Shavuos is fast approaching. Music, dancing, and that dairy kiddush! We celebrate the moment that we received the Torah with joy, with gratitude, and with open hearts and minds. This year, as we complete counting the Omer, let’s take our newly polished neshamos and truly celebrate! Some famous philosopher, or maybe my uncle Yankel, once said that all Jewish holidays can be summed up the same way: “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!” Always with the eating. And why is that? Food represents so much more than pure nutrition. Food is connection, community, and celebration – it’s a mitzvah to eat at a simcha! Food is the way we fuel our bodies, but it also fuels our souls. We are taught to align the body and the spirit so that they complement each other, to make the body strong to house the neshama.
We are born with few innate abilities. One of them is eating, and forming connections through the act of eating. As time goes on we learn to associate food with guilt, shame, and skewed concepts of health. In pursuit of that dream, we isolate ourselves and subject our beautiful bodies to food restriction; physical and emotional insult to the houses of our neshamos.
Many of the emotions we associate with food are counterproductive. They get in the way of truly enjoying food. The stress in our daily lives coupled with fear of many foods results in a real lack of enjoyment when we should be celebrating! We often don’t even taste the food we are consuming. What if I tell you that you can give up the guilt and anxiety related to your food and use the opportunity instead to connect – with your body, with your meal, and with your community.
I see shavuos as the cheesecake holiday, but maybe you’re into something else. Tzadziki, ice cream, or a grilled cheese. Feel free to sub in your favorite dairy in this exercise.
Sit down at the table, as free from distraction as possible. Take a few breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth, to get your mind settled and focused. As you make your bracha, really think about where the food came from and everything that went into its preparation. Try to keep your mind on the food. Take a moment to appreciate the food on your plate: its ability to nourish and sustain, the colors, the complexity of flavors yet to be enjoyed, its very presence on your plate. Take a small amount on your fork and enjoy the smell. What does it look like up close? Bring the first bite to your mouth and take note of the temperature, the texture, and the initial flavor. Take a moment and consider your feelings at this point: Are you judging yourself? The dish? Are you comparing this meal to others? As you enjoy your cheesecake, keep bringing yourself back to this mindfulness. Remember to consider the texture, flavor, sight, and smell of the experience with each bite. Be mindful of your breath and the feeling in your stomach. Stop when you feel satisfied.
Your body is the vessel for your neshama. Your legs dance with the music, your arms hold loved ones close. Your face beams with joy as you embrace your community and rededicate yourself to the mitzvos.