Baruch Hashem, R' Boruch Leff, a mechanech in Baltimore and writer for Yated, Aish.com, and other publications has given me permission to post a series of pieces which quote my rebbe, Rav Moshe Weinberger, from his book Are You Growing?, which is available on Aish's website at a 40% discount here. He asked me to point out that these pieces were not written by Rav Weinberger himself, but represent R' Leff's understanding of things Rav Weinberger said in various shiurim. Enjoy!
Rav Moshe Weinberger, shlita, pointed out that when we devote too much thought and energy to the desire for eating, the tayvas achila, even if we wouldn’t be in violation of lo sasuru and ahavas Hashem, we would still actually be feeding our yetzer hara. Sifrei mussar and sifrei chasidus state clearly that the root problem which leads to all transgressions is indulging in food,being a ‘fresser.’Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox or here to subscribe in Google Reader.
The nature of the human personality is that the more we focus and strengthen the soul, the higher spirituality we will achieve. The opposite is true as well. The more we strengthen and focus upon the body, the stronger our drive for physicality will become. The guf and the gashmiyus parts of ourselves will reign and slowly but surely we will head toward more and more bodily pleasures,ultimately leading to sinful bodily pleasures. Even if we didn’t do anything to tempt ourselves for transgression, sinful thoughts may still enter our heads asa result of the tayvas achila.
The main description of Esav’s evil that the Torah portrays is his eating habits. He asked Yaakov to pour the food into his mouth. “He ate, he drank, he got up, and he left; thus, Esav spurned the birthright” (Bereishis25:34). He was a fresser. TheTorah’s description of the wayward son, the ben sorer umoreh, is one who is a zolelv’sovei, a glutton and a drunkard—a fresser.In Parshas Haazinu, when Hashem is giving Klal Yisrael a warning of the terrible spiritual slide they could experience, He begins by saying that if the Jewish people become fat, they will remove godliness from themselves. “Jeshurunbecame fat and kicked. You became fat, thick, and rotund; it thus deserted Hashem, its Maker, and was contemptuous of the Rock of salvation” (Devarim32:15).
If we become so obsessed with food, we are bound to sin. In fact, the very first sin in the history of the world came as a result of the tayvas achila—the forbidden tree, the eitz hadaas, looked too appealing to Chava and she ‘could not resist.’
A frum lifestyle necessarily presents challenges in the area of eating. When you do the math, we have approximately80 days a year (depending on how much we engage in Chanukah parties) which aredays of feasting, days with one or more festive Shabbos or Yom Tov meals.Almost three months of every year! The average non-Jew only partakes in such meals twice a year at their holidays. How many calories do we consume at the average Shabbos or Yom Tov meal? Anywhere from 1500-2000 calories per meal.Maintaining a healthy weight is an arduous task unless we train ourselves toeat in moderation.
We have to learn how to eat properly at all times, but especially at our seudos shel mitzvah. We have to learn how to eat in the way that Hashem wants us to eat.
Most of the time, we hardly stop to notice the blessing and the pleasurable taste of the food we are eating. Oftentimes, before we realize it, we are finished eating without having focused on an appreciation for the pleasure that Hashem hasgiven us. This is one of the major causes for overeating—eating without thinking. As doctors and nutritionists tell us, we should eat slowly and really enjoy the taste. In this way, we will feel full before we overeat. Chazal tell us that we should not talk while we eat and wolf down food without thought—ein masichin b’seudah. Besides the concern of choking, eating without talking and eating slowly helps us savor and appreciate the food,allowing our taste buds to enjoy while serving to prevent overeating.
Hashem wants us to stop. . .eat.. . . think. . . and appreciate. He wants us to thank Him for His blessings. He does not want us to overeat.
WHY DIETS DON’T WORK
The dieting industry in America is a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Experts are constantly thinking up new diets and new diet products in order to help people lose weight. But we all know from experience that the majority of diets simplydon’t work to help a person shed pounds for the long haul. Sure, the dieter loses weight initially but too often the pounds are “put back on” later. Why isthis so? The reason is because a person can’t live forever following a specific weight loss diet. You can’t live without carbs forever. You will cave in at a certain point and get tired of all of Atkins’ meat. And so on.
Diets don’t work because they don’t train us to change our overeating habits. They are trying to help us lose weight by eating in the same way, with the same tayvas achila, only we are supposed toexpress the tayvas achila with otherfoods that are supposed to help us lose weight at least temporarily. They create diet products so that we will still be able to feast on ice cream and cake but with less calories. They replace one tayvas achila with a different tayvas achila. This is why they don’t work long term.
The only eating change which will make a person lose weight for the long haul is to simply train oneself to eat less and consume less calories. This is what doctors and nutritionists call portion control and avoiding consistent and heavy snacking. It’s pretty simple. If you take in less calories than you give out you lose weight. This is why exercise is so important—you burn more calories than you normally would without exercise. It’s a very simple method but it’s truly the only method that has chance of working—reducing the tayvas achila.
You can eat all types of food when you live this way. The ‘reduction of the tayvas achila diet’ is very permissive.You must only make sure not to eat too much of something. Have a small piece of cake at times, just don’t lose yourself and eat the whole cake. Have a spoonful of ice cream—just leave it that. The truth is our taste buds are just as satisfied with a spoonful of ice cream as they are with a pint. If we savor the taste and eat slowly it has the same effect for our taste buds. Our stomachs can feel full on anything—we might as well make it food that is healthier and has less calories.
We have to stop using food as an emotional anesthetic. Even if we feel good and forget our problems during the short time we are eating, without real solutions our problems return shortly after, and all we received was excess calories in the end result.