Tag Archives: Pesach

Is Our Religion Getting in the Way of Our Health?


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


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Food, Glorious Food!

Praised be! The holiday of Pesach is over !!!! I couldn’t be happier. Ok ok, its not why you think… I am just so sick of eating!! The incessant amount of meals, and meals .. and more meals… and then in between you can either go to sleep on a disgustingly full stomach, or walk to Shul and pray. Hmmm… the truth is the holidays are wonderful. A great time to get together with loved ones and celebrate the traditions of our religion.

What I truly hate, is how our food related traditions have suddenly become “law.” We all know that we Jews eat a lot… everything revolves around a meal. Whether you’re happy, sad, celebrating an engagement, new baby, or even R’L a funeral, there is always cake and schnapps to be had… and then we have our holidays throughout the year.

The High Holidays filled with honey cakes, fresh challahs & honey, and then the Sukkos marathon of meals – we all “swear” we’re beginning our diets and swear off all unhealthy foods and promise to be “good.” Well it works for a while.. (give it a few weeks) you turn around and BAM! Youre hit with Chanukah … Chanukah we celebrate the miracle of the oil by traditionally eating fried foods. I can understand that … but MUST we choose the most unhealthy version of this??? Must it be POTATO LATKES??? Must it be Jelly Donuts???? Would it be so terrible if the tradition was eating a scrambled egg fried? Or how about Stir fry veggies ? Fine, I admit, I too would rather eat a piping hot potato latke filled with oily salty flavor smothered in sour cream as opposed to a plate of vegetables (don’t we all?) But its almost “law” that we HAVE to have a donuts and latkes, or else we haven’t really celebrated Chanukah properly.  So we all give ourselves a little permission cuz “hey, its Chanukah!” And it really is depressing going to Chanukah parties and hanging out at the fresh veggie platter and staying far away from the GOOD stuff… (and by good stuff im referring to the “traditional” lasagnas, zitis, latkes, donuts, fritters.. ooh boy im getting hungry just thinking about it !) — so by all means, we’re humans for goodness sakes and so we enjoy a little nosh, because hey – its Chanukah! (oh I forgot to mention the Chocolate Chanukah gelt…)

Continuing on the calendar comes my seriously favorite holiday of all. Short holiday, but still oh so important – PURIM! Its only one day but it packs a HUGE punch of Calories! Someone once asked me if Purim was like the Jewish Halloween. I was about to tell them that in a way it was – since we eat lots of candy and junk food.. but then I remembered how I felt when we went to our neighbors for the Seudah. Not only are we noshing on Hamantashen the ENTIRE day… and sneaking little candies from the baskets throughout the day – but then we sit down to an ENTIRE 3 course meal filled with soup, fish, Challah, chicken, rice etc etc etc (you get the idea) – so if I was bursting out of my skirt BEFORE the meal – you can only imagine how I felt at the END of the meal!!!

You get the point right? Throughout our year – all these holidays are sprinkled throughout – and although we always feel “after the holiday is over – I PROMISE I’m starting on my diet!” Its almost impossible because you’re cursed with having to deal with yet another holiday right around the corner. (oh, and lets not forget to mention the fact that in between these holidays we have weekly Shabbat meals, friends weddings, engagement parties, brissim, and other such celebratory reasons to eat! :))

This all reminds me of the one year I spent Pesach at my aunt & uncle’s house in Cedarhurst NY. We all have different traditions and restrictions that we employ over the Pesach holiday – and when I asked my aunt if there was anything I needed to know about what they do or don’t use on pesach, my aunt answered me “We don’t eat bread.” Haha ! Well, I figured that since Pesach is a time when we’re slightly limited in the food department, in my mind I assumed there would be plenty of healthy vegetables and proteins so I wouldn’t have to worry about my waistline .. (as long as I stayed away from the potatoes, I would be ok, right?) WRONG! It seemed that for the lack of “bread” and Chomatz eating – my aunt felt she needed to compensate by making every possible of “boring” vegetable into a matzah meal filled, potato starched kugel! You couldn’t tell the difference between the carrot kugel or the carrot cake!!! It was insane!!! What was a girl on a diet supposed to do??? My choice was between the matzah farfel or the broccoli kugel … ahhhh!!!!! So I ate to my hearts content … I walked away from the table feeling so stuffed I could not MOVE… and if you think I am exaggerating, I wish I was! I couldn’t even lay down I was so stuffed to the gills it was beyond repulsive …. My biggest problem??? I had to do it ALL over again the next day for lunch!!!! And then for dinner again!!!!! Ahhhhh!!!!!!!!

Ok ok – so all you smart asses out there are probably thinking “well you could always just ‘not eat.’” Yeah – well I will tell you that that’s easier said than done … especially when youre a guest in someone else’s house. So there! 🙂

My point people is that over the years, we have somehow decided that while making our food traditions both memorable and special for our children and families, we have forgotten how to be healthy in the process… instead of making a delicious Feta Cheese Greek Salad or a Yogurt dessert, to help celebrate the Dairy filled holiday of Shavuos, instead we have Blintzes, Cheesecakes and the most decadent calorie filled treats! (oooh Shavuos … heavenly!) I suppose we might feel deep down that a Greek Salad on Shavuos, or a Zuchini pancake on Chanukah just aint gonna cut it … who will look forward to a holiday where the food isn’t delectable? Hmmm.. well that can be debated on another blog. As for me, I am just happy the Pesach marathon of eating is FINALLY over! Time to crack down on the diet & exercise. Time for us to assess why we do this to ourselves time and time again, and maybe just maybe its time to make a decision to finally change our traditional foods and choose healthier options. Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful idea? Well… maybe we’ll start after Shavuos 🙂 🙂

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Posted by on April 11, 2010 in Physical Health


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