Tishre was a wonderful uplifting month of introspection, moving tefilla and spending time with friends, family and food. In fact, food and I became very good friends over the chaggim, almost like family! As Cheshvan moves us back in to the routine of daily living, I am trying to hold on the tshuva I worked so hard for, while trying to break free from those extra pounds that weigh me down in too many ways.
Diets don't work for me and they don’t work for most people. Loosing weight is like doing tshuva. It’s about the choice to change how we view ourselves. The choice begins before we even get to the grocery store. First we have to understand more about what we are choosing, and in this case it’s food.
Variety is the Name of the Game
What is the purpose of food? Imagine what life would be if we got all our nutrients from the air. No more planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning up and doing it over and over and over again. But that is not the way our Creator made the world.
Or, what if He gave us nourishment in the same way He gives to animals? Cows eat grass, chickens eat almost anything including dirt (did you know that?). Birds eat bugs. Not so appetizing to us.
The Creator of the world made us, unique in all of His creations, with the nutritional need for a variety of food and an appetite to go with that need. Of course He has a purpose for this design.
Part of that purpose is so that His involvement in our daily lives could be obvious---if we choose to look deeper.
I am confusing satisfying a need with satisfying my desire. I could argue that I need my Dulce de Leche, and you would understand that, right?
But the truth is I am using that ice cream to satisfy a hunger deeper than my appetite. Maybe I’m trying to fill the emptiness of my boredom, my loneliness, my lack of direction or passion, my disconnection from my purpose in life. No amount of ice cream can fill that void.
Doing Tshuva on Eating
Let’s look again at eating through the lens of Rabbi Tatz: Food, like tshuva, is about connecting to Hashem. My choices in planning and preparing what to eat can bring meaning, purpose, direction to my life. They can connect me more intimately to Hashem, the most satisfying, fulfilling relationship I can possibly ever have.
Walk into the grocery store and hear God singing to you through every aisle. He says, “See my daughter, I have laid out piles of fruits and vegetables in abundance-just for you. There are rows of spices, and breads and all sorts of foods you need and desire. All because I love you and crave for you to know Me.”
Rabbi Akiva Tatz, in his book Worldmask, writes that there are three functions of our mouths. We speak, we kiss and we eat. Since speaking and kissing are clearly forms of connection, then it follows that eating must also be about connecting.
On the simplest level, eating gives us the nourishment to bond our bodies to our souls. Food also connects us to the people in our lives: a business lunch, a coffee date with a friend, an intimate dinner with someone special—the Shabbos table. Food the setting where we create and build relationships.
On the highest level, eating connects us to G-d. It is the Amighty Himself who gives us both the need for a variety of food and the food that satisfies that need. When we sit down to a meal, say a blessing, enjoy the taste and use the energy to do mitzvos, we have elevated the everyday. We have made a majestic moment.
We have included G-d in our lives in a most fundamental way.
The Ice Cream Problem
Through eating we have an opportunity to build and strengthen relationship.
And that does not mean my relationship with my tub of Dulce de Leche ice cream. Although with every cool and creamy-rich spoonful, I do feel happy, loved and special. But that feeling of completeness does not last long past the bottom of the container. Why is that? (top of next column)
And we make choices. The choices we make in shopping, cooking and eating are so powerful that they can bond us intimately to the Almighty.
How does that work? Just open your mouth. As you head off to the store and as you walk through the aisles, thank Hashem and ask for His help:
"Hashem, thank you for whatever parnassa you give me. Please let me find the items I need at prices that maximize your gift."
"Hashem, thank you for the tempting variety and bounty, please let me desire the foods which are best for my body."
"Hashem, thank you for Dulce de Leche ice cream. Please give me self control to limit my indulgence."
"Hashem, thank you for a kitchen and people who depend on me. Please give me ideas and a cookbook (like Cooking for the King !) to make healthy foods that everyone will enjoy."
"Hashem, You can do anything, please fill my cart with food that is irresistibly delicious and will actually help me loose 5 pounds!"
I have seen great results when talking to Hashem in every mundane task. As Dovid HaMelech writes in Tehillim 81: “I am Hashem... Open your mouth wide so that I may fill it.” This is not an invitation for gluttony. It means that all we have to do is ask. Your loving Father, the Source of your greatness, is waiting to hear your voice.
Thank you for joining me in my kitchen today~ May all your relationships be healthy and fulfilling.
I put this grocery store tshuva plan in to action this week and wouldn't you know, I bumped into a pile of strange fruit. I’d never met a quince before, and now I think I am in love! You’ll see why when you watch the video- How to choose, cut and cook with quince with several easy, healthful and delicious dessert ideas