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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?”

Ouch!

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

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2012 in Physical Health

 

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Simchas Torah – a Holiday Devoted to Happiness (And Alcohol)

judge_young_drunk_stupid_524355I actually wrote this post last year after Sukkos was over, but who wants to read about Yom Tov when we’re all just sick of the whole thing? So this year, I decided I better post this BEFORE it ends Smile

The end part of Sukkos is called Simchas Torah – when we celebrate the ending (and subsequent beginning) of reading the Torah portions throughout the year. Therefore it’s a great celebration with feasting, dancing and singing but the main mitzvah of the holiday is to be happy and joyful.

There are MILLIONS of books, blogs, seminars, movies etc. that are devoted to the topic of happiness and how to achieve it. People sometimes look to religion to find happiness… it’s an entire industry!!! Making people happy Smile

Our Jewish religion is no different — we are taught that what we can accomplish with tears, we can also accomplish through sheer joy. This applies to the ecstasy we feel on Simchas Torah – compared to the seriousness and tears we feel on Yom Kippur.

SOOOOOOO….

My question that I pose to all of you out there – and I pose to myself as well:

WHY DO WE NEED ALCOHOL TO BE HAPPY?

Alcohol has NOTHING to do with Simchas Torah (as opposed to Purim where the famous Gemarah speaks about drinking wine on Purim) – but it has absolutely nothing to do with Simchas Torah! Other than using it as a means to find that inner happiness….

So I ask again – why do we NEED it to be happy?

Why must we use a substance that is dangerous to our physical health in order to obtain happiness??!! Can we not be jubilant without it? What does it say about a person that cannot find inner glee and contentment without relying on chemical alterations of the body and brain?

I pose this question to my readers not in order to try and answer this question – but really to find an adequate answer that satisfies me.

I’ll admit, when I was a teen (and young adult), I saw people drinking, saying “lechaims” on Simchas Torah and Purim and I thought it was “cool.” It seemed that all the fun stuff happened when people were a bit tipsy. Who didn’t want to be part of that? And the lesson I saw was that alcohol = fun! Of course, it was in a ‘kosher’ setting – during Shul etc… and it was ingrained in my brain that booze was perfectly acceptable. It was hip to get drunk and “happy” and I hate to say this but it was so funny when it led to somebody throwing up (more to talk about!)

My Perspective Changed…

But once I got married – suddenly my perspective shifted. Actually, a woman from my Shul planted a little seed in my brain one year (while I was still on my “alcohol is cool” kick) when she made a comment about the stupidity of drinking. With such passion on the matter, she would tell us, about the father who comes home from Shul piss drunk — he could barely walk home – so he needed his children to help balance all the way. This woman is older than me, a mom, and therefore was able to look at the situation from a deeper understanding of the situation. She saw that a parent needs to be a parent and be responsible. A father who needs his children to “walk him home” because who knows what will happen if they’re not there – well that was the epitome of abhorrent in her mind.

Well, back then me and my friends thought this lady was nerdy and sooooo boring. Comon, lighten up! It’s fun, it’s cool… no one is getting violent or dangerous, we’re all just having a good time!

Saying a Lechaim Is One Thing….Getting Pissed Drunk is Another

But that’s not the case with everyone who drinks on Simchas Torah. Sure, some of us can down a few drinks, get a little buzz and start to act happy. However, then there are those who don’t stop at just a few drinks and end up taking it too far.

So once again I ask – why do we need it?

I grew up in a town where my Shul became a first rate circus on this holiday. (even the Rabbis of the Shul left town for the holiday to get away from it!) The men acted like the clowns, french kissing each other rolling around on the floor in pickled herring, while the women enjoyed front row seats to enjoy the spectacle. The children, traditionally divided by sex would hold forts and wage battle using fallen Chestnuts as ammo (usually resulting in someone running into Shul crying hysterically to find a mom – since obviously the men were too plastered to do anything). The teens, well the teens usually were smart enough to go to NY for Simchas Torah – although the one year I did that, I found nothing but more filth and disgusting behavior.

happy hourSo, once again I ask – why the alcohol?

I guess as an adult maybe I’m turning into a prude. Who knows?

All I know is that this year, I’ll be here in Kentucky in my new Shul – where honestly I don’t know how they do things here. What I do know is that I’ll be running a children’s program with wholesome and fun activities for the kids – so they can have a more positive and less traumatizing Simchas Torah than I did.

What are your thoughts? Feel free to join the discussion and answer this very difficult question.

 
 

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Vegan?! You Poor Thing!!!

vegan_farmsThere are plenty of scientific arguments for and against going Vegan. This post will NOT be discussing those Smile (sorry if I let your hopes down.)

Actually, this post is about the incredulous responses that I have been getting from people when I tell them the details of our cleanse. Yes, people think its nuts.. or weird.. or psycho… or on the more positive spectrum – they think its cool – or impressed with the hard work and discipline. What I find MOST baffling is that people are amazed / taken aback / horrified (almost) at the thought of going Vegan for the purpose of doing the detox. (For those who might be a bit behind – click here to read about our Total Body Cleanse we are currently doing. A program entirely Organic and Vegan).

Thinking about it – yes, for someone who eats meat and chicken, fish and cheeses all week long – and more so on Shabbos- going completely vegan sounds extreme and difficult, but what amazes me is that these are people who do the same exact same thing once a year. It’s called PESACH. Every year on Pesach, the Jewish people “Detox.” We detox from bread and cookies and crackers and focus on Matzah. We learn that Matzah symbolizes humility while bread symbolizes “puffiness” which can be likened to arrogance. Each year for 8 days we detox our entire homes, kitchens and souls from the “chomatz” in our lives and we do it whole heartedly and never think twice.

Then why my friends, is it so difficult to wrap your heads around doing a PHYSICAL detox? Why is it so strange to think that I value my health, and the health of my husband – and therefore I want our bodies to be better and stronger? I found it amusing that being so “crazy” about Matzah crumbs and peeling every single vegetable is no big deal, but abstaining from eating animal proteins for a few weeks is just unfathomable.

The truth is that in Judaism – our health plays a key role. Without our physical bodies, we are literally unable to do ANY of our soul’s mission here on earth.

I know a guy….

I know a Rabbi in California, and he’s a very thin guy. His wife was telling me that he used to be extremely heavy. (She showed me pictures to prove it) He was ummm… BIG to put it mildly., As the Rabbi of a Shul, being active and eating healthy was never high on his priority list because he had “more important things to do…” One day he was walking to Shul – and he couldn’t go past the end of his block. He was panting, couldn’t catch his breath and needed to sit down. (If I remember correctly, I think he had to go home because they were scared it was more than just shortness of breath.) Long story short, this wasn’t something he could ignore any longer and made some drastic changes… and today the guy is a skinny pickle! (why that term is used I have no idea.. since when are pickles skinny?!) In any case, this Rabbi couldn’t walk to SHUL – his whole mission in life – to serve G-d and to take care of the Jewish families in his community he was physically unable to do because his body was not functioning the way it should.

This is the beauty of Judaism – it puts as great importance on our spiritual health as it does on our physical health. This is why when it comes to emergency life or death situations – we are allowed to transgress the Shabbos or Yom Tov. If we have good energy and vitality we are able to do our life’s mission with fervor, strength and passion as opposed to fatigue with our feet dragging behind us.

Of course it is easier said than done. Many people I know who are staunch health advocates usually had some sort of health scare, or ailment that gave them the ambition to lead fully healthy lives. However on the flip side, many of my young mom friends are taking control of their young children’s healthy habits from an early stage in life, so there won’t be “huffing and puffing” and extreme drastic changes needed later on.

And of course, it is my hope that I can inspire at least someone out there to help them realize that a healthy life means a more fulfilled life… and isn’t that ultimately what G-d wants?

 
 

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