Is Our Religion Getting in the Way of Our Health?

18 Apr


Matzah joke

Well my friends, it’s obvious that I’ve been neglecting my blog. I’ve been enjoying my other projects and you could say I use up all my writing energy elsewhere with not much left for my blog.

So I guess we’ll see what will be the fate of the 5 Pillars. Lord knows I don’t want to give up on the whole blogging thing, but at the same time, I often feel guilty when the posts aren’t frequent enough.

Let’s talk about something that has been weighing on my mind lately.

Really, this is more of a rant / vent about something I don’t have an answer for. This is something that has popped into my brain as I’m recuperating and getting back on schedule from our week long marathon called Pesach.

Is our religion getting in the way of our health?

Another way I would phrase this question is:

“Do our Holiday customs make us unhealthy?”


For those of my readers out there (and I know you’re out there!) who wouldn’t dare say a negative thing about our way of life, I’ll try to tread lightly, but I gotta tell you – this isn’t the first time I’ve thought of this concept. (please, spare me the hater comments)

Let me explain:

The holiday of Pesach comes along with many Laws and Customs. Many of which don’t exactly scream healthy. Let’s examine a few of them:

1) According to Hagaddah, we are instructed to drink 4 cups on wine in one evening. (and then do that again the next night)

2) We are instructed to eat Matzah:

a. 1 whole Matzah for the Matzah portion of the seder, (minimum you can eat ½)

b. ½ Matzah for Korech (the sandwich).

c. 1 whole Matzah for Afikoman

So according to the Haggadah – for those of us math whizzes – that’s 2.5 Matzahs that we HAVE to eat entirely. (oh and the first matzah needs to be eaten within a few minutes).

3) We have a full Yom Tov meal – usually 3 courses

4) Aside from the Seder, we are instructed to have a full meal for lunch after Shul, and then another full meal hours later for dinner. By full meal, I mean eat fish AND meat.

Shall I continue?

I am somewhat bothered by some of our traditions-turned-Halacha that have been solidified throughout our generations.

Allow me to continue.

Many of my friends, family and the wonderful world of the Imamother forum have similar complaints of digestion issues over Pesach. Many have constipation, others are running to the bathroom while others just feel fat, bloated with discomfort.

I gave this some thought and here’s what I have come up with.

It is WONDERFUL that our tradition is to do away with ALL processed foods on Pesach. It’s excellent that we don’t have chemicals and additives in our foods. Everything is homemade – from the juice we drink, to the seasonings – it really is excellent for our health.

However, (and this is a big however) – our diet over this holiday isn’t exactly one to be admired.

A) Meat, Matzah and Dairy products are not constipation friendly. They plug us up!

B) We have done away with many vegetables and fruits that help maintain healthy digestion. Foods like Broccoli, Spinach, Asparagus, Brussel Sprouts, kale, or berries which are very high in fiber etc …. are not allowed because they cannot be peeled. So other than a salad, we are left with very heavy and starchy vegetables (or kugels which aren’t very light on the stomach either)

Obviously I wouldn’t (publicly) suggest going back on years of traditions as I know these are important, but I cant help but feel some of our “Laws” (and I put laws in quotations because eating only a peel-able vegetable is NOT a law) are not very good for our health. I have a hard time understanding why our infallible Torah would instruct us in ways that can G-d forbid cause us to be ill.

Luckily, Pesach is just one week long and it only comes a year. And now that it’s over, we have just enough time to get back to our healthy habits before its time to combat all that Cheesecake on Shavuos! Constipation-Leunig


Posted by on April 18, 2012 in Physical Health


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 responses to “Is Our Religion Getting in the Way of Our Health?

  1. Marci

    April 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    In my pre-Seder said, “And I’d like to apologize now for the fact that none of the food you are going to eat during the Seder is the slightest bit healthy.”

    To which my dad replied, “Our people survived 5000 years on this food!”

  2. mrsduby

    April 18, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    oh marci, i can always count on you.

    have i told you recently that i absolutely love you ?

  3. shaina bodenheim

    April 30, 2012 at 9:11 am

    i gotta tell you, duby, you are not alone in your thinking…and you can add to that list, the fact that we’re eating so late at night (which always makes it hard for me to sleep bec. of all the trips to the bathroom…hello grapejuice? and my body being so busy digesting heavy food in the middle of the night) I also have issues with the shiurim not being adjusted based on size, and by that I mean the size of the person eating? Why do a 400 lb. man and my 90 lb. sister in law have the same shiurim? All those complaints aside, there are many of us (ahem, as you might say) that do eat all those fruits and veggies, and there happen to be plenty of non-carb laden options for how to prepare them. And, personally, i’ve been sticking with the whole wheat or spelt matzah the last couple of years and that has definitely helped with digestive issues:)

  4. mrsduby

    April 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    thanks for your comments Shaina — you know i always appreciate them.

    i actually didnt even THINK about the idea of eating so late at night …. AND the difference in people, bigger people, smaller people … i have no doubt that drinking 4 cups of wine has a very different affect on you that it does a 6 foot 3 dude!

    I did whole wheat matzah this year – it was pretty good i think. I definitely ate too much of it, so we’ll see how to curtail that for next year. What do you think of the spelt matzah? I was considering trying it. Do you see a bit difference ?

    The truth is that theoretically, staying up all night to say stories of our ancestors and the tale of Egypt sounds beautiful and magical. Eating lavish meals, drinking wine, leaning on couches — its all very glamorous (i’m picturing Cecil de Mil in Ten Commandments :):) but practically, its a bit much ….. hmmmm…..

    thanks again for joining the conversation shaina,
    duby 🙂

    • shaina bodenheim

      April 30, 2012 at 3:38 pm

      The spelt is not bad, not as hard on the digestive system…we buy all this stuff cuz my daughter has a lot of food allergies (including wheat) I wouldn’t recommend the oat matzah, though, as it is really expensive ($25 a box for machine or hand made) and does not taste that great (kinda bitter) And honestly I am quite surprised that you don’t see the glamour in a table full of people looking nauseous and/or constipated;)


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