Good thing my juicer can’t sue me for blender abuse, as every second day another media-proclaimed health guru raises his or her glass to toast to a new concoction that promises to be the cure to everything from the plague to plaque from phlebitis to arthritis. Who wouldn’t be on board? And so, it was not too long ago that I was ready to put down my book of Psalms and take up celery juice instead as the new savior for all my ills, including bone density. (Although Rav Nachman teaches that one’s sins are engraved on one’s bones and I wondered how my green drink would help with that.) Nonetheless, my Ninja and Bullet have been spinning overtime trying to keep up with the latest crazes. Some have even dropped dead from over usage and so I’m back to praying that the flavor of the month will have better results on me than on my electric assistants now resting in appliance heaven.
Many years ago, my long-time friend, comedian Jackie Mason, had a poignant routine on health trends brilliantly baring man’s foibles. He exposed the sad hilarity as to how every other day another food item is deified and glorified until a study comes out a week later conclusively proving that the healthful item your about to ingest will kill you in an hour. That’s the devil of our day: The desire for the quick fix. The insatiable hunger for magic tonics or potions that will obviate all the responsibilities that go along with being healthy (or being religious.)
I have some obvious conclusions to draw from the fact that health crazes and diet books are so popular: We fundamentally believe that we are what we eat, that healthy items make us healthy and that we want to be healthy. And yet God has given his people a “diet book” that ensures that they will be not merely healthy, but HOLY; a diet very unlike my liquidizers whose warranties have long expired, but rather one that has endured through the millennia. Yet we flout God and prefer to believe the spandex-wearing fitness gurus who are fitly dressed to stretch the truth. The sages teach that the food we eat affects much more than our bodies; By eating not kosher we sully our souls, distance ourselves from the Almighty and bring on sicknesses. The kabbalists teach that our soul is in our blood and seeing that food feeds our blood it affects our souls as well. The more we learn the depths of our commandments, the more we realize that God is the best diet guru even if He doesn’t have an infomercial.
The Jewish people are allowed to eat only ten animals, none of which hunt for prey. They are docile and peaceful. Our sages have taught that eating animals that lust for blood and go for the kill affects our characters and personalities. If eating an energy bar gives you energy, then how hard is it to believe that eating violent and aggressive animals can transform your energy as well making it ever harder to keep the Torah’s commandments, all meant to elevate our animal soul?
For an animal to be kosher it has to possess two traits: It has to chew its own cud and must have split hooves. The Torah lists four animals that can fool you because they possess one out of the two requirements: the camel (chews its cud, no split hooves), the hare (chews its cud, no split hooves), the hyrax (chews its cud, no split hooves) and the pig (has split hooves but does not chew its cud). The Torah was written thousands of years ago, before National Geographic and The Animal Planet, and still unto this day no other animal has manifested other than these four tricky ones itemized in the Torah that possess these characteristics. As for food that comes from the water, fish is all that is permitted and it must have both fins and scales to be kosher. Before I became kosher, a lifetime ago, I used to eat shrimp and other foods the Torah calls abominable. If I can give it up, you can too. Today, I’m repulsed that they ever entered my mouth. As for creepy crawly things, okay gross, but if that’s your craving, know that they too are not allowed. The Torah admonishes that not only eating certain foods renders us impure but even touching the carcass of some has an effect on us and contaminates us. But there is no Purell antibacterial sanitizer to counter the effects on our soul. Interesting how we are afraid to shake hands, touch doors knobs, use public bathrooms, etc. because we fear to be physically contaminated, but the Torah, which predates our modern-day microbe germaphobia, takes this concern even deeper. What we touch, who we touch and how we touch also results in spiritual contamination. We must work harder to guard our souls and feed our souls. Pandering to and feeding our other appetites will destroy us and distance us from our Creator. We often wonder why God doesn’t do what we beg of Him. A blatant simple answer comes in Jewish style, in the form of a question: Do we do what He asks of us? As with every relationship it demands mutual respect. Keep kosher, purify yourself, be holy–watch miracles happen.
People will often ask if God really cares what I eat for lunch? And the answer is a resounding thunderous, YES. So much so that Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden for eating the forbidden fruit. The first sin revolved around eating and brought about the fall of mankind. It is said of Adam that he was the most gorgeous man that ever lived, but by eating what he should not have, his stature and beauty were diminished. Simply because God said so, food affects us profoundly. When we sin with food, and in general, our inner light is diminished and it shows in the spiritual realm as well as on the earthly plains. No coincidence that the Hebrew word for skin (or) and the Hebrew word for light (or) are homonyms. I hate to push kosher as a beauty remedy, but if you want to “glow” you should probably forsake your beauty serums and try eating kosher instead and keeping the commandments.
Eating kosher doesn’t just mean avoiding pig and its non-kosher cohorts, it also means not eating “like” a pig. Be a mensch in all your appetites. Have restraint and limitations. Don’t listen to the slithering snake offering you the “forbidden flavors” of an artificial and ephemeral paradise. Eat healthily, take care of the body that God gave you (it’s just on loan) but also guard your soul. Body and soul are partners in time, crime and the sublime. One day we will have to give an accounting for our vast intake not just as regards our fitness but before the Eternal Witness who gave us His menu along with the commandment that we not contaminate ourselves: “For I am the Lord your God, and you shall sanctify yourselves and be holy, because I am holy, and you shall not defile yourselves … For I am the Lord Who has brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God. Thus, you shall be holy, because I am holy.” Bon Appétit!