BBT Links For The Week of May 31st 2012

Does your Shul provide opportunities to form deep and meaningful friendships? Take a look at the Centrality of Connection at ShulPolitics.com.

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz explains the stab in the heart pain felt by abuse survivors when perpetrators are given communal support and when the voices of the survivors are further suppressed.

Ruchi Koval has a good post with over 350 comments titled “Jewish v. Jew-ish, or Is It True that Orthodox People Don’t Think Reform Jews are Jewish?”

What Issues Did You Find in the Three Phases of Becoming a BT?

The Baalei Teshuva path can be roughly divided into 3 stages

1) Discovery – learning and growth

2) Integration – navigating to your place in the community

3) Beyond BT – Torah living and slower growth

Did you go too fast in phase 1?

Did you have the right community support and teachers in phase 2?

Have you found a way to target continual improvement in phase 3?

The Importance of Pace and Learning Torah in the Spiritual Growth Process

An important comment by Rabbi Shaya Karlisnky from this post in 2007.

Menachem Lipkin referred me to this wonderful blog. And with over thirty years of experience in teaching Torah to ba’alei tshuvah, I would like to make some comments on this most important thread.

The Rambam teaches (Hilchot Talmud Torah, Ch. 5, Halacha 4): And any student who has not reached the level to instruct, and instructs, is an evildoer, a fool and an arrogant person. About him it is written “She has felled many victims” (Mishlei 7:26). Similarly, a scholar who has reached the level to instruct and does not instruct, is withholding Torah, placing stumbling blocks before the blind, and about him it is written (ibid) “Those killed are numerous.” Those small (unqualified) students who have not increased their Torah knowledge appropriately, and who seek to elevate themselves in front of those who are ignorant and their neighbors, and they jump to sit at the head to judge and to instruct among Jews – they are those who increase conflict and disputes, they destroy the world, they extinguish the light of Torah, and the terrorize damage the vineyard of the Hashem, Lord of Legions. About them King Solomon, in his wisdom, wrote: “The foxes have seized us, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards” (Shir Hashirim 2:15).

It is not coincidental in the Rambam that those who are not qualified choose to teach those who themselves are ignorant – knowledgeable Jews would never accept them as teachers of Torah. From this Rambam it is clear that there IS a downside to sending out unqualified people to spread Torah to other Jews.

While Outreach organizations are justifiably proud of their statistics on how many people that have become observant because of their efforts, what doesn’t show up are all the Jews that are “turned off” by what they hear, sensing it is not authentic, it doesn’t make sense, or the person presenting it isn’t interested in the individual as a person, but rather as another “notch in the kiruv belt.” These people don’t show up in the statistics because they usually don’t fill out the feedback forms at the end of a seminar or program — they just walk out, frequently muttering that they don’t want to have anything to do with this. The other statistic that doesn’t show up is the number of people who are “success stories” for a while, then a couple/few years in, drop it (hopefully before they are married with children).

There is a very important comment of the Vilna Gaon on the following verses in Mishlei (Ch. 19, V. 2-3). “Also, without knowledge, it is not good for the soul; and one who rushes his legs is a sinner. The foolishness of a man perverts his path, and his heart angers against G-d.”

The Vilna Gaon comments on the first part of verse 2 that just as a person who eats large quantities of enjoyable delicacies will still be undernourished and feel hungry if he doesn’t eat the staples, a person who does Mitzvoth but doesn’t study Torah finds that his soul will not be “good”, nourished. On the second half of the verse, the Gaon teaches that “legs” refer to a person’s character traits, his habits (from the word “hergel” which has the root “regel”). But these traits must be improved step-by-step, through steady, slow progress, the way one climbs a ladder. “Rushing the legs” refers to a person who jumps to a level that is not really appropriate for him, which causes him to miss the mark (“choteh”) and he will surely fall.

On the second verse, the Gaon explains: We are taught that a person who comes to be purified merits Divine assistance (TB Shabbat 104a). Sometimes a person begins to study Torah and perform Mitzvoth, and then abandons it because it is too difficult from him. He didn’t get the desired assistance from Above, and he is angry at G-d for not providing it. But the truth is that this was the result of his own foolishness. Every person is required to go in a way which is aligned with his own level, and not jump. This will enable the person to move in a stable way, and assistance from Above will facilitate that movement. But the described person didn’t begin down his OWN path, therefore he didn’t receive assistance. Because the path he pursued was chosen foolishly, without proper thought and contemplation, his path was distorted, he failed and he then gets angry at G-d.

I think the Vilna Gaon’s commentary serve as a powerful lesson for all Jews, but for Ba’alei Tshuvah in particular. It is almost as if he was directing his comments to Ba’alei Tshuvah, when he describes the person who “begins to study Torah and perform Mitzvoth.” Mitzvah observance that isn’t accompanied with Torah study as a foundation will lead to a sense of “hunger.” And one’s path must be appropriate for him or her, chosen with careful thought, then pursued slowly and steadily.

My experience is that when these principles are followed, a stable and healthy tshuva process is the result. When they are violated…

Shavuot and Teshuvah

By: Cosmix X in Jerusalem

The “time of the giving of our Torah” is near. We count the days from Passover until Shavuot, connecting the physical freedom of the exodus from Egypt with the spiritual freedom of receiving the Torah: And it says (Exodus 32:16): “And the tablets are the work of G-d, and the writing is G-d’s writing, engraved on the tablets”; read not “engraved” (charut) but “liberty” (chairut)—for there is no free individual, except for he who occupies himself with the study of Torah (Avot 6:2). A couple of more days and we are there.

Time flies. I’m over half a century old. and I’ve been a BT for over a quarter of a century. At this age usually the hair is graying if not disappearing altogether. The aging process is taking place before my very eyes. The reality of death is much more tangible. An inner voice cries, “Ribono Shel Olam, Al Tashlicheini Le’eit Zikna!”

On the other hand, with age comes the opportunity for retrospection. I have the ability to look back at over three decades of adult life. Many important and fateful decisions were made: what to learn in college, who to marry, to make aliyah, etc. However the most difficult and most important decision that I ever made was the decision to do Teshuvah. To receive the Torah as is, unreformed, neither conserved nor reconstructed.

What was difficult about it? Well, this was a radical idea, a move far away from my comfort zone. For someone who grew up in suburbia, it meant giving up a lot of things that I was used to. No, I will not list them! It also meant being the object of ridicule and even pity to those that did not understand what I was going through.

Looking back, I had no idea of what I was getting into. The Torah is so big! “Rabbi Chananya ben (son of) Akashya said: The Holy One, blessed be He, wanted to give Israel merit; therefore He gave them Torah and mitzvos (commandments) in abundance, as it is written: ‘G-d wanted, for its [Israel’s] righteousness, to make the Torah great and mighty’ (Isaiah 42:21).”

I was lacking Torah knowledge when I took upon myself the yoke of Heaven. I must have known about as much as the average five year old here in Jerusalem. However, what I was lacking in erudition I made up in instinct. My soul sensed where it needed to go. I had no idea of the depth of the spiritual treasures that awaited me. After all of this time I have only scratched the surface!

We live in a time where moral clarity is lacking. However, “… Thou dost light my lamp; the LORD my God doth lighten my darkness (Psalms 18:29).” The Torah that we are about to receive is an everlasting light which guides us while others stumble and fall. For instance, the whole controversy about gay marriage. For us as Jews, the controversy does not really exist, for the Torah already had its say on the issue:

Lesbian relations are forbidden and it is among the “doings of Egypt” that we have been warned about as it is said, “After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do”. The sages said, “What did they do? A man marries a man, and a woman marries a woman, and a woman marries two men” (Maimonides, Laws of Forbidden Relations 21:8).

My forefathers left Egypt and I have no intention of going back! Rather, I will rejoice in the Torah this Shavuot. I am a truly free man, free from the lewdness of Egypt, free from being politically correct, free from those that have forgotten God. Blessed is He, our God, who has separated us from those that go astray, and gave us the Torah of truth, and planted eternal life within us.

The 60 Second Guide to Shavuos

The foundation of Judaism is that there is a G-d, who is completely spiritual. G-d created both a physical and spiritual world. The centerpiece of creation is man who is composed of a physical body and a spiritual soul. Our collective purpose is to transform the world into a unified G-d connected spiritual world.

To accomplish this spiritual transformation G-d transmitted the necessary knowledge and tools in the form of the Torah. The Torah informs us how to turn physical acts into G-d connected spiritual acts. Every positive act we perform can be G-d connected, but the ones with the greatest connection power are the mitzvos G-d explicitly specified in the Torah.

The holiday of Shavuos is the day that G-d spiritually transmitted the Torah. The entire Jewish nation experienced this transmission and Moses experienced it to a much greater degree. The day is filled with a spiritual energy through which we can deepen our commitment to connect to G-d through the learning of Torah. There is also a mitzvah to eat 2 special meals and in doing so we transform the physical act of eating into a spiritual G-d connected activity.

This was written to try to capture the essence of Shavuos to all types of Jews in 60 seconds.
If you think it’s useful please send it to your friends and family.
The first incarnation of this guide can be found here.

What Are You #Disappointed About Regarding the Internet Usage Discussion?

We saw a Tweet from our referal logs that someone was #disappointed because we reposted Kressel’s decision to take on a more stringent standard of Internet usage.

Perhaps others are #disappointed.

Are you #disappointed that people are uncomfortable when someone decides to take on a more stringent standard then them?

Are you #disappointed that people in the moderate middle frame the issue as either pro or anti-Internet, and don’t articulate the obvious middle position that the Internet has both tremendous benefits and dangers, and we would be wise to make all attempts to mitigate the dangers?

Are you #disappointed that Torah observant people think it’s a good idea to allow their children unfiltered Internet access despite the dangers?

What are you #disappointed about regarding the Internet discussion?

It’s Not About the Internet; It’s About Us

by Jonathan Rosenblum
First published in Mishpacha Magazine on March 7, 2012

Forget all analogies between internet today and TV of the 1950s and ’60s. The battle led by gedolim in those decades, when no one could fully have seen how far the tame family fare of that era would degenerate, can only be described as prescient. But it does not provide a ready model for a communal response to internet today.

TV provided entertainment, and its absence from the home did no more than confirm that Torah Jews exist outside of the cultural mainstream. Internet, by contrast, will increasingly become an essential tool for the performance of many of the most basic functions of modern life. Even were it theoretically possible to live without it, most Torah Jews will not cut themselves off completely.

That is not to suggest for a moment that internet, or more broadly interconnectivity, does not pose an immense threat to the spiritual health of Torah Jews as individuals and as a community. To date, most attention has been directed at the dangers that might be classified as “do not stray after your eyes.” Talk to any communal rav, and he will tell you of the havoc wreaked in homes by internet, and of the lives and marriages destroyed. Internet does not just facilitate the fulfillment of illicit desires; it creates new desires previously unimagined. On-line (ironically) recovery groups, like GuardYourEyes, have come into existence to help those – sometimes respected communal figures – recover from having strayed after their eyes on internet.

Less attention has been given to the dangers in the category of “do not stray after your hearts.” The Internet puts an unfathomable amount of information and disinformation within easy access. And, in some ways, the danger of minus is even greater than the visual temptations because it will prove impossible to create filters to weed out minus with the same type of algorithms used to screen the former.

One of the salutary effects of internet has been to break the monopoly of the mainstream media on information. That has proven ever more vital as once respected information sources, like The New York Times, engage more heavily in advocacy journalism of a highly ideological bent.

But the inability to maintain a monopoly on information or opinion has important implications for the Torah community as well, and not all are benign. More than twenty years ago, a friend commented that the great problem of our age was that every fool has access to a printing press, and can post his wall posters all over Meah Shearim. Well today, every fool can gain a worldwide platform for his views, without leaving his chair. Those who would once have gone unheard or been ignored can vent their criticism of gedolim, often with anonymity, to a wide audience. That has important implications for the nature of rabbinical authority, and will only lead to even greater cynicism about exercise of Torah leadership.

(The phenomenon of other voices being heard is not entirely negative. All societies require feedback mechanisms between rulers and subjects, leaders and followers. Internet comment could theoretically be one such form of feedback, with the caveat that those most likely to comment tend to be a self-selected group of aggrieved people, often with too much time on their hands.)

THE PRECEDING THREATS are mostly known and have been widely discussed, particularly those in the category of “after your eyes.” But, in my view, the greatest danger of internet may well be more subtle and less quantifiable: It will turn us into less serious, shallower Jews.

Just the waste of time alone would suffice to do so. How often do we tell ourselves that we are going on-line just to check our emails (for the umpteenth time that day) or check a favorite site for just five minutes, and find ourselves, in the manner of someone who tells himself he will eat only one potato chip or smoke one cigarette, adding just another five-minutes and then another? Even if we succeeded in confining ourselves to just the promised five minutes, those five minutes add up, and very fast. Just think of the number of times that Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, completed Mishnayos bein gavra l’gavra.

Those rapidly accumulating five minutes not only take us away from Torah learning, but away from our children and spouses. How many of us treat a spouse’s arrival home as an unwanted interruption from our browsing and keep our greetings perfunctory so that we can return to our favorite activity?

While internet browsing may not be physically addicting, there is little question of its addictive impact. Those teenagers who profess a vague allegiance to halacha but cannot refrain from texting each other on Shabbos, sometimes from right across the table, are but the most glaring example. I have seen surveys in which people are asked whether they would prefer to be a week without their spouse or their handheld device. The handheld devices win.

We have reached the point that to be seen in public without talking on a cellphone, or checking an Ipad, or without earplugs in one’s ears is perceived as an embarrassment – a sign that no one wants to speak to us or that we have nothing to do. When we send an email, we wait at our computers expectantly for a reply: Little does it occur to us that others may not be checking their emails every five minutes, or might have something more important to do than respond to us. Few still relish time to be alone with their thoughts without fear of interruption at any moment.

The very manner in which we absorb information on-line — and not through reading — changes how we think and what kind of people we are. Scientific studies show that the neural connectors of our brains are being shaped by constant exposure to internet. The type of reading encouraged by the internet – constantly jumping from one text to another or to a video or other visual image, writes Tufts literature professor Maryanne Wolf, is inimical to our capacity for deep reading and “the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction.” The result is a loss of capacity for contemplation and wisdom.

WHAT IS TO BE DONE? Above all, we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Even if bans on Internet were the ideal, I’m afraid, that they will be largely ignored. Thus their value is primarily exhortatory: They serve to warn that the internet is highly dangerous. But if they are ignored, they will only encourage deceit on the part of parents and students. Worse, those who ignore bans will often end up using internet without proper filters (not that the latter provide any kind of fail-safe protection.) We should do everything possible to encourage protections, including the development of improved filters, the use of buddy systems, which utilize the power of humiliation by providing someone else with a full record of one’s internet activity.

Parents must not just throw up their hands and treat the internet and its attendant risks as the inevitable price of technological progress. I’m always struck on my trips to America by the ubiquity of handheld devices, capable of connecting to the internet, in the hands of teenagers. In my opinion, no handheld device should be permitted in any educational framework; their presence makes teaching and learning virtually impossible.

It seems to me that the Torah community in Israel has done a better job with regard to handheld devices, through the development of kosher phones, without internet connectivity or SMS. (The occasional convenience of the latter is more than outweighed by the following statistic: the average American teenager sends 3,339 text messages per month.) Admittedly, the market power of the Torah community in Israel enables us to demand internet-free options from the cellphone companies. But I’m sure more could be done in America as well.

Teenagers should not have computers in their rooms, where they can do what they want behind closed doors, and access to internet on the family’s computers should be limited to hours where parents are home to supervise its use. If the home has a WiFi connection, it must be blocked in such a way that children cannot just connect through their own, easily hidden, handheld devices.

But at the end of the day, all the protections in the world will only take us so far. Ultimately the only protection against the siren song of the internet is the development of rich internal resources in ourselves and in our children. That requires a clear-eyed appraisal of the wiles of the yetzer hara and the ability to structure one’s life and establish boundaries to counteract the yetzer’s tricks. Above all, it requires a rich spiritual life beside which the attractions of internet pale.

A leading rosh yeshiva in Eretz Yisrael told me recently that the development of those inner resources is the great challenge of our time. Nothing else, he assured me, would be anything more than a stopgap solution. And he was far from confident that as a community we would prevail.

Already eighty years ago, the great Mirrer Mashgiach Rav Yerucham Levovitz described the loss of the ability to think deeply as the source of the societal degeneration predicted by Chazal during Ikvesa d’Mashicha. Yet he would surely have been amazed by how rapid have been those processes of degeneration. That decline long preceded the internet, which has only further accelerated the downward spiral, and they have not left the Torah world unscathed. Reversing that spiral is not just a technical problem, and the answer will not lie in technical adjustments.


Jonathan Rosenblum founded Jewish Media Resources in 1999. He is a widely-read columnist for the Jerusalem Post’s domestic and international editions and for the Hebrew daily Maariv. He is also a respected commentator on Israeli politics, society, culture and the Israeli legal system, who speaks frequently on these topics in the United States, Europe, and Israel. His articles appear regularly in numerous Jewish periodicals in the United States and Israel. Rosenblum is the author of seven biographies of major modern Jewish figures. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and Yale Law School. Rosenblum lives in Jerusalem with his wife and eight children.

Cutting Connections – No More Web Browser In My Home

The Citi Field Asifa regarding the Internet was held last night, so we though it would be appropriate to repost this article that was originally published on May 30, 2006.

As everyone on this blog is aware, many, if not the majority, of gedolim are speaking out against the Internet. On Sunday, May 14 – Mother’s Day in the secular world – I attended what was advertised as an “historic asifa” on this very subject. My sons’ yeshiva sent home notes about it a month in advance, exhorting the parents about the importance of attending. They followed up with a personal phone call on the day of the asifa, and just in case the community hadn’t gotten the message, a car equipped with a loudspeaker drove around broadcasting: “Save our children! Attend the historic asifa!” Under such pressure, I attended.

I must admit, I was reluctant. In fact, when my ride there was delayed, I was happy to be late. But ultimately, I made it there and was persuaded to do something I never dreamed I had the strength to do: I disabled my browser.

The two speakers at the event were Rabbi Norman Lowenthal, a social worker with expertise in young people and Internet addiction, and Ha Rav Mattisyahu Solomon, Rosh Yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha. Both were extremely scary. Rabbi Lowenthal spoke about the predators on the Internet, who, with their smooth words, lure teens into the most exploitative of relationships. And even without those horrific stories, he described the easy access to porn, and obsessive behaviors like checking email and blog post responses up to twenty times a day. This last is probably the most benign of the things he described, but it fit me to a T, and that frightened me.
Read more Cutting Connections – No More Web Browser In My Home

Can We Mitigate Some of the Moral Costs of Expensive Jewish Education?

What do you think of these objectives from the article “The Moral Costs of Jewish Day School” from Jewish Ideas Daily?

This model corrects many of the current system’s moral deficiencies:

It makes the tuition-setting process transparent and predictable.

It moves many middle-class families off the rolls of those receiving financial aid.

It defines day school education as a public good to be communally supported instead of an individual good, privately purchased.

It makes clear that the rich, even when they pay the maximum tuition, are assessed a lower percentage of their income than the middle class.

Please read the article.

The Limits of Inspiration

One of the most popular articles in the last Klal Perspectives Issue, focused on the crisis of spiritual connection in the American Orthodox Community, was Rabbi Moshe Weinberger’s titled “Just One Thing is Missing: The Soul”. BTs might particularly appreciate Rabbi Weinberger’s reference to a line from an old song “Something inside has died, and I can’t hide it, and I just can’t fake it”. As Rabbi Weinberger cataloged a multitude of ills of the Orthodox community the lyric that came to my mind was “Your no good, your no good, your no good, baby your no good”.

Last week, the Five Towns Jewish Times ran Rabbi Weinberger’s article on the front page. This week there were four letters to the editor, starting on page 73, two of which expressed a preference for the more traditional learning Torah approach as opposed to the emotional inspiration approach of Rabbi Weinberger.

I always found Rabbi Tatz’ article on “Why Inspiration Doesn’t Last” to be very instructive on this issue. Rabbi Tatz points out that initial inspiration is necessary in the beginning of a growth process, but after that “determination, perseverance and a stubborn refusal to despair” are needed to achieve lasting growth. Rabbi Tatz warns us not to be misled into thinking that the world is supposed to be a constant thrill, and then to feel only half-alive when it’s not.

Spiritual work is hard and it’s easy to see why a person might prefer a more passive “Inspire Me” approach. My experience as a Baal Teshuva with it’s unreal initial growth phase followed by the slow going plateau period, as well as the teaching of my Rebbeim has shown me that you have to put in the work day in and day out. Torah. Avodah. Gemillas Chasadim. There are ups and downs, and it’s certainly not a life of “We will, we will Rock You”, but there’s growth and there’s connection and the depth, meaning and beauty of the Torah life lies before us.

You can get it if you really want
You can get it if you really want
You can get it if you really want
But you must try, try and try
Try and try, you’ll succeed at last

7 Rules Of Mindful Eating

Copyright: HealthyJewishCooking.Com
By Chaya Rivka Zwolinski

Choose, Sit, Commit, Acknowledge, Pace, Chew, Complete

A Taste of Authentic Jewish Eating: Eating mindfully doesn’t just involve your brain-based intellect. It involves your heart-based intellect, both of which, in different ways, correspond to the soul. In the Jewish tradition, mindful eating means making informed choices not only about what you eat, but also about the way in which you eat–the very act of eating. The mechanics of eating as well as your intention and motivation are important. The choices themselves are based on the Jewish spiritual teachings and not on the “moral code ala mode”.

The *Torah offers teachings on food and diet from the basic: G-d made every tree that is….good for food, grow out of the soil. (Breishis-Genesis: 2:9); to the detailed: …they are repulsive: the eagle, the whilte-tailed eagle, and the bearded vulture… (Vayikra-Leviticus 11:13); to the intriguing, such as the “food of seige”: Now you, take for yourself wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet and spelt; put them into one vessel and prepare them as food for yourself (Yechezkel-Ezekiel 4:0); and more.

During the time of the previous twoTemples in Jerusalem, an integral part of the order of service involved the roasting of meat and the ingesting of meat by the Kohanim (priests). Eating was a holy act and is, if done right, still a holy act.

But teachings about food and eating didn’t end with ancient times. Less than 900 years ago, the universally recognized Jewish doctor and scholar, Rambam (Maimonides), wrote that most illnesses are caused by improper eating. He offered detailed advice about diet and lifestyle** that is enjoying a great revival today. Rambam’s advice includes prescriptions such as eating until you are only 3/4 full, eating whole-grain bread (and avoiding cakes, noodles and other flour products), not drinking water while eating, not eating aged salted meats and cheeses, not over-eating sweet things (even fruit).

Because the way in which a person eats is so central to Judaism that it defines who is Jewish and who is not, food and the act of eating were naturally important to the Chassidic mystics who sought to re-imbue the world with holiness by means of passionate Jewish spirituality. One example is Rebbe Nachman of Breslov who said that improper eating causes spiritual problems, what we could call “blockages of the soul”. He said it is important to strive to eat without any physical desire whatsoever. Of course this is a pretty high level of spirituality–eating purely for the sake of the soul and the life-giving nutrients in the food. However, it is something we can strive for at our own individual level.

The Chassidim in general were very aware that every act that a person does here on earth has ramifications in the heavenly realms and that eating was one of the more potent of these acts. Chassidim teach that everytime a proper blessing is said on food, the food is ingested and the energy created by the food is used by the person for a holy purpose, the holy spiritual sparks embedded in the food are freed from their earthly prison and are able to reunite with their holy source. Chassidim would watch their Rebbe’s every actions, including and even especially his “mundane” ones like eating, and try to emulate him in the particulars.

There are so many Jewish teachings about eating that I’m not mentioning–an encylopedia’s worth.

The Seven Rules Of Mindful Eating (The Jewish Way)

CHOOSE

Choose foods that are good for you. Avoid unhealthy and/or extreme isms that are not rooted in our original spiritual and moral codes such as veganism (not to mention epicurianism and gourmandism). (I’ll discuss vegetarianism in a later post). Make the choice to eat foods that will, first and foremost, nourish the soul and body . Note: It is far better to under-eat relatively unhealthy foods than overeat even nutritionally-dense foods.

SIT

Sit down. Don’t eat while standing or walking. Judaism teaches that a person should be concerned with personal dignity. Not to the point of arrogance, but there should be an awareness that a human being’s essence is something that must be reflected on the outside of a person as well as the inside. Eat at a table. I’ve just about broken the habit of eating at my desk (except in emergencies). A cup of tea, okay. But no food. The reason is, aside from the sheer disgustingness-factor, if you eat while doing something else such as working, you eat mindlessly. You’ll tend to overeat and underchew.

COMMIT

Put enough food on your plate to satisfy your hunger without overloading or underloading your plate. Whatever’s there is going to be your portion. Seconds and thirds leads to mindless eating and overeating. Train your eyes to correctly gauge your hunger.

ACKNOWLEDGE

Say a ***blessing over your food or drink. Acknowledge the source of the food and drink you are about to ingest. Jewish or not, thank G-d for creating the food that you are about to it and that He created to sustain you. The Hebrew word for bless is baruch. The word BaRuch is related to the word for well/source, BeR. A blessing acknowledges that the Creator is the source of everything, including the apple pie on your plate. Don’t forget to thank Mom for that apple pie, too.

PACE

You should eat at a medium-slow pace, putting your fork down into between bites. Aside from the obvious aesthetic drawbacks to using your fork like a backhoe, when you shovel food into your mouth, you tend to bow your head towards your food. Do you worship food? Is food your god? Do you submit to food–does it rule you?

CHEW (BREATHE)

Ideally, chew each mouthful of food at the very least, 18 times. If you have a digestive disorder such as IBS, Crohns, Celiac Sprue, or other inability to fully utilize the nutrients in food, then chew each mouthful at least 36 times. Digestion begins in the mouth. Your teeth bite and grind the food breaking it down into smaller particles and the enzymes in saliva activate the digestion process. If you don’t chew, your stomach acids will have to work a lot harder to break down the food and will most likely no succeed. Breathe in between bites. Don’t talk while eating (R.Yosef Caro, Shulchan Aruch).

On a deeper level, proper speech affects/is related to digestion. If you speak ill of others, scream at them, verbally hurt or insult them, use obscenities, or otherwise engage in improper speech, you have used your mouth, tongue and throat, improperly. These organs should be used for making blessings and eating, saying words of kindness and encouragement, and prayer. If we use these organs for negative purposes during speech this will reflect in how we use them or how our body activates them, during eating and digesting. Often people with digestive problems can find relief by becoming more aware and making corrections in their speech.

Those with who are underweight and/or have eating disorders also need to chew and breathe properly, but depending on their individual situation, they might be encouraged to not chew much beyond the minimum amount of times at first, as they will become fuller, faster, and may stop eating too soon.

COMPLETE

In order to complete the process of eating we need to stop and acknowledge G-d, the source of our food, once more. We all know that we are technically full about twenty minutes, give or take, before our brains get the fullness message. But honestly, how many of us act on this information with any regularity? It’s difficult. Eating is one of life’s pleasures. But Judaism takes so seriously the proscription against overeating that even during Shabbos and Yamim Tovim (Holy Days/holidays) overindulging is contraindicated.

Judaism offers fascinating and important recommendations and laws about how much food one should consume at a setting and in what amount of time the food should be consumed, which I hope to write about another time. In order to complete the physio-spiritual cycle that is a meal, one must thank G-d with specific blessings depending on what one ate.

Interestingly enough, though eating only when truly hungry is the rule, there are times where Jewish law says one must eat even when not hungry. This includes the third Shabbos meal and the Afikomen (“Dessert” Matzoh) during the Pesach (Passover) Seder. But even at these times, we are forewarned not to overeat earlier so there will still be some room left!

*Torah here refers to the Hebrew Bible, however Torah also refers to the greater body of traditional Jewish practical and mystical wisdom including the written Hebrew Bible, the oral teachings (the Talmud), the Shulchan Oruch (the Code of Law), the body of work known as the Kabbalah, and numerous other writings and commentaries of the sages throughout our history.

**Rambam’s seminal work is called Mishnah Torah, and he writes concisely but profoundly about health, diet and exercise in the section called Hilchos Deos (an apt translation would be Laws of Personal Growth).

*** Blessings on Food and Drink Links: Step by Step, Advanced, and Detailed

Chaya Rivka Zwolinski, has written for PsychCentral.com, Breslov.org, Ami magazine, and numerous online and print publications. She’s ghostwritten or edited numerous books, is the co-author of the patient-rights best seller, Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better and Move On, and is currently co-writing a book on Jewish spiritual approach to recovering from addiction.

I, Rabbi (Part One)

I’m no rabbi. Except, in too many cases, compared to everyone else on the guest list.

So in addition to “fielding questions,” as we all do, I’ve “done” or “presided over” or “conducted” too many unveilings, burials — pedestrian stuff, of course, but you have to be willing to stick your neck out and be, well, rabbinic, when friends and family call and are counting on you for this stuff, or where it’s the only way to avoid having things done horribly wrong by a “rental.”

But a wedding?

A co-worker, a good friend, was engaged. Jewish guy to a Jewish girl. Both in their mid-30’s. A big simcha in this day and age! One a lawyer, one a doctor. Very nice, sincere people. And I suppose it’s no surprise that in what has been described as a “post-denominational era” in Jewish life that, as far as Danny (not his real name) was concerned, the only “rabbi” he could have “perform” the wedding was his boss. Me.

I tried to squirm out of it, but halfheartedly; I knew this was going to happen. You don’t have to be a rabbi to be mesader kidushin — get two kosher Jews eligible to wed married. You need two kosher witnesses and a some wine and a ring and … a few things. I realized that this could be an opportunity to influence the couple and perhaps elicit some halachic observances that might otherwise be lacking.

But I also knew I needed guidance. So I called my Local Orthodox Rabbi. Well, one of them.

I was surprised at his reaction. “Don’t do it,” he said, emphatically. “Today’s non-frum Jews are completely hefker [libertine]. You’ll make this girl an eishes ish [halachically married woman] and then who knows what? It’s no mitzvah.”

I explained that I thought this case was different — the couple’s age, professional status, my personal relationship.

He was unmoved. “You don’t need it,” he insisted. “Run in the other direction.”

Well, I explained, I felt some responsibility to help them out, however. I was his only orthodox Jewish friend — really, his only “Jewish Jewish” friend — and he’d turned to me for help here, and moreover for something personal, meaningful, and beautiful. What should I tell him?

“Use your imagination,” he said.

I thanked him.

Then I closed my eyes and imagined I’d never had that conversation.

To be continued.

Ron Coleman’s “outside world” blog about intellectual property law is LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION®.

How Can We Reach People Where They Are Holding?

As we noted last week, there were many good articles in Klal Perspectives and Rabbi Eliyahu Fink who is the Rav of the Shul on the Beach in Venice singled out Moishe Bane’s article in a post on his blog.

One paragraph that Rabbi Fink quoted from Mr Bane’s article was this one:

There must be a renewed emphasis on deepening the basic social connections between members of the Orthodox community. The importance of friendships with others who share one’s values must be emphasized and facilitated. Time spent with others within the community must be encouraged. It is critical that the expansive role that observant people play in their professional and business environments does not redefine them socially, as well. Connecting with G-d begins with connecting to Klal Yisrael, and these efforts must be forged through shuls, schools and other communal organizations. Attending shiurim or learning in chaburas often provide the needed camaraderie, as do chesed endeavors, but not all Jews have access to these opportunities. Ordinary social interaction, per se, among frum Jews must also play a critical role.

Mr Bane is the former national chairman of NCSY, and currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Orthodox Union. The OU is working hard to strengthen Shul Growth and one of their initiatives is the OU WINGS program which stands for “We Inspire New Growth Synagogues”.

WINGS is headed by Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn who is the mara d’asra of the West Side Institutional Synagogue. In the OU Wings post, it says that in the five years since he arrived at the West Side Institutional Synagogue, Shabbat morning attendance has increased from 12 to over 300.

There is an interesting chat with Rabbi Einhorn on the blog of Rabbi Alan Brill, PHD an expert on Judaism and World Religions who is a Division Chairman at Seton Hall University.

In the interview on his blog, Rabbi Brill writes:

Einhorn found his spirituality when he discovered the world of motivational management books and could not get enough of them. He devoured the books on how to improve one’s leadership, how to motivate those under you and how to push yourself to your potential. An action centered gregarious form of self-fulfillment in the real world. He also read Rick Warren and the other motivational Evangelical but they were only part of the broader quest for tips and ideas for self-motivation.

Rabbi Einhorn is absolutely sold on Tony Robbins’s program for fire-walking to be transformed and to release the potential within. Not only has he undergone the fire-walking seminar, he encourages other Orthodox rabbis to do the same. Einhorn has also attended Landmark seminars (a derivative from Werner Erhard’s EST) and appreciates the importance of Neuro-Linguistic Programing for motivating others. (Be prepared for ever new emphasis on emotional manipulation in the Orthodox youth organizations.-Rabbi Brill)

Here are some questions:

What are the boundaries of secular knowledge integration?

How far should we travel to meet people where they’re holding?

Can we make the Torah’s teachings more appealing to a wider audience?