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To Life, To Life, L'Chaim!


Sometimes you just need to stop and call a timeout and change directions. Even a little timeout and a little change of directions can bring big results. If you ever get caught in the trap, as I often do, of taking yourself or your work or your performance too seriously, read on.

At Swaim School for Better Living, we are always looking for ways to improve our health and to improve our outlook. Let’s face it, the pressure to produce is great. It always has been. Looking for ways to break the pattern of thinking we are carrying the world around is important. Particularly if we want any quality of life and health.

Fortunately for us, there are ways to mitigate the seriousness of the world around us.

A little story to give us some context.

A few years ago, Mrs. Swaim, Alysson, and I were attending a chiropractic hoo-ha in Seattle. A Jewish friend of mine, who lives and works in Philadelphia, was also attending. And when I say Jewish, I mean Jewish. Zach wears the all-black suit, the big black hat, the big beard, the whole enchilada or whole bagel rather. There is no mistaking that you are dealing with a very devout, orthodox, individual. He would look right at home at the wailing wall in a national geographic magazine. And he is funny. Zach is an extrovert and so it has been easy to become friends over the years. Well, Rabbi Zach, as I am fond of calling him, put out a sort of SOS before the Seattle seminar asking if anyone was interested in celebrating the sabbath, which begins at sundown on Friday night. He grows lonely celebrating alone in a hotel far from home. Well I said yes and I said yes for all of us, Mrs. Swaim, Alysson and me.

So, my friend Zach had arrived early in Seattle so that he could shop for Kosher food. He brought food as well. And cookware. He had spent most of the day preparing all this crazy amount of food in a hotel room in Seattle. This guy is really dedicated.

We arrived at his hotel room shortly after sundown. A few other guests that had answered his invitation, about 10 of us in all, were in attendance. I am talking about a standard hotel room with two queen beds. He had rearranged the furniture to accommodate a dinner which he had prepared for this crowd. He had also allowed himself access to the bathroom, where some of the food was stored on the counter. We all sat in 2 rows facing each other and pretty close together. Very close. I was really enjoying all the logistics. Zach had very thoughtfully brought me a yarmulke, a little Jewish skullcap worn by orthodox men while they pray. He knows that I am a Christian, and it gave him joy to see me as an honorary Jew for the night. Each of us had a paper plate in front of us and a shot glass. After reading a lengthy prayer in Hebrew, Zach began passing around kosher food. Did I mention that we were sitting in a hotel room in Seattle? All 10 of us? Zach then pulled out a bottle of Finlandia Vodka and put it at the center of the table. He said another prayer in Hebrew, opened the bottle, and poured us all a shot. Then he explained that during the course of the evening meal, between prayers and songs in Hebrew, food, wine, and conversation that often became contentious, anyone at the table was allowed to raise the shot glass, saying “L’Chaim”, loudly. At that point, everyone would clink glasses, and drink. It was like a Jewish pressure valve built into the sabbath. The net result was laughter, an easing of tension, a redirection of conversation, and a redirection of life. Clinking glasses, I later learned, was a show of trust. Some of my drink gets into your glass and some of yours gets into mine, symbolic of acknowledging that no one has poisoned the other! Thus, trust and goodwill were preserved. We are all in this together.

I could keep going but suffice it to say, this celebration went on until close to midnight. 5 hours of sitting on the edge of a queen size bed in Seattle on Friday night has taught me a life lesson.

What lesson?

Break the tension! Break it often! Raise your glass and shout L’Chaim! Your life and health depend on it.

You do not need strong drink to make this happen, any glass with any liquid will do, just a willingness to put on the brakes, change directions and then start again, refreshed.

Try it. Your heart and mind and body will thank you.

And for those interested souls, L’Chaim (la-hi-em) literally means, “to life”. Did I mention we were in a hotel room in Seattle sitting on queen sized beds?



PS-Here’s a clip from Fiddler on the Roof. Not exactly a Friday night in Seattle, but close enough. Just click the link below:

To Life

4 Join the Conversation

  1. Michele says
    Mar 02, 2019 at 5:22 AM

    I love it! A great and important purpose there, in the raising of the glass! Thank you!

    • says
      Mar 05, 2019 at 8:54 AM

      Thanks for reading Michele. L'Chiam!!

  2. Rebecca says
    Mar 02, 2019 at 6:51 AM

    Dr. Swaim, Thank you for you "L' Chaim!" blog. It came at a time of great tension. Researching our medical insurance and the cost of prescription drugs resulted in 3 1/2 hours of pure tension and depression. Thank you for the "lift" of reading and looking at something joyful. The Lord knew I needed this. The Lord has given you the gift of encouragement and healing. Please do not stop writing.

    • says
      Mar 05, 2019 at 8:55 AM

      Wow Rebecca, thank you for your kind words, also very encouraging. Continue the hard work of pressing forward in your health. God bless and L'Chiam!

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