Food For the Soul
Take Your Body Along
In the Parshah Acharei Mot, Aaron and all subsequent High Priests are warned to only enter the Temple’s Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. This is preceded by the statement that this caution followed the deaths of Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu, who entered the Tabernacle and the Holy of Holies, “and drew close to G-d and died.”
Death is the separation of soul and body. As such, on a deeper level we are being warned that coming close to G-d cannot involve the separation of body and soul. If while praying or when involved in any other holy experience we feel uplifted, but only the soul makes the trip while the body remains behind, we are making the same holy error as the children of Aaron.
Practically speaking this means that after the spiritual experience our bodies’ desires and weaknesses should not remain the same. Our practical, everyday lives should be more virtuous and ethical than before our “drawing close to G-d.” If this is not the case, then the whole experience is “dead”—it adds no life and holiness to our world as we live in it.
And the entire purpose of Judaism is to make the Divine a normative presence in the context of our ordinary, everyday, frames of reference.
Rabbi Shlomo Yaffe
Shabbat and the Divine Mind
In six days G-d created heaven and earth and on the seventh day He rested. But when G-d rests, how is there a heaven and earth? What force sustains the molecules in their places, the electrons in their shells? In what way does any form or matter exist at all?
Rather, for six days, G-d sustains the creation of heaven and earth by His word, and on the seventh day, it rests within His thought. For six days, as you speak words to others outside of yourself, so the Creator generates a universe in which each creature senses itself to be outside of Him.
But on Shabbat, if you will only stop to listen, to perceive and to know, you will discover a universe as it is found within the mind of its Creator.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Mind Over Matter
If you see what needs to be repaired and know how to repair it, then you have found a piece of the world that G-d has left for you to perfect. But if you only see what is wrong and what is ugly, then it is you yourself that needs repair.
The Messianic Redemption will be ushered in by a person, a human leader, a descendant of Kings David and Solomon, who will reinstate the Davidic royal dynasty. Moshiach is not identified by his ability to perform earth-shattering miracles. In fact, he isn’t required to perform any miracles at all (although the performance of miracles doesn’t disqualify him either). The following are the criteria for identifying the Moshiach, as written by Maimonides: If we see a Jewish leader who (a) toils in the study of Torah and is meticulous about the observance of the mitzvot, (b) influences the Jews to follow the ways of the Torah and (c) wages the “battles of G-d”—such a person is the “presumptive Moshiach.” If the person succeeded in all these endeavors, and then rebuilds the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and facilitates the in gathering of the Jews to the Land of Israel—then we are certain that he is the Moshiach.
Have I Got A Story
I tend to eat a nutritious and well-balanced diet. But that all changed when my friend came for a visit. She’d gone raw. Really raw! She eats uncooked fruits and vegetables, lots of nuts and seeds, and some other superfoods like goji berries, hemp protein and spirulina. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel so health-conscious anymore. Initially, I pitied her for living with such restrictions. But she seemed so impassioned about her foods. In fact, her enthusiasm was contagious. Raw eaters seem to be always looking to improve, even though improving usually entails more food restrictions. They’re busy sprouting, dehydrating, detoxing, and cutting dead food out of their lives. After hanging out with her for a week, it even seemed enticing. Then, before she left, she challenged me to a three-week raw cleanse. I never turn down a good challenge.
It was hard to radically change my eating style, but surprisingly it wasn’t miserable—not at all. In fact, I experienced deep pleasure in knowing that my food was saturated with active enzymes and teeming with antioxidants. Once I was hooked on raw food, the awful restrictions seemed like a privileged progress towards a higher plane of sensitivity and consciousness.
We will leave the decision as to the healthfulness of eating raw foods to the medical experts, but there is a powerful lesson in this experience, because that is precisely the Jewish view of G-d’s restrictions. The boundaries form a space conducive to optimal wellbeing, spiritual and psychological. The restrictions become a way in. Once these restrictions are seen as sacred, as gifts, they don’t feel repressive. To the contrary, if the restrictions are the Divine keys to sensitivity and G-d-consciousness, we’d look to buttress their boundaries.
In the book of Leviticus (18:30), G-d explicitly encourages us to safeguard His boundaries. After spelling out the moral guidelines for intimate relationships, G-d concludes, “You shall guard what I have guarded that you shall not do any of the abominable practices.”
When G-d says, “You shall guard what I have guarded,” He is instructing the sages to carefully protect Divine danger zones. To this effect, the sages passed further legislation to lessen the possibility of violating His prohibitions.
The Torah’s many explicit instructions are what we call mitzvot d’Oraita (biblical obligations). The sages, acting upon the Divine mandate to secure boundaries around the Torah, created additional laws around them. These instructions are called mitzvot d’Rabbanan (rabbinic obligations). So G-d asks us not to create a fire on Shabbat, and the sages instructed us not to pick up a box of matches. G-d asks us not to eat milk and meat together, and the sages say to wait six hours after eating meat before drinking milk. G-d says not to have an intimate relationship with anyone aside from your spouse; the sages say don’t even seclude yourself with someone of the opposite sex.
There are two ways to look at these added restrictions. On one hand, it’s bad enough that there are so many restrictions in the Torah; why add more? Let’s look for a way out. On the other hand, if G-d has given us tools to elevate our lives to a higher plane, and He implores me to make a buffer zone around these tools, then protection is my way in.
Aside for the compulsory mitzvot d’Rabbanan, there are opportunities to voluntarily enhance mitzvot. When G-d’s boundaries are seen as the template for higher consciousness living, greater adherence breeds more vibrant results. So throughout the ages, many soul-seekers have challenged themselves to go beyond even the letter of the law.
People who are looking for a higher plane of sensitivity tend to be extra kosher. Even more, they are not slaves to their food. They don’t even think about business on Shabbat. They try to be modest and not flirtatious when they converse.
But it doesn’t even say that in the Torah! And yet the beyond-the-letter folk seem to find deep pleasure in guarding the Divine constraints that create sacred space in life.
From an article by Rochel Holzkenner