The commandments of bodybuilding

Every facet of life is governed by rules, regulations and laws, be they natural or imposed by man, and bodybuilding is no different. Here are the basic bodybuilding commandments every athlete should follow to walk along the path of bodybuilding righteousness.

1. Thou Shalt Not Overtrain

Overtraining occurs when your training volume and intensity exceed your body’s ability to recover and repair itself. It places such a strain on your body that it not only affects you physically but can also manifest mentally and emotionally. From a physical perspective, overtraining causes you to lose strength, endurance, fitness, and even muscle size and tone. It can take weeks, if not months, to recover, so it is important that you avoid overtraining by periodizing your training program, including adequate rest periods in your training week, and ensuring that your nutrition supports a healthy body.

2. Thou Shalt Go Big or Go Home

The key to making massive gains in the gym is the intensity of your training. Whether you choose to manipulate your rep and set structure or go as heavy as possible on each set, maintaining the right intensity during every workout is key. The ability to push yourself to the limit during each session is a factor of both your mental and physical capacity. Use positive affirmations, goal setting and visualization to make sure you are in the right frame of mind when you hit the gym, then push your body to the limit by using tried and trusted training techniques.

3. Thou Shalt Supplement Correctly

It is physically impossible for most bodybuilders to eat the recommended daily calorie requirements from solid food alone. As such, supplements play an important role in adding quality calories to your diet, while also ensuring that you meet the other recommended daily requirements with regard to vitamin and mineral intake. Supplements have also been formulated to offer the most effective means of getting the required nutrients your body needs to recover and perform before, during and after training. And always, remember that not all supplements are created equal. Quality is always more important than quantity, so research all the top brands to find out what products are the best performers.

4. Thou Shalt Honor the Sabbath

Rest is the cornerstone of muscle recovery. Every serious bodybuilder will know that the real gains are not made in the gym, but rather in the hours and days following a muscle-busting workout. This rest period should therefore never be sacrificed for an extra session and the basic principles of rest and recovery should always be adhered to. These include resting trained body parts for at least 48 hours between sessions, especially if you isolate them, as most bodybuilders do. The importance of proper nutrition and supplementation cannot be emphasized enough. Don’t skip a protein shake because you didn’t train, and don’t eat hollow calories from food that has no nutritive value because it’s your off day. Your rest-day meals are the most important meals, along with your immediate post-workout meal.

5. Thou Shalt Never Take Lifting Form and Technique in Vain

While going as heavy as possible and ensuring proper intensity are vital, so is maintaining proper form and technique. If the weight is too heavy and you sacrifice form to lift it, you will get injured. Proper technique also ensures that you work through a full range of motion to activate and incorporate the maximum number of muscle fibers during each lift. Even when you do incorporate special lifting techniques, like forced reps, there is still a need to keep correct form and use lifting best practice.

6. Thou Shalt Enjoy the Bounties of the Earth

The processed food of today will never deliver the nutrients our bodies need to grow, so whenever possible, select natural and organic food products. A general rule of thumb is to avoid any food that doesn’t spoil.

7. Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Training Routine

There is no one-size-fits-all training technique or diet. Everybody has his or her own genetic makeup, muscle type and bone structure. As such, we all respond differently to training stimuli and nutrition, so trying to horse-shoe your buddy’s training program into your regimen may not always be the best option. Try different things and experiment with training techniques, programs and diets to find what suits your body and physiology best.

8. Thou Shalt Stay Humble in the Eyes of Thy Fellow Bodybuilders

The bodybuilders who think they know it all will never achieve greatness. Speak to just about any top athlete and you will find that they are a humble bunch who continually search for the latest information regarding the sport. They are also, more often than not, willing to share their experience and knowledge. So don’t be the one who thinks he is too good to help out a novice or share a few training tips with the youngsters in the sport.

10 Commandments for B’nai Mitzvah teachers

“I have learned much from my teachers; from my colleagues more than from my teachers; and from my students more than all” (Talmud, Taanit 7b).

Experience truly is the best teacher, and while I have been teaching Jewish students in many settings for 30 years, I continually learn from them. I have learned what it takes to be an educator, and particularly a b’nai mitzvah educator, from supervisors, colleagues and students as well as from their parents.

What follows are what I have come to think of as the Ten Commandments (though I am sure that others would add to the list) for b’nai mitzvah teachers. Parents and students can think of them as qualities to look for or consider as they enter into partnership with a teacher to prepare for this special day.

I. Thou shalt recognize each student as an individual.

I must always remember that the student I am teaching is different from my last student. Each b’nai mitzvah student enters the process in a different place. Some are excited and motivated, some are resigned, some are in between. They come with their own ways of learning and approaching challenges. While the tried-and-true strategies may work for most or in most cases, each young person requires a little something distinct, unique to him or her.

II. Thou shalt remember it is their first time.

Each of us comes to our professional work with an expertise, whether we are an electrician, a lawyer or a marine biologist. Most people who seek out our professional expertise do so because they do not have the necessary knowledge (you wouldn’t want me messing with your electrical work). While I have worked with hundreds of b’nai mitzvah students, I try to remember that this is the first time for this student and the first time for this family with this particular child.

III. Thou shalt create a nurturing space.

My goal is to create a space in which the students feel comfortable, safe and experience success. I want them to trust me and to feel assured that I will support their learning and their progress. I want them to know they are cared about and that I will be patient but will also set clear expectations. On some level, the students will associate this experience with their Jewish identity, and I want it to be positive. I hope they will look forward to coming.

IV. Thou shalt teach the whole student.

I want to know my students. I learn about their lives and interests and challenges and how they spend their time. I approach the lessons with concern and interest in the whole student, not just the part that is learning a prayer or chanting Torah. It helps me develop a relationship with them and learn how to best work with each individual. It also expands my horizons. By working with each new student with enthusiasm, respect and openness, I allow that I, too, may leave this unique relationship changed for the better.

V. Thou shalt consult with thy student.

The students and I are partners. I want to empower them to express any concerns or challenges, encourage them to tell me which strategies for learning are working and which are not, and to get input on what the next assignment will be, how much can be accomplished, etc. While I may have the final word, I want the conversation to be a dialogue.

VI. Thou shalt partner with parents.

Parents need to be in the loop about their child’s progress. Whether through e-mails or phone calls, parents should know how their child is progressing and if there are any concerns. Parents naturally like to hear good news as well. They also have important information about how their child learns. When I think more regular communication will help, I invite a parent to come in for the last few minutes of the sessions so we can all talk and hear the same words about how things are going.

VII. Thou shalt look for Shehecheyanu moments.

The path for the young person and his or her family is a first, and it is filled with firsts. There may be older siblings, but this is a first for this young person, so this journey will be unique. Helping the child and family take note of special moments along the way (e.g., the first time the child practices from the Torah scroll) is important. They are holy snapshots.

VIII. Thou shalt teach thy student to self-assess and mark progress.

It is all too easy to lose track of the progression of time and the progress that has been made during that time. We tend to be focused on the end product and not take note of all that happens on the journey. It is important to help students recognize their learning, progress and confidence-building. Having them self-assess also allows the teacher to determine how realistically the students see their own progress. I also help the students track the time left to progress because all to often they are surprised by the revelation that the big day is only four weeks away. Being reminded of this helps them with time management.

IX. Thou shalt educate about proper terminology.

There are times when the student or family will refer to the bimah as the “stage,” the congregation as the “audience” or the siddur as a “book.” I make it a point to respectfully correct these terms so that there is an understanding that the young person is leading a prayer service. This is important because our words frame our perspective.

X. Thou shalt call the week after.

While I am not able to attend the service of every student with whom I work, I make it a point to follow up with every student and family. I want to wish them “mazal tov.” I also want to hear about their experience. Thankfully it is usually very positive, but if there are concerns, it gives me the opportunity to follow up and to learn for the next time. I hope the relationship will not end after the service and that my relationship with the young person and his or her family, and theirs with me and with the synagogue community, will continue.

But Mom, I don’t want a bar mitzvah!

I saw the blinking light on my answering machine and listened to the frantic voice of my girlfriend, Debbie, as I put the groceries away.

“Heeeeeelp! Jason says he doesn’t want to do his bar mitzvah anymore. We’ve got the date and the place, I’ve hired the DJ and he’s already begun to prepare. He’s making me crazy. What should I do? Call me.”

Wow, what a bummer, I thought to myself.

I really wasn’t sure what to say in response to Debbie’s S.O.S.

What would I have done if my son had said, “No, thanks, Mom. I just don’t want one.”

Would I have forced him to do it anyway, because I knew that he would be sorry later?

Probably, until an experience I had recently completely changed my mind about when is the right time to have a bar or bat mitzvah.

In Hebrew the words bar/ bat mitzvah literally mean “son/daughter of the Commandments.” It is an ancient Jewish ritual dating back to the first century C.E., marking the religious and legal coming of age of a Jewish male at 13 and of a Jewish girl at 12. In the Jewish tradition, the bar mitzvah marks the transition from boyhood to manhood in terms of Jewish communal prayer life, enabling the child to be counted as part of the minyan (the quorum of 10 adults Jewish males necessary for certain prayers) and permitting him to read from the Torah. On an individual level, it establishes the age of legal responsibility and obligation to follow all the commandments.

But what happens later in life to the many Jews who grow up without having a bar or bat mitzvah?

I found out when I was asked to work with a group of Jewish college students who expressed an interest in having one. As I listened to the students share their stories about why they hadn’t done it earlier in their lives, I realized how lucky I was to be able to be a part of their journey. Some, like Debbie’s son Jason, just didn’t want one when they were younger. Others came from interfaith families where it wasn’t an option or from Jewish communities to which they didn’t feel connected. But each one now had a personal desire to learn more about Judaism in order to understand his or her relationship to faith, Jewish traditions, God and Israel.

We studied Jewish history, holidays, ethics, rituals, liturgy and prayers while building a trusting and genuine spiritual community. We shared holidays, birthdays, news about boyfriends, exam anxiety and weight gain. I watched them struggle with questions of faith and heard them talk about doubt, guilt and fear as they actively sought out meaning in and from Judaism.

Our year culminated in a Shabbat morning service where each student read from the Torah and offered a d’var Torah, a personal teaching, about something important that he or she had learned or grappled with during the year.

Anyone who had ever struggled with issues of faith, God or family was able to glean both wisdom and inspiration from my students that day. Individually and as a community of learners, they had engaged in the type of serious Jewish study that would now enable them to become responsible Jewish adults. And that, in a nutshell, is the crux of what it means to become a bar or bat mitzvah.

At the end of the service, I offered my students the following words, which I shared with my friend Debbie in the hope that they might offer her a different perspective on Jason’s reluctance to have a bar mitzvah.

“Being Jewish is not like being in a race. You don’t have to worry about getting to the finish line or keeping pace with other runners. There is no record or timekeeper, other than your innermost self, to mark your spiritual growth and progress.

“Being Jewish is about making the journey, about finding your own stride, about determining your own path. It is about taking that leap of faith and crossing through waters of doubt, discomfort and fear in order to better understanding yourself, your family, your traditions, your culture, your ethics, your history, and your people. And it is in this way, when you are ready, that you will come to appreciate your uniqueness as an individual and your special destiny as a member of the Jewish people.”

Amy Hirshberg Lederman is a nationally syndicated columnist, Jewish educator, public speaker and attorney. She can be reached at

Kids Page

A Reason to Obey

This Shabbat we read the portion of Ki Tavo. In it, Moses tells the Israelites that if they obey all the commandments, they will be blessed with good food, good weather and a good life. But if they disobey the commandments, they will be cursed with misfortune.

I do not believe that God punishes people for not obeying him. Rather, people often cause their own misfortune by not learning from their mistakes, and I think that is what the Torah is telling us. The victims of Hurricane Katrina did not, by any means, bring this natural disaster upon themselves. We know that no one deserves to go through such horrors — and we need to reach out as much as possible to help.

Kids Can Help Katrina Victims

A Call to Jewish Schools

Please send us details and photos of the hurricane relief

efforts happening

in your schools.

We will publish them on the Kids Page.

Send all information to

Here is a list of things you can donate to hurricane victms.

Put the vowels in the right places to fill in the blanks:

P __ L L __ W S

B L __ N K __ T S

C __ N S __ F F __ __ D

B R __ S H __ S

T __ __ T H B R __S H __ S

S H __ __ T S


Bring new items to

Temple Judea, 5429 Lindley Ave, Tarzana.

It is the regional collection site for disaster relief supplies. For more information, call (818) 758-3800, ext. 213.

Helping Hand

Here are three ways you can raise money for the hurricane victims.

Unscramble the words:




Once you’ve collected money.,visit to choose how you want to help.

How much money has the Los Angeles Jewish community already raised?

a. $100,000

b. $250,000

c. $500,000

d. More than $1 million!


Ritual’s Mysteries

This week’s Torah portion begins with, and is named after, the key word chukat. Chukat means “the law of” and specifically refers to the ritual law of the red heifer. What distinguishes a chok from other kinds of laws is its mystery.

Most Torah commandments have a basis in reason and logic. Chukim cannot be justified by rational arguments. There is no plausible explanation for why the ashes of an unblemished red cow are particularly powerful against ritual impurity. Nor can intellectual arguments justify why those ashes should have the paradoxical effect of purifying an impure Israelite, but rendering a priest who handles them impure. The chok of the red heifer, like the chok not to wear a blend of wool and flax, doesn’t claim to be reasonable. It claims to be holy and to foster holiness.

Often people will tell me that what they love about Judaism is the freedom to question, to challenge and to demand answers.

Abraham challenged God, based on the logical consequences of Divine morality. “Will the Judge of all the earth not do justice?” (Genesis 18:24). When the daughters of Tzelophehad challenged the inheritance law as it had been presented to them, God responded, “Well do [they] speak!” and issued an amendment (Numbers 27:7). “The shy [student] does not learn,” Hillel warned (Pirkei Avot 2:5). So in every generation, Jews ask. And in every generation, the tradition, with its rich history of law and lore, addresses their questions. A true inquiry merits a thoughtful answer — and sometimes a set of answers, or even a change in the law.

But if we say that Judaism welcomes and cultivates rational discourse, that doesn’t mean that rational discourse is its highest value. Arguments — even arguments “for the sake of heaven” — are our process, not our purpose. We want to discern Divine will, to discover and act on truth as best we can. We want to serve God and humanity. We want deveykut (closeness to God) and kedushah (holiness). We want shalom (peace) and emunah (faith). There is something that Jews, I think, hold even dearer than the opportunity to question, and that is the opportunity to trust.

The most important things we do in life are (hopefully) not irrational, but they aren’t driven by rationality. Do we choose whom to marry by logic? Do we have children because we weighed the pros and cons? Does our sense of mission derive from our ability to reason? Something higher and greater than reason guides us. When we learn to trust that “something,” time and again it saves us.

Chukim operate from, and tap into, that “something higher and greater.” They remind us that life is full of mystery, that there are many things — significant things — that we know but can’t explain. They ask us to go deliberately beyond our logical minds, to give up our desire to understand something before we can accept it. The Children of Israel responded to words of Torah, saying, “Na’aseh venishma — we will do, and we will understand” (Exodus 24:3,7). In matters of utmost significance, you may need to act first in order, fully, to know.

We can theorize and offer commentaries about the red heifer. (Generations of Jews have, and that is a worthy subject for another column.) We can have philosophical discourse about mystery. Ultimately, however, with regard to chukim, reason bows to awe.

Also, with chukim, reason bows to love. In any relationship, there are times when your loved one will ask you to do something that doesn’t make sense to you but somehow meets their need. There are many possible responses: You can argue. You can try to convince them it isn’t necessary. You can “keep score” and consider whether they’ve been meeting your needs lately. You can decide that it’s a manipulation or power play and resist giving them their way. You can delve into the question of why they have this desire. But if what they are asking isn’t harmful, then I recommend doing it and saving the questions for later.

It’s generous. It honors them. In fact, it’s an opportunity to really practice love. Doing what makes sense is simple logic; you would do it for anyone; you might do it even if you weren’t asked. But doing what doesn’t make sense is a gift.

What do I — a limited, flawed human being — have to give to the Master of Universe? The laws of the Torah are for my benefit, not God’s (Deuteronomy 10:13). Most commandments have a logical claim — they make sense for the social contract and for my spiritual development. Chukim are the exception and, as such, they are an opportunity for me and for all Jews to show our love for God.

What do you give to the God who has everything? Your willingness. Your trust.

Rabbi Debra Orenstein is spiritual leader of Makom Ohr Shalom synagogue in Tarzana ( and editor of “Lifecycles 2: Jewish Women on Biblical Themes in Contemporary Life.”


Kids Page

Puzzle Place

Life is a puzzle, don’t you think? It’s just not always that easy to put all the pieces together in order to see the big picture. But the more we practice, the better we get at it. So, here are a bunch of fun puzzles to get your juices going!

Torah Challenge

Can you answer these questions from this week’s portion, Shelach-Lecha?

How many spies did Moses send into Israel?

a. 10

b. 12

c. 40

The spies came back spreading lies about Israel. What did they say?

a. The land is bad for planting

b. The inhabitants are as big as giants

c. The country is covered in grasshoppers

Only two of the spies said the land was good. What were their names?

a. Reuven and Levi

b. Joshua and Caleb

c. Menashe and Efraim

Mathmagic Land

Start with the number of Dalmatians in the title of the Disney movie, minus the number of commandments on the tablets, minus the number that is the square of 3, plus the number of stars you need to see in the sky to know that Shabbat is over.

Or, in simple terms:

Dalmatians –


– square

of 3 + stars = ?

What number do you get?

Alphabet Soup

Unscramble the 16 letters below to make a common three-word phrase for a victorious contestant:


F __ __ __ __ P __ __ __ __ W __ __ __ __ __


Want vs. Need

Ki Tetze contains more commandments than any other Torah portion. Some commandments studding the text cause us to crinkle our brow. Rather than general ethical maxims, they are ethical baby steps — commandments that seem to be trying to toddle away from Hammurabi’s Code of Laws and more severe systems.

For example: When you take the field against your enemies, and the Lord your God delivers them into your power and you take some of them captive, and you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you desire her and would take her to wife, you shall bring her into your house … she shall trim her hair and her nails and discard her captive’s garb. She shall spend a month’s time in your house lamenting her father and mother. After that you may come to her and make her your wife.

Imagine a warrior, victorious in battle, fresh dents in his armor, fresh bruises on his face and blood on his sword. He has just escaped triumphantly having fought hand-to-hand for his own life, for his people’s life, for his country. At that moment he is heroic, on top of the world, a king, adrenaline coursing through him, invincible, powerful. And at that moment, among the conquered, he sees a maiden — lovely hair. What does the Torah tell him to do? Take her home, have her shave off her hair, pare her nails and reside in his house mourning her family, crying and wailing in the room beside. Give her shelter, new clothes and, after a month’s time, if he still loves her, even without her lovely hair, even with her eyes red from weeping and even having lived together for a month, then he may marry her.

By this time, the moment of lusting has past. The warrior is no longer fresh from battle, invincible and powerful. Chances are, this marriage will never be consummated. The Torah is making a discernment between want and need.

There is so much we think we need. Perhaps if we were to take the Torah’s advice each time we think we need something, and wait a month to see if that desire survives, we would gain perspective.

Further in our Torah portion it is written: When you enter another man’s vineyard, you may eat grapes until you are full, but you must not put any in your vessel. When you enter another man’s field of standing grain, you may pluck ears with your hand; but you must not put a sickle to your neighbor’s grain.

It is permissible to satisfy your immediate hunger. It is not permissible to take from your neighbor in case you should be hungry later. You are permitted what you need.

In the desert after the escape from Egypt, God tells the wandering Israelites that they may gather enough quail for one full day. Instead, they try to store the quail, only to find it heaped up and rotten.

Our Torah portion continues, by saying that before marching to war, the army commander should ask his troop: "Is there anyone here who has planted a vineyard but not harvested? Is there anyone here who has built a house but not dedicated it? Is there anyone here who is afraid and disheartened?" And only after those people have left, does the troop move on. Taking with them only the soldiers they need.

In your battle for happiness every day, what do you need to take with you? Health, love, friendship, purpose? Sofa, marble kitchen countertop, air conditioning, chandelier?

If we want joy, if we want security, what do we need to get it? Do we need to be in a relationship to be happy? Do we need stocks and bonds to be spiritual? Do we need the carpet in the formal living room to be stain-free or is this what we want? And to get it, sacrifice what we really need, which is that our home not to be off-bounds to our own family.

When it comes to something that is beautiful and luxurious, so often we want it to be ours so that we may tire of it. But what we really need is for it to just be, so that we may love it. The flower in the meadow doesn’t need to be in our vase, but it does need to be.

It is written in Proverbs, "Wrath is cruel, and anger is overwhelming, but who is able to stand before envy?" Who can stand to see greener grass on the other side of the fence and not feel they need it to be theirs? Even God is jealous, as it says, "Do not worship other gods, for I am a jealous God."

So if we must be jealous of somebody, I suggest let’s be jealous of the ant that we step on, who is so devotedly works to serve its community. Or let’s be jealous of the swordfish that some of us eat, who mates for life. Or let’s be jealous of the bird that we chase off our roofs, who is so confident in her craft that she puts all of her eggs into that one basket.

This year, may you be rich in that you are happy in your lovely lot, a grateful tenant in the garden of the abundant world.

Zoë Klein is a rabbi at Temple Isaiah.

Parshat Yitro

In Parshat Yitro, God gives the Israelites the Ten Commandments. Some are commandments of thought: “Do not covet your neighbor’s possessions.” Some are commandments of speech: “Do not swear with God’s name.” And some are commandments of action: “Do not steal” and “Keep the Sabbath.”