How To Enjoy Life
God wants us to enjoy life. This week's Torah portion (12:20-25) tells us that it's perfectly fine to desire and enjoy good food, etc, as long as we keep God and spirituality in mind as we do it. The Torah way isn't to reject the pleasures of life, rather to enjoy them in healthy moderation.
In our story, some kids get a lesson in how to enjoy life.
FEAST OR FAMINE
"Okay guys, everyone on the bus!" the counselor called out, handing each kid a neatly packed shopping bag filled with all the food and treats they would need for the day-long excursion to a nature park.
Tripling up on the big bus seats, Sandy sat down next to her friends Jan and Eve.
"Let's see what we've got in here..." Jan said, as she dug into her food pack, before the bus even started up. "Hmm, this stuff looks pretty good. I think I'll have some right now." She pulled out a big, cellophane-wrapped piece of chocolate cake and began to munch.
"Hey, what are you doing?" scolded Eve.
"I'm doing a tap dance. What do you think I'm doing? I'm eating, what does it look like?"
"I mean, why are you eating now? We have a whole, long day ahead of us."
Jan, polishing off the cake and dipping into the bag of chips, frowned.
"Look, I'm hungry and the food is yummy. Why don't you have some of yours too - it'll put you in a better mood."
"No way! I'm saving all my stuff until I absolutely have to have some. That's the way to do things, right Sandy?"
The girl, sitting in between them, nose in a book, just gave a kind of half shrug and smiled.
The bus drove on. By the time they reached the nature park, Jan had almost worked her way through her entire food bag. And despite the long trip and breakfast stop they had taken along the way, Eve hadn't touched a thing. And Sandy had enjoyed the pre-packed breakfast, which was just enough to keep her going.
"Okay guys, everyone out. Time to hit the nature trail!" called the counselor.
As they walked on, Sandy, energized from breakfast, was enjoying the fresh air and beautiful views, but her two friends didn't seem to be having as good a time.
"How can a person be expected to hike a trail on a packed stomach?" Jan complained, holding her side.
"Who told you to pack your stomach in the first place?" Eve chided as she walked along, resisting her temptation to eat anything, despite her growing hunger.
"Well, at least my stomach isn't growling like yours!" Jan shot back. "That last growl was loud enough to wake up a hibernating bear!"
"Okay guys, lunch time. Everyone sit down!" announced the counselor after walking for over an hour.
Sandy had eaten a small snack along the trail for energy, and now hungrily sat on a flat rock in front of the waterfall to enjoy her packed lunch.
"Hey guys, wanna join me?" she called to Jan and Eve.
"I'd love to," Jan blurted, "but I'm sort of out of stuff - anyway, my stomach's still really hurting."
"Sorry to hear it," Sandy said sympathetically. "How 'bout you Eve?"
"Me? Why eat now?" she said grumpily, ogling Sandy's sandwich. "I'm waiting until I really need to eat something. I just wish I had some more energy and my stupid headache would go away."
The rest of the afternoon, the kids continued along the pretty trails and scenic stopping points until they reached the other end of the park where the bus was waiting.
"Okay guys, everyone back on the bus!" the counselor announced.
Sandy, who was having a great time, saved just enough snacks from her pack for the trip back to camp and sat down between her two friends. They both looked miserable.
"Well at least this dumb trip is over," Jan whined. "I can't wait to get back to camp and finally eat something again!"
"Here - you might as well take some of my stuff," Growled Eve. "I guess I waited too long because in the end I didn't touch a thing."
Q. How did Jan and Eve feel about the trip?
A. Jan didn't have a good time because she ate all of her stuff too fast to enjoy it. Eve had a bad time, too, because she never let herself enjoy the stuff she had.
Q. How did Sandy feel?
A. She enjoyed the things she had - not too little and not too much - so she had a good time.
Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. When it comes to life's pleasures, like food and treats, a person will feel the happiest not by overindulging in them or by avoiding them - but by enjoying them in moderation.
Q. How can a person know how much is 'moderation'?
A. A good indicator of enjoying things (like treats) in moderation, is that we have enough to feel good about it both while having them and after, but not so much that they make us feel bad or unhealthy afterward.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. If God truly wants us to enjoy life, why did He tell us in the Torah that some things are out of bounds?
A. Enjoyment isn't about unlimited indulgence. That hardly ever works out well. Enjoyment is about using life's pleasures wisely, in the way that's best for our bodies and our souls - and that's what the Torah shows us how to do.
Q. Do you think a person can be spiritual and enjoy life? Why or why not?
A. There is no contradiction at all. In fact, spirituality is the art of enjoying life - including physical pleasures - in the ultimate and most positive way.