fast. A grueling rat race, where even if you win you’re still a rat—all of it leaves us wondering what it’s all about and why we are working so hard with no meaningful, consequential reward.

So this year, in addition to going for a physical, why not go for a spiritual? Find a kohen, a Jewish spiritual teacher/healer, who can search your soul for its healthy characteristics as well as your necessary growth points, and prescribe a spiritual fitness program tailored for you and your neshamah. May we all be healthy, physically and spiritually.