Thursday, August 22, 2019



          The Chasam Sofer had a gabbai who would prepare his breakfast every morning - a coffee and a piece of cake.
          One morning the gabbai thought to himself that the Chasam Sofer anyway doesn’t pay much attention to the cake he is eating. He only eats it because he needs to eat breakfast. In fact, he wouldn’t even remember afterwards if he ate it or not. At least if the gabbai himself ate the cake he would enjoy it. So, the gabbai ate the cake and sprinkled some crumbs on the plate which he then placed in front of the Chasam Sofer.
          A few minutes later the Chasam Sofer asked the gabbi why he hadn’t served him his usual piece of cake. The gabbai replied that he had served the cake and the Chasam Sofer had already eaten it, as the crumbs on the plate could attest.
          The Chasam Sofer replied, “it is true that I don’t remember if I ate a piece of cake or not. But when I recite the beracha before and afterwards it excites me, and I don’t remember reciting them, so I know I didn’t eat the cake this morning.

          Moshe Rabbeinu warned Klal Yisroel of the danger of affluence and complacency.[1] "And you will say in your heart, "my strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth!" Then you shall remember Hashem, your G-d; that it was He who gave you the strength to make wealth, in order to establish His covenant that he swore to your forefathers, as this day."
          The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh comments: “This means one must concentrate and contemplate upon all the good he has in his life and that it all comes from Hashem. That feeling will constantly awaken within him the fact that Hashem is constantly watching him. The first tactic of the Yetzer Hora is to make a person forget this, and that causes him to become lost (on his path to spirituality). This is the why the following pasuk continues, “It shall be if you forget Hashem, your G-d I testify against you today that you will surely perish.” The Torah is warning is that if we forget that Hashem is the one who grants all goodness and blessing, the end result will be that we will stray from Hashem and follow other gods.”
          Contemplating and appreciating all Hashem grants us, is not only a nice thing to do, but is key in retaining a connection with Hashem. The Ohr Hachaim goes so far as to say that the quickest tactic of the Evil Inclination is to cause a person to lose perspective of how much gratitude he owes G-d constantly.
          We proclaim in Modim each day: “We thank You and relate your praise for our lives, which are given over in Your Hand and for our souls that are entrusted to you; for your miracles that are with us every day; and for your wonders and favors in every season- evening, morning, and afternoon.”
          One of the aspects in life for which we should be thankful, but generally completely take for granted, is eating and the ample supply of food we enjoy.
          Someone once related to the Chiddushei Harim that the Kotzker Rebbe had quipped that he could not understand how people don't become greater Yirei Shomayim (G-d fearing) from reciting the words of bentching after eating a bread meal. It was through bentching that Avrohom was able to draw many people close to Hashem. When they would thank Avrohom for the delicious food he served them, Avrohom would reply “was it from me that you ate?” He would direct their gratitude towards Hashem, after which guest and host would sing praises to G-d for the food they had eaten and for all His goodness.
          The Chiddushei Harim replied that he could not comprehend why people do not become greater Yirei Shamayim from the food itself; from looking at it and appreciating it! The opening words of bentching begin with us thanking Hashem “Who sustains the whole world with charm, kindness, and with compassion.”
          Today, food presentation has become an entire industry. It is not enough to make delicious food, but it has to be arranged in an appealing and innovative manner.
          G-d could have easily made all food one color and one texture. The variety of fruits and vegetables alone is incredible. If one contemplated the beauty of a mundane salad he would be amazed by the variety. We thank Hashem for that charm which He granted to our food.

          A December 2015 article from the Washington Post entitled, “Why pleasure is an important part of a healthful diet” by Ellie Krieger, explains that mindful eating and enjoying one’s food more, could help a person not eat as much.
          Krieger cites a 2014 study done at INSEAD, a business school founded in France, researchers found that people who were asked to vividly imagine the taste, smell and texture of an indulgent food, such as chocolate cake, before being offered some, ultimately chose smaller portions of that food and enjoyed it as least as much as those who didn’t think about the food before eating it.
          Merely imagining the pleasure of food before eating it could help prevent a person from overindulging. 
          “To get the most pleasure from food, slow down instead of shoveling it in mindlessly. Employ all of your senses to fully experience it and how it makes you feel. Before you eat, take in the food with your eyes, appreciating its colors, textures and presentation, and inhale and enjoy its appealing aroma. When you take a bite, chew well, allowing all the flavors to unfold.
          “Approaching food in this way not only produces more pleasure as you eat, it helps temper your pace and allows you to consume less overall. Studies show that when people eat more slowly, they tend to take in fewer calories and feel just as satisfied.”
          Not only is such mindful eating healthier and help him enjoy his meal, it will help him feel more appreciative of the gift of his food. It is undoubtedly challenging to bentch with concentration when we finish eating a meal. But if we had greater appreciation for the experience of eating it would be easier for us to appreciate the magnanimity of what G-d has bestowed upon us.
          As we anticipate the beginning of the month of Elul, we prepare to redirect our focus upon our priorities and to reconnecting ourselves with G-d and true living. One of the greatest means to do so is by focusing on the blessings that G-d gives us, and which we often fail to appreciate.
          It wasn’t too long ago that many of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents endured poverty and starvation, often under the most barbaric conditions. We, on the other hand, have been blessed with an endless array and variety of foods available to us. If we took some more time and thought to enjoy what we are eating, we will want to bless and thank G-d for the blessings He endows us with constantly.

          “You shall remember Hashem, your G-d”
          “You will eat, you will be satisfied, and you will bless Hashem, your G-d”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] Devorim 8:17-18


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