Get in the zone


In this episode, Rabbi Josh Feigelson draws a parallel between personalized fitness and the concept of kedusha (holiness). Tune in for practical insights on cultivating kavvanah and embodying holiness in your own distinct way.

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Like millions of other people, I bought a Peloton bike during the pandemic.

I know some people who got one, used it a few times, and now it’s an expensive drying rack for laundry. But I’ve gone in the other direction and become a devoted user, riding 3-4 times a week.

Exercise on Peloton bike (Photo: Shutterstock)

A few months after I started, a friend suggested I try Power Zone riding. It has seriously changed my life.

For the uninitiated, you may be thinking, sounds great, but…what is Power Zone? Thanks for asking, I’ll explain.

On a regular ride, the instructor will tell you, “Ride at X speed and at Y resistance level for Z amount of time.” It’s the same instruction for everyone, no matter if you’re a beginner or a Tour de France champion.

But in Power Zone, they do something different. Everyone takes a test to determine their personal best.

Based on that, you set seven ascending zones of power: 1 is the easiest, 7 is what you can do giving everything you have for 15 seconds.

And so instead of calling out the same instructions for everyone, on a power zone ride the instructor will say something like, “Ride in zone 3 for seven minutes, now ride in zone 1 for 3 minutes.” 

All of us have different bodies and different strengths, so my zone 3 is going to be different than yours or another listener’s.

But the key is that now we’re each getting a workout that’s more custom-tailored for us. Think of it like buying clothing off the rack versus getting a bespoke suit.

Even though a regular ride is good and helpful, a Power Zone ride fits and feels better.

What’s maybe even more significant is that, as a result of this approach, I don’t have as much of an inferiority complex when I’m riding.

As the instructors like to say, the leader board in a Power Zone ride isn’t to see who wins, it’s for electronic giving high-fives to each other. The only person I’m competing against in a Power Zone ride is myself.

Okay, enough with the Peloton. Why am I telling you about this?

So, sometimes when I ride, racing against myself, I think about the Torah portion we’ll be reading in synagogue this week, called Kedoshim. A little weird, I know, but stick with me.

Kedoshim is one of those Torah portions with a whole bunch of commandments, including some of the very best lines in the Torah: “Do not stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.” “Don’t put a stumbling block in front of a blind person.” Or the all-time classic, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The watchword of Kedoshim is kedusha, traditionally translated as holiness, and the many mitzvot of the Torah portion elaborate a lot of different ways we can and should act holy.

Yet so often, I think we approach holiness the way we might approach a regular Peloton ride: It’s a contest.

The more “religious” you are, the higher you are on the leader board. I speak to so many people who judge themselves as “bad Jews” because they don’t do this or that practice. Some of you listening might sometimes feel this way about yourselves.

You look at yourself and then look at other people and say, “That person is so much holier than me.” Sometimes people can even kind of give up on the whole idea of being holy — since they think, “I could never do what that person does.” 

But I think there’s another way to look at holiness, and it’s more like a Power Zone ride. Each of us is meant to be holy in the way we can uniquely be holy.

Your life is unique. You have a combination of relationships and circumstances and challenges and opportunities that I don’t have and that no one else has.

And so what holiness looks like in your life is going to be one-of-a-kind, custom-tailored–just like it is for me. You don’t have to compare your holiness level to someone else’s; you just need to compare it to your own.

There’s a classic story about the 18th-century Hasidic rebbe Zusha of Anipole. The story goes that when Reb Zusha was on his deathbed, his students found him sobbing.

They tried to comfort him. They told him, “Rebbe, you were nearly as wise as Moses; you were as kind as Abraham! You’re going to have a wonderful place in heaven!”

Reb Zusha said to them, you don’t get it. “When I pass from this world and appear before the Heavenly Court, they won’t ask me, ‘Zusha, why weren’t you as wise as Moses or as kind as Abraham.’ No, they’ll ask me, ‘Zusha, why weren’t you Zusha?’”

In other words, who cares if you matched Moses, or Abraham? The only person to live up to is yourself.

What holiness looks like in your life is going to be different than what it looks like in mine. And Reb Zusha’s story reminds me that that’s actually a wonderful thing! It’s how the world is designed.

So this week, I want to encourage you to find make a kavvanah, an intention for yourself. Find one way you want to try to manifest a little more kedusha, a little more holiness this week.

It might be in deepening your experience of Shabbat, which in Rabbinic literature is often called “Shabbat Kodesh,” holy Shabbat.

Maybe this Shabbat you can really disconnect from your phone or social media or your news feed for a little while — so that you can more fully present to yourself and your loved ones.

Or you could bring some more kedusha to how you speak with a roommate or loved one — you can be more mindful of the words you use, you can listen more fully and attentively, you can say something caring and loving that you feel like you don’t say enough.

Or it might be something as simple as performing one act of kindness a day — and doing it fully, lovingly, and recognizing the inherent holiness of doing kindness. Just choose one thing to focus on. 

And as you perform whatever holy act you’re doing, try to pause for a moment and be aware of what you’re doing: acting in a holy way, building your kedusha muscle, bringing more of the Divine presence into the world. Notice how it feels. And let me know how it goes. You can write to me at And I really would love to hear from you.

Blessings for the journey. Know that I’m on it with you.

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