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Dear Dr. Yael

Dr. Yael Respler

March 26, 2021

The Jewish Press

Dear Dr. Yael,

Baruch Hashem, my husband and I are finally fully vaccinated against this horrible coronavirus. Last year it was extremely hard for us to be alone without our children and grandchildren. This year we are thrilled to be able to spend Pesach with our complete family. I am so excited to be able to host a full house once again and to make delicious Pesach goodies for all my beautiful eineklach to enjoy. I am a real balabuste; every year (pre-virus!) I spend weeks preparing for Pesach by meticulously cleaning each room and cooking and baking up a storm. My family appreciates my effort, and this is my way of showing them I care.

However, I am not going to lie – making Pesach is getting much harder as I get older. I can feel my body aging even if my mind is not. My back and feet and even my hands ache more often, and it is getting harder for me to stand for so many hours in the kitchen and to schlep Pesach boxes from the attic. I am worried that I will not be able to enjoy my grandchildren or the sedarim like I normally do because I will be too exhausted and in too much pain. Any advice for this tired balabuste?

Tired Balabuste



Dear Tired Balabuste,

First of all, mazel tov on your vaccination. I am so happy that you will be able to see and hug your grandchildren once again and that you will not be spending another Pesach alone. Last year’s socially distanced yomim tovim were so hard on all of us. You are so lucky to be vaccinated and you are so lucky to be able to host your whole family for yontif. I also understand that hosting and getting a house ready for Pesach can take a mental and physical toll. It also definitely does get harder to make Pesach as one gets older. While I understand that you take pride in your position as a true balabuste, please remember that you are not the Korban Pesach – a clean home should not come at the cost of your wellbeing. Here are some ideas of how you can better enjoy your Pesach:


Delegate. If you can afford it, hire cleaning help. If you are on a limited budget, enlist some of your loved ones to come and help you. You are not alone this year for yom tov and you should not be alone for the preparation either. Delegate the schlepping to a strong grandson and ask a teenage granddaughter to organize the pantry. You will be giving your grandchildren the chance to score mitzvah points for kibbud Av v’Em while also teaching them great life skills. Learning to be a better delegator will be life-changing and will give you more free time to enjoy what is the most important thing – your family!

Focus on the positive. Positive thinking has wonderful effects on your mind as well as your body. It lowers stress levels, which in turn affects every part of your being. If there is one positive thing that came out of this year, it is that we have learned to appreciate our real physical interactions with our extended family and friends. Try to focus on this while your family comes to spend Pesach with you. Focus on your love for them and focus on each second you get to play with them and enjoy their company.

Don’t work Erev Pesach. I know – this sounds impossible. There is so much to do before yontif. But try to get all of your work done by Thursday so that on Friday you can RELAX. This will take some planning, but if you give yourself the day off to relax and maybe get a manicure or sit with a book, you will go into the holiday with a lot less stress and a lot more enjoyment.


As for your body aches and pains, I asked my physical therapist, Dr. Zvi Gutman of Gutman Physical Therapy, for tips on how you can feel better this Pesach while you are cooking and cleaning. Here are his suggestions:

Take breaks. Your body can only be pushed so far and it is important to know your limits. Make a batch of cookies or a potato kugel and then take a few moments to sit down and relax before continuing to cook the rest of your Pesach menu. Do not try to push yourself to do too much at once even if in the moment you feel ok. Muscle soreness can often take time to set in and you will not realize how much energy you are exerting until later. Resting between activities is extremely important for muscle recovery. Even a few moments can make all the difference in how you feel at the Seder.

Be careful with your back! Back injuries are the most common injuries we treat patients for during this time of year. Back injuries are often caused by incorrectly lifting heavy boxes of Pesach supplies or by bending to clean cabinets and refrigerators shelves. If you need to bend – remember this: bend at the hips, not with your back. Bend your hips and keep your upper body upright as much as possible, pointing forward. Breathe while lifting and hold heavy items at waist level. This helps avoid putting stress on your joints. Also, always kneel down rather than bend when you are trying to reach low shelves.

Do not aggravate existing injuries. If you have any existing issues, discuss with your doctor or physical therapist to learn which activities to avoid. If you do feel sore for any reason, call a physical therapist to book a medical massage and treatment to help you heal.


If you live in the New York and are feeling pain from your Pesach preparation, feel free to call Dr. Zvi Gutman at 646-481-7854 or email Gutman Physical Therapy has male and female therapists, makes housecalls covered by insurance and accepts Medicare, Medicaid and most insurance.

Hatzlocha with your Pesach preparations and try to get as much help as you can, so that you can enjoy the children and grandchildren without all of the added stress!

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Dear Dr. Yael

Dr. Yael Respler

December 25, 2020

The Jewish Press

Dear Dr. Yael,

I am a widow of over fifteen years and, baruch Hashem, have several children who are all married with their own children and some even have grandchildren. My whole life, I have always been extremely outgoing and active and have always kept busy with work and then, when I retired, with various social activities and charitable causes. I have always valued my independence and, baruch Hashem, my physical health is decent and I can live on my own without any help.


That being said, Covid-19 has been extremely hard on me. While I enjoy living alone, I do not enjoy being lonely. Being apart from my family and friends for so many months has been terrible. Missing Pesach and all the Yomim Tovim with the grandchildren has been heartbreaking. I am not so good with the computer and would rather see their gorgeous faces and hug them in person. Many of my friends are afraid to meet socially or have medical conditions that put them at great risk. I try to go for walks by myself just to get outside, but I am not as steady as I used to be. I am nervous about falling and chas v’shalom breaking a bone because then I would really lose my independence.

Since it has gotten colder, it has been even harder to go out for walks. When it starts to snow and gets icy, I will probably have to stay inside all the time. It is almost winter, and I am really dreading being alone in my apartment all day by myself. What do you suggest for this depressed and sad widow who could really use a hug?

Sad and Lonely Bubbie



Dear Sad and Lonely Bubbie,

First of all, here is a virtual hug. No, it is not the same as the real thing, but soon this too shall pass, and you will be able to hug your eineklach.

I understand how you feel, and I am sure there are millions of people who could relate to your situation. You are not alone even though you may feel that way at this moment.

Seasonal affective disorder, also known as winter depression, is a real thing. It is a type of depressive disorder that only tends to surface during the winter months. Some scientists believe that it may have something to do with reduced exposure to sunlight. The isolating nature of the Covid-19 pandemic has only seemed to worsen seasonal depression for those who suffer from it. For those affected, the usual coping mechanisms, such as involvement with social activities, are unavailable during this pandemic, which only makes it harder.

I cannot diagnose you through a letter, but this is what seems to be happening to you. Your life before this pandemic suggests that you are normally a happy and mentally fit person. However, I will tell you that the combination of this Covid-19 pandemic with the cold winter has been such a negative force, that even someone with excellent mental health can find themselves in a ‘funk,’ if not in an actual clinical depression.

I firmly believe that being alone is NOT healthy for anyone’s well being.

So, what can you do about it? Only Hashem knows when this virus will end and when life will return to normal. The winter weather will last for another few months, therefore, here are some helpful solutions to help you cope with your current situation.

First of all, exercise is extremely important for both physical and mental well being. Exercise produces endorphins and other brain chemicals that will help you feel happier, more confident, and less stressed. Walking is a fantastic exercise, but you mentioned that you have been having some trouble walking steadily. I highly recommend getting evaluated by a physical therapist. My amazing physical therapist, Dr. Zvi Gutman makes house calls and has helped me improve my balance. It is extremely important, especially as one gets older, to work on balance. It helps to improve mobility, to reduce the risk of injury and to improve overall physical health. In addition, it will help boost your confidence knowing that you can safely walk around your neighborhood and enjoy your regular activities (especially when this virus is over!).

In addition to helping me with my balance, I appreciate any human interaction I can get right now, and Dr. Gutman is such a lovely person that I actually enjoy and look forward to my physical therapy sessions! Dr. Gutman comes to my home and follows Covid-19 safety guidelines, which puts me at ease. If you live in the New York area and would like to contact my physical therapist, here is his information: Dr. Zvi Gutman, DPT. (646) 481-7854. (He accepts Medicare, Medicaid and most insurances. No additional fee for the home visit. Female therapists are available as well.)

To read the rest of this article, click here.

Dear Dr. Yael

Dr. Yael Respler

November 6, 2020

The Jewish Press

Dear Dr. Yael,

I am struggling with my physical health. I have a lot of pain because of my medical issues and nothing seems to help. I tried working with a personal trainer who came to my apartment, but he wasn’t very knowledgeable about my medical conditions. My doctor suggested that I try physical therapy. However, the clinic he told me to use is very busy. The physical therapists there treat so many people at once that I get no attention. With COVID-19, I’m also extra nervous being around so many people because of my pre-existing conditions. Should I stick with the physical therapy despite my worries? What do you think I should do? 

- A Reader

Dear Reader,

I truly understand your concerns. The world is a very different place right now. You have every right to be apprehensive about being treated in public settings. I’m not sure what your medical conditions are, but it seems as though going to a crowded physical therapy clinic is not ideal for you. However, your health is very important and your current medical conditions should be treated appropriately.

I personally have an amazing physical therapist who comes to my home. I feel very safe in the comfort of my own den and the individual attention has been extremely beneficial to my well-being. I highly recommend this course of treatment for you. Firstly, you cannot compare the level of training and schooling of a physical therapist to that of a personal trainer. My physical therapist has a doctorate degree and many years of experience. As a health professional, he understands my medical needs. He provides me with a comprehensive recovery plan that he adjusts at every visit depending on my progress.

In addition, all his equipment is sanitized, or one-time-use, and he always wears appropriate PPE. As I mentioned before, the individual attention is the best part. At most clinics that I’ve visited in the past, therapists have spent just a few minutes with me before leaving me alone for the remainder of the session. I have often felt ignored and uneasy about performing therapy exercises on my own. With my current physical therapist, I get an entire session with his full attention and my recovery has been faster as a result. I was also referred to a few clinics, but always felt that they did not give me the attention I needed to recover.

If you would like to contact my physical therapist, here is his information: Dr. Zvi Gutman, DPT. (646) 481-7854 . (Accepts Medicare, Medicaid and most insurance. No additional fee for the home visit.)

From a psychological point of view, have you ever tried psychological techniques to reduce your pain? Research has shown that because pain includes both the mind and the body, mind-body therapies may have the ability to reduce pain by altering the way you perceive it.

- Dr. Yael

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