Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Eating & Diet

TAKING CARE OF OUR BODIES…

TORAH PORTION: VA-ETCHANAN

vaechinan2Do we exercise enough? Getting enough rest, staying clean, not smoking, and using alcohol in moderation are all important ways to respecting our bodies. Unfortunately, some people take better care of their fine jewelry, putting it away in velvet, than they do in caring for themselves. Our bodies do wonderful things for us. They enjoy our indulgences and provide us with pleasure, but they are also the tools we use to realize our dreams and aspirations. Without the energy to articulate or implement our ideas and creativity, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish much.

This week’s Torah portion, Va-Etchanan, begs us to protect and take good care of ourselves. We have so much potential within us that can only be accessed if our bodies are functioning properly. The Torah regards our bodies as ‘holy’ objects because they are tools for doing great things.

As we journey through life, we overcome challenges. Each step along the way provides opportunities for success and spiritual growth. Our job is the make sure that we have the required emotional and spiritual reserves to meet each challenge and to take advantage of the opportunities. Caring for our bodies establishes a platform for us to shine and excel.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how well they treat their own bodies.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What things must we do to care for our bodies? What happens if we don’t?
  • Discuss how our bodies are important to our performance in life?
  • What can you do as a family to improve overall health for all of you?

By Rabbi Moshe Becker

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

FOOD CHOICES…

TORAH TOPICS: ACHARAY MOT

Acharay3When we think about food, it has become popular to ask: “Do you live to eat or do you eat to live?” Our feelings about food and the choices we make around eating have the ability to say a lot about who we are as people.

This week’s Torah portion, Acharay Mot, contains many rules about the food we eat which are incorporated into our modern system of keeping kosher. There are rules about the types of foods we eat, about how we prepare those foods, and even about when we eat them. This week’s text connects food to the idea of holiness, which might lead us to ask what is holy about food.

It is easy to understand what it means to “eat to live”. We know that we need to take in a certain amount of food to provide energy and keep us healthy. We can also imagine what it means to “live to eat”, to take great pleasure from ingredients, recipes and cuisine. But what does it mean to think about our food choices in terms of holiness? What would it look like for us to make food decisions based on our ethics and values? This could mean the discipline of eating organically or locally, being vegetarian, or keeping kosher. There are lots of ways we can change the way we make our decisions around food, but most important is that we raise our awareness about what we consume.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the food choices we make.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Where do you fall on the “eat to live” vs. “live to eat” spectrum?
  • What do you think about when you decide what to eat?
  • Are there any special limitations or choices you make (i.e. vegetarian, gluten free etc.) If so, why?
  • How does the discipline, or lack of it, in your food choices affect you?
  • How do you think your food choices impact your world?

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

WAITING FOR THE COOKIE TO COOL…

TORAH PORTION: TOLDOT

toldot2The sweet scent of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies wafts through the kitchen. Your mouth waters and your tummy rumbles as you pull the hot tray out of the oven. The cookies look moist and delicious as the chocolate bubbles and melts. The recipe tells you to let the cookies cool for thirty minutes before eating them. But how can you wait thirty whole minutes when the cookies are calling your name right now?! You try to pick up just one cookie, but it crumbles and you burn your finger. You put the crumbs in your mouth and burn your tongue as well. So much for the perfect chocolate chip cookie… The chocolate chip cookie incident, with which many of us are all too familiar, teaches us that we can’t always get what we want right when we want it. Often, we will appreciate the cookie even more if we wait until it cools. So too there are many things and experiences in life that are well worth waiting for.

In this week’s Torah reading, Toldot, Esau came in from the field starving and begged Jacob for some lentil stew. Jacob agreed to give Esau the stew, but only after Esau promised to sell his younger twin brother Jacob his birthright. Esau traded the significant material benefits of his inheritance for one meager meal of stew because he thought with his stomach and acted on his animal instincts. If Esau had been more thoughtful and patient, he most likely would have made a different decision despite his growling belly.

The story of Esau and the lentil stew teaches us the importance of delayed gratification. While it may not feel good to put a few dollars of your allowance in your piggy bank each week, it feels great when you have finally saved enough money to buy a new bike. It might be painful to run sprints each morning or do endless sets of soccer drills, but it feels glorious when you cross the finish line or score the winning goal.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about appreciating the benefits of delayed gratification.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Have you ever let your stomach make a decision for you, which you later regretted?
  • Have you ever acted on an impulse, instead of thinking through a decision more carefully?
  • Can you think of a time when you didn’t get what you wanted right when you wanted it?
  • Have you ever worked really hard to achieve a goal? How did it feel when you  accomplished the goal?
  • What are the benefits of delayed gratification?

By Yael Hammerman

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

THE HOLINESS OF OUR BODIES…

TORAH PORTION: KEDOSHIM

Acharay4It is difficult in our society to have a sense of respect and acceptance for our own bodies with all their inherent differences.  Women especially are often held to impossible standards when it comes to body weight.  Eating disorders abound, mostly for girls, but also amongst boys.  Boys and girls, men and women, become obsessive about weight and appearance, and the importance of bodily appearance can, unfortunately, overshadow other life interests and relationships.

In this Torah portion there is a law against making gashes in one’s flesh and also against tattooing oneself.  We are commanded to be holy, and one of the ways to become so is through treating the body as sacred, not permanently marring it in anyway.  No matter what its size, shape or appearance, the body, just as it is, is considered holy.

When raising children  we can counteract some of society’s messages, which place so much emphasis on the body as object.  Using the Torah’s concept of the body as holy, we can present an important alternative to children.   By placing emphasis on caring for one’s body through healthful eating, bathing, and dressing in clean and attractive clothes, we can teach that a sense of bodily sanctity can be nurtured.  We can communicate to girls or boys struggling with body image issues that they are acceptable, even holy, just as they are.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the Torah’s concept of their body as being holy.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What are the best ways to take care of your body?
  • How does bathing contribute to your sense of the holiness of our bodies?
  • How do healthy food choices contribute to your sense of the body’s holiness?
  • What are the best ways to take care of your body?

By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT…

TORAH PORTION:  SHEMINI

Shemini1We all eat and need to feed our families.  But how we do so involves many small decisions.  Think about being in a supermarket.  We all make many decisions there concerning the food we buy.  We are inundated by products and need to make decisions based on various factors such as healthfulness or what’s appealing to our family.

In this week’s Torah portion we are told very specifically that we can not eat whatever we want whenever we want.  Discipline, in Judaism, is an important part of eating.  According to the Torah, following the discipline of what we can eat and what we can’t eat makes us holy.  Making these choices teaches us that food and eating are sacred matters.

While some of us may choose to keep kosher and some might not, it’s important to keep in mind that making wise choices about the food we eat elevates the act of eating.  We want to teach our children that they just can’t eat anything any time and any way that they want.  Families eating healthful food together are involved in a sacred activity – taking in the bounty of the earth.  Consider what would elevate your family’s eating experience into one that consciously acknowledged the blessings that are abundant at our dining room or kitchen table.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about how important food choices are to their physical and spiritual health.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What kinds of foods do you like to eat?
  • Do you know where these foods come from?
  • Which kinds of foods makes you feel good when you eat them?
  • Why is it important to eat together with your family?
  • What is the value of applying discipline to what we eat?

By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.