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Jewish World Review
August 6, 2004
/ 19 Menachem-Av, 5764
You are what you eat or should be
Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
A traditional Jewish Sabbath food teaches a profound lesson about happiness
This shall be the reward when you hearken to these ordinances
and keep and do them, that G-d will safeguard for you the covenant
and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers.
T he Midrash states that wherever the Torah (Bible) uses the word vehaya, ''It shall be,'' it refers to simchah, a joyful occurrence. On the other hand, when the
Torah says vayehi beyimay, ''It was in the days,'' it refers to an unhappy
It is a fact.
Happy people are future-oriented. Sad people are past-oriented.
A tradition in many families is to serve ''farfel'' at the Friday night meal. My
mother referred to this as ''Baal Shem Tov's tzimmes.'' The significance of this
dish is a play on words.
In Yiddish, farfallen means ''bygone'' and ''it is over and
done with, irretrievable.'' When my mother served the farfel, she would say, ''Whatever
occurred until now is farfallen.''
Friday night marks the close of the previous workweek, with all its anguish
and disappointments. Shabbes, the Jewish Sabbath, is a day of meditation and renewal. It is not
merely a day of rest to ''recharge one's batteries'' for the next workweek. Rather,
it is a day where Torah (Bible) study, prayer, family unity and introspection should
elevate one spiritually, so that the week that follows can be one of spiritual
Just as it is difficult to walk and take great strides with a heavy burden on one's
back, so it is difficult to advance spiritually carrying a heavy burden of the past.
True, we may have made mistakes. We should learn from these to not repeat them
and to avoid the things that are conducive to errant behavior.
we should make amends for any harm we may have caused. These are the
components of teshuvah, and Torah literature states that Shabbes is particularly
propitious for repentance. But once we have properly repented, we should let go
of the past and not allow it to hinder us in the future.
That is why we eat the
symbolic farfel on Friday night. ''Let go of the past. It is farfallen.''
I once saw a cartoon where one character tells the other that one should not
worry about the future but think only of today. The response was, ''No, that would
be giving up. I still want to make yesterday better.'' Inasmuch as one cannot make
yesterday better, why try? Correct the mistakes, resolve not to repeat them, and let
that be the end of it.
''It shall be'' is looking to what we can accomplish in the future. That indeed is
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Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D. is a psychiatrist and ordained rabbi. He is the
founder of the Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh, a leading center
for addiction treatment. An Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University
of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, he is a prolific author, with some 30 books to
his credit, including, "Twerski on Chumash" (Bible), from which this was excerpted (Sales of this book help fund JWR).
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© 2004, Mesorah Publications, Ltd.