Home
In this issue
December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

The Divine wants you to be happy

By Rabbi David Aaron




When rules become delicious recipes for your soul


“And these are the judgments that you shall place before them.”

                        —   Exodus 21:1

"You shall place before them, that is, like a table that is set and ready for eating."

  —   Rashi

“Taste and see that G-d is good.”

                        —   Psalms 34

LAWS YOU CAN EAT, ENJOY AND SAVOUR
The job of a teacher of Torah is not to be a philosopher, ethical guide or law giver but rather a gourmet chef. A gourmet chef has the ability to bring the taste out of every ordinary cabbage, every simple bean sprout, as well as present it all in a delicious tantalizing way.

Once, I went to someone's home to raise funds for my institute. I thought we would have about a ten minute discussion. Instead, we were talking for five or six hours. I hadn't eaten all day, and I was starving. Finally I decided that instead of asking for a contribution, I would just ask for something to eat. So I said, "Could I just have an apple?"

She replied, "Oh, you must be starving. I'm so sorry!"

My hostess ran to her kitchen and made me a Salad Nicoise — exquisitely arranged. Now, I'm not a big salad eater, but that's what she chose to prepare for me. Well, I took one forkful, and I have to admit I had never tasted a salad like that in my life. Because this woman was able to bring out its' true beauty and taste, suddenly I had a whole new appreciation for the vegetable kingdom.

Once I tasted this woman's Salad Nicoise, I could never be satisfied with lettuce and tomato alone. The job of a Torah teacher is to present the Torah in an appetizing way; to reveal the beauty and flavour of G-d's laws for all to see and taste.

THE TASTE OF LIFE
The Zohar, which is the Jewish mystical classic, written two thousand years ago, cautions us not to perform G-d's commandments like cows eating grass. Doing so brings ruins upon us. Let's try to understand what this means.

Essentially, the cow chews its food, stores it and then chews its cud, thereby re-chewing the food, over and over again. The Zohar is using this metaphor as a symbol for something that is done mindlessly without intention or taste. In Torah tradition there is a concept called taamei mitzvos, which can be described as the "reason for the commandments." But taamei mitzvos can also mean the "taste of the commandments." In Hebrew, taam means both "taste" and "reason" — and there is definitely a connection between the two. Without understanding the reason behind Torah living it can become mindless and tasteless.

Imagine a person who observes Sabbath, but it has no meaning to him — no taste. The only thing that keeps him doing it is guilt, or respect for the tradition, or simply habit. Without his understanding the meaning behind the observance, it will eventually stop sooner or later, in this generation or the next.

An experience I had working with a Jewish youth group describes how this translates down the line to the grandchildren. I was hired to try to rejuvenate interest for Judaism among the participants, and I thought a "Sabbath Experience" would be a great idea. So I presented my plan to one of the chapter presidents, a girl of about 16 or 17. She looked at me in total shock. "Sabbath!" she exclaimed incredulously. "Do you mean no tearing toilet paper?" This was the first thing that came to her mind. I said "Sabbath" and she thought "toilet paper." So in jest I said, "Yes! Haven't you ever tried that? For thousands of years Jews get together, put a roll of toilet paper on a table, sit around the table and chant, 'Don't tear it, don't tear it!'" She looked at me with an expression that said "Is this guy for real?" And then she said, "You know, I always wanted to ask a rabbi, 'are you allowed to flush on Sabbath?'" Imagine this is the question she always wanted to ask a rabbi.

ENJOYING THIS ARTICLE?

You can buy the book at a discount by clicking HERE. (Sales help fund JWR.).


Perhaps sometimes partial ignorance is even a greater problem than complete ignorance. At least when we know nothing, we don't have bad feelings. But partial ignorance can translate into a total distortion. Perhaps it would have been better for the girl to be completely ignorant of Shabbat than to think of toilet paper in association with the most beautiful of Torah celebrations. As a result she is not even open to experience an authentic Sabbath. Her reaction and associations are but a symptom of the real problem: she does not know (or is confused about) who she is and who her ancestors were. And she will have nothing real to say to her children about Sabbath. Sabbath is not just not tasteless, but perhaps even bitter tasting to her.

We can perform the commandments and the traditions like cows eating grass. They chewed before, they chew now, and they'll chew later because they chewed before — and that's when it all starts breaking down. That's when children say to their parents, "Why should I do this? This is not interesting. This is restrictive and meaningless." And that's when some parents respond, "You should. You must. You have to." Rarely do people respond positively to empty demands; instead, they rebel against them. People respond to what they find clear, fascinating, relevant, inspirational and meaningful. Most people do what they want, not what they should.

When the meaning and the taste of G-d's commandments are lost, then there is no love for it and no joy in it. When a person whom you love asks you for a favor, it is easy to do it, it's a pleasure. But when you don't like the person, the favor can be the hardest thing in the world because there are no good feelings surrounding it.

I think a lot of people don't have good feelings about a Torah life because they don't understand the meaning of it. They don't know the taste of it and, worse, they likely have a bad taste about it. The Talmud says that when people accept the commandments with joy and happiness, these feelings are guaranteed to be long lasting. But when people accept commandments with anger or feelings of coercion, though they may observe them for a while, eventually they reject them and everything breaks down.

MISERABLE DANCING BEARS
This is the tragedy of religious education today. At home and in school, as children and even later as adults, we learn an incomplete and often wrong definition of our relationship to G-d. For many the word "G-d" conjures up serious negativity and distorts the meaning of any other words associated with it like Torah, commandments, Sabbath, etc..

Then, what should be holy words become, instead, triggers for our distorted images and bitter experiences from the past. Our first step in overcoming this huge obstacle is to get in touch with these triggers in order to then create a new trigger, a new identification, a new understanding, a new feeling.

How the mind stores images and then reacts to triggers is an amazing psychological phenomenon. Most of us have had the experience of, for example, driving a car and, all of a sudden, feeling overcome by a sad feeling. We get in a bad mood — doing nothing, just driving — and we don't know why.

What can happen is this: While you are driving you hear a song on the radio that happened to be playing in a restaurant when you were breaking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend. You may not have payed any attention to the song playing at the time; it could have been background music. As you were experiencing that traumatic moment, you heard the Beatles singing, "She loves you, Yeah, yeah, yeah," and you did not even notice it. Then one day you happen to be feeling really happy. You are driving down the highway, it's a beautiful day, and the radio announcer says, "Now let's hear an oldie but goldie from the Beatles: "She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah." Suddenly you sense a dramatic shift in your mood and feel depressed. You don't know why, but the words "she loves you" call forth that painful break-up mood from your memory bank.

This same kind of reaction is triggered in many of us regarding G-d and religion. And when that happens our minds can bring up a lots of stuff — pain, sadness, guilt, disempowerment, etc.

. I was told that some circus trainers teach bears to dance by making them walk on hot coals. When the bear is walking on hot coals, it starts to make jagged movements from the pain. As the bear is walking over the coals and shaking in pain, the trainer plays music that later becomes a trigger for the pain of the coals. At that point, they can bring out the dancing bears for all to watch with wonder and joy. When the music starts to play, the bear starts to dance. But his heart cries because is re-experiencing the painful musical association.

A similar thing happens for many people when it comes to religion. I have met people from religious backgrounds who once kept Sabbath, ate Kosher, and prayed three times a day. But these practices were joyless and came with a lot of confusion, fear, oppression, and guilt. These people's negative experiences turned into painful triggers that forced them to run from G-d and any religious institution. They don't even believe that one could enjoy and love living G-d's word.

G-D WANTS YOU TO BE HAPPY
When I was in my early 20s, I studied in a yeshiva and completed my rabbinical ordination. After many years of full-time Torah learning, I felt I would like to start reaching out and teach. Because there are so many thirsty souls in the world that know so little about the Torah, I felt that I should share what I have learned thus far. But I wasn't sure if it was the right thing to do just yet; perhaps I was too young or perhaps I was not learned enough. I decided to ask a Torah scholar, Rabbi Joseph Shalom Eliyashuv, for advice. Rabbi Eliyashuv is considered to be one of the greatest Torah authorities of our generation, and I was a little nervous to meet him. I shared with him my dilemma and asked him, "What does G-d want me to do?"

Rabbi Eliyashuv turned to me and said, "You should sit and continue to learn for a couple more years." Hearing that, I must have made a very contorted face, like "ugh!" because he asked, "What's wrong?" Spontaneously I said, "But I'm not happy just sitting and learning. I want to go out and teach!"

"Why, then, are you asking questions?" he asked. I was shocked by his question. It is common for everyone in the Torah community to ask Torah Sages questions.

"I beg your pardon," I stammered.

"Why are you asking questions?"

"Because I want to know, what is it that G-d wants me to do?"

"Of course, G-d wants you to be happy," he answered, "and you didn't tell me you weren't happy in the yeshiva. If you're not happy just sitting and learning, and you'd be happier going out and teaching Torah, then do it. Don't you think teaching Torah is also a commandment?"

Suddenly I realized how I had missed a fundamental Torah truth. I did not understand my happiness was an important or even valid factor in religious law. In fact, I assumed that the more you suffer the holier you must be. Can you imagine my surprise and relief? Had I not made that contorted face, and had the great Rabbi Eliyashuv not been sensitive enough to see it, I would have walked out of his office and sat in yeshiva for years, feeling miserable and thinking that I am such a holy martyr — a true servant of G-d. It may sound crazy, but that was my baggage. I did not think that happiness was a consideration in Torah law. But here was one of the greatest rabbis of our time — a holy gourmet chef — saying, "G-d wants you to be happy."


For more on this topic see "The Secret Life of G-d: Discovering the Divine within you"


Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes uplifting articles. Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Interested in a private Judaic studies instructor — for free? Let us know by clicking here.

To comment on this article, please click here.


JWR contributor Rabbi David Aaron is the founder and dean of Isralight, an international organization with programming in Israel, New York South Florida, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Toronto. He has taught and inspired thousands of Jews who are seeking meaning in their lives and a positive connection to their Jewish roots.

He is the author of the newly released audio book, Kabbalah Works : Secrets for Purposeful Living and The Secret Life of G-d, Endless Light: The Ancient Path of Kabbalah to Love, Spiritual Growth and Personal Power , Seeing G-d and Love is my religion. (Click on links to purchase books. Sales help fund JWR.) He lives in the old City of Jerusalem with his wife and their seven children.



© 2006, Rabbi David Aaron