Shlomo Ezagui

Prayer is Good for the Gut and More.

Greg Rakozy

God presented us with His infinite wisdom in the Torah for us “to improve (and perfect) the world under (imbued by) the sovereignty (and the guidelines within the Torah) of Godliness.”

The wise sages of the Talmud teach us that the study of the Torah is the antidote for all illness, not only because the Torah will direct one to the right places and people and not only because the actual principles behind any cure are found in the Torah, but because Torah is an infinite and perfect energy and when connected with it, “it (is the ultimate strength and energy and it) protects and saves (everyone).”

There has been much talk lately regarding meditation and mindfulness’s phenomenal benefits. This is precisely what true prayer (a directive in our Holy Torah) is about. Recently, I came across an article that quoted a newly published study out of Harvard on the significant positive impact meditation has on the brain and, as a result, the gut. I do not have to tell you about all the spiritualists who have been practicing this art for thousands of years.

Britta Holzel, the first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany, reported, “It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life. Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can significantly improve various symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.”

Researchers from Harvard have also released another study showing that meditation can significantly impact clinical symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The study showed that elicitation of the relaxation response (a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress) is a great help.

The study, published in the journal PLOS-ONE, comes from the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). This is the first study where the “relaxation response” was examined in these disorders and the first to investigate the genomic effects of the relaxation response in individuals with disorders.

Rabbi Shmelke of Nikolsburg (1726-1778) was one of the great early Chassidic Rebbes. Born Shmuel Horowitz, a Levite, he traced his lineage back directly to the prophet Samuel, a Levite.

Said Rabbi Shmelke, “I want very much to remain in this world, and I do not want the world to come! The reason is that here in this world, we have the awesome days of the High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur. The prophet tells us these days: “Seek God (through prayer and the study of Torah) when He can be found, call Him when He is close.” We are afforded the once-in-a-year opportunity to reconnect and refresh our souls with Godliness and spirituality on a most potent level. We can use the mitzvah to return and discover our pristine purity. What flavor would there be living in the other world where all this does not exist?”

Chassidic philosophy stresses the importance of meditation, deep concentration, and completely setting oneself aside, especially when praying. Prayer, putting oneself into the meaning of the words organized by the mystics and great sages, is the vehicle within which the exercise and spiritual journey of the soul takes place.

Every day, when we say and meditate on, “Hear, oh Israel the Lord our God the Lord is one,” for a few moments, we contemplate the greatness of God all around us and in everything. We realize our need for God’s good graces everywhere and in everything we do and accept this reality.

This statement and our realization of its veracity become our authentic connection to the source in the heavens, a foundation we build for the rest of the day. With this awareness and the deep impression it leaves us, a person eliminates anxiety and worry. Faith, trust, and confidence are strengthened.

Rosh Hashanah, the two days which are (legally & technically) considered one long day, is all about taking that short moment we meditate on God’s greatness every morning and work on this realization throughout the holiday on a very personal level, setting up our connection with the source and establishing a solid foundation for the rest of the year.

Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world and the beginning of a brand New Year, setting the tone for the rest of our lives from this uplifted spiritual platform.

As we begin the year, so goes it for the rest of the year.” During the Ten Days of Repentance, which begin with Rosh Hashanah and end with Yom Kippur, God “is more easily found, and is close[er],” waiting for us to make the slightest move towards Him. “Open for me like the eye of the needle, and I will open up for you like the greatest doors of the Temple.”

These days, if we successfully make a more profound and richer connection with God during these very potent days, there is no doubt the coming year will contain many more blessings than the past year.

Chapter 276

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is an author and lecturer. "A Spiritual Soul Book" ( & "Maimonides Advice for the 21st Century" ( In 1987, Rabbi Ezagui opened the first Chabad Center in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the first Orthodox Synagogue on the island of Palm Beach, Florida.
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