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GOOD MORNING! I was once conversing with a group of doctors when one of them asked me, "So, are you a doctor, too?" Wanting to respond with a witty, profound reply, I answered, "Yes, I am a doctor of the soul." The physician looked puzzled for a moment and then responded, "Oh, so you're a podiatrist?"
My goal is to help people be all that they can be in life - to fulfill their potential, especially their spiritual potential. Therefore, I was thrilled to receive a copy of A Wholly Life - Spiritual Integration of Mind, Body and Soul compiled by Dr. Moshe Kaplan (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at judaicaenterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242). It is a fascinating and thought-provoking collection of essays which explore the many facets of Jewish spirituality: "Intellectual Integration" (Dr. Dovid Gottlieb), "Emotional Integration" (Mimi Dickman), "Physical Integration" (Yaakov Levinson), "Science and Spirituality" (Moshe Perkal), "Creation and Spirituality" (Meir Triebitz) and "Ethical Living" (Berel Wein).
From a Torah point of view, one must look for spirituality - connection with the Almighty - in everything. There are, I believe, three philosophical approaches regarding spirituality and eating:
- Ascetic - eating is a base, physical action and if one wants spirituality, he must fast and deny the body.
- Epicurean - forget about spirituality! Physical, sensual pleasures are as good as it gets. Indulge!
- Torah -one eats to gain strength to do the Almighty's will and to take care of one's body; thus, the very act of eating has a spiritual context.
I would like to share with you an excerpt from Yaakov Levinson's essay Nutrition: An Elevated Meal which, I believe, will give you a taste (excuse the pun) for this insightful book:
"The Torah says, 'And you shall eat and be satisfied and bless God' (Deuteronomy 8:10). The sages of the Talmud explain that if one's desire in eating is only to be satisfied and not to indulge in gluttony, then one is considered to be 'blessing God.' When we elevate our food further with the blessings and commandments associated with eating, our eating becomes a spiritual act like the performance of any other commandment. Thus, even the food we eat can become a substance that raises us spiritually. In fact, all of our acts can bring us closer to God depending on how we perform them.
"The Baal Shem Tov said, 'By the manner in which you eat you serve God.' If not performed with holiness, the act of eating is simply an instinctive act necessary to preserve life in our bodies or a means of satisfying our greed. But performed in holiness, the act of eating becomes very spiritual. The Proverbs say that 'A righteous person eats to satisfy his soul.'
"Maimonides, a twelfth-century physician, stated that the majority of human ills come from unhealthy eating practices. This has been substantiated by modern science. Humbling is the thought that if humans did eat like animals only for their bodily needs and not to indulge themselves, they would live longer and healthier!"
Here are a few practical ideas for spiritually elevating eating:
- Make blessings before and after eating. Before eating one is asking permission from the Almighty to partake of His world. After eating, the blessing thanks the Almighty for what he has given us. These are important lessons for both us and our children - to ask permission before using something and to give thanks afterwards.
- Focus on the enjoyment of the taste of the food while you eat it. The Almighty has given us a beautiful world for our pleasure.
- Discuss worthwhile topics and ideas, especially Torah, during the meal. It has been said that elevated people speak about ideas, mediocre people speak about things and lower level individuals speak about people.
- Eat Kosher - there's nothing like Jewish soul food! If the Almighty tells us how food must be prepared, what not to eat or what combinations not to eat, then it is for our physical and spiritual Good. The Kabbalah teaches that non-kosher food places a block for spiritual growth.
Every person does the best he can in life. Perhaps the book A Wholly Life - Spiritual Integration of Mind, Body and Soul can give some ideas to help us grow and improve. The more knowledge a person has, the better decisions he or she makes.
For more on "Spirituality" Go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
This week we conclude the ten plagues with the plagues of locusts, darkness and the death of the first-born. The laws of Passover are presented, followed by the commandment to wear tefillin, consecrate the first-born animal and redeem one's first born son. The Torah tells us that at some time in the future your son will ask you about these commandments and you will answer:
"With a show of power, God brought us out of Egypt, the place of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us leave, God killed all the first-born in Egypt, man and beast alike. I, therefore, offer to God all male first-born (animals) and redeem all the first-born of sons. And it shall be a sign upon your arm, and an ornament between your eyes (Tefillin), for with a strong hand the Almighty removed us from Egypt." (Ex. 13:15)
based on based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states regarding the Pesach offering:
"Neither shall you break a bone of it." (Exodus 12:46)
What is the Torah coming to teach us about life from this commandment?
On Passover night as we sit at the Seder we are to envision ourselves as Going out of Egypt and becoming free people. At the Seder, we are kings and queens; we dress royally, we act royally, we eat royally. Royal people do not break bones to suck out the marrow. Poor, downtrodden people must suck the bones to draw out all of the nourishment possible.
The outward action brings the inner appreciation. If you want to be free, act free. If you want to be royal, act royally. Likewise, if you want to be kind or to be charitable, then act that way. Eventually, your personality will be shaped by your actions. Life and growth are a process of deciding and then consistently acting in line with your decision. Decide and you can be!
Flatter me, and I may not believe you.
Criticize me, and I may not like you.
Ignore me, and I may not forgive you.
Encourage me, and I may not forget you.
-- William Arthur
CANDLE LIGHTING - February 3:
(or Go to http://www.aish.com/shabbat/candlelighting.asp)
Guatemala 5:37 Hong Kong 5:55 Honolulu 6:05
J'Burg 6:40 London 4:35 Los Angeles 5:07
Melbourne 8:14 Mexico City 6:12 Miami 5:49
New York 4:57 Singapore 7:03 Toronto 4:38
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
It is not pleasure that makes
life worth living.
It is life that makes
pleasure worth having.
-- George Bernard Shaw
With thanks to