Monday, November 5, 2012

Food Challenge Day 2

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

So many possible directions in which to go with the conversation about food! It is hard to choose, but two images in particular keep rising into the foreground.

First, I am reminded more than once of the times when our bodies don't function normally, and as a result we cannot eat much, if anything. Two people who spoke to me about this in the hospital in recent days stand out in my mind, and those conversations, coming at this time that I am focusing on food, reminded me of my own such experience this past year. When our systems are not working properly, food suddenly becomes very different to us. We may lose our appetite and not even want the choicest of delicacies, we may feel deprived and isolated, we may feel angry at the limited diet our bodies force upon us, we may be frightened by the evidence in our daily habit that all is not well. When even just a few bites refuse to behave properly in our digestive tracts, suddenly food becomes an enemy instead of the object of our desire or our delight. The need to be gentle to our bodies at such a time results in a greatly limited definition of food, a necessity of life, a source of nutrients. I think of the blessing for after using the bathroom:
Blessed are you, Adonai, our G!d, Sovereign of the universe, who formed the human body with wisdom, creating the body's many openings and many cavities. It is obvious and known before Your throne of glory that if one of them were to be ruptured or one of them were to be blocked, it would be impossible to endure and stand before You. Blessed are You, Adonai, who heals all flesh, working wondrously.
Thus it turns out that thoughts that began with not being able to eat end up bringing us back not to food, but to our own bodies, their wondrous nature, and our desire that they continue to function properly - in part so that we may eat. We come full circle.

The second thought for today is about eating on the run. How clear it is that rushing through a meal or eating at one's desk or in the car all belie the concept of eating as sacred, eating as prayer, eating as a way of connecting to the Universe, to the Divine. How can I be contemplative with my eating if I'm also working, driving, walking, or just plain in a hurry? The two do not mesh, and in such  circumstances, eating becomes strictly utilitarian. We are getting hungry and we need to / want to eat. So we grab a sandwich, an energy bar, a yogurt, a banana, and we gulp it down and move on. We...yes, I, too, am guilty. We are in this together. It is a battle with the demands upon our time, with the culture in which we live, with the jobs we have, and the commitments we make - whether willingly or not. Altogether, they infringe upon this sacred time of bringing into our bodies the nutrients we need in order to survive from day to day, in order to be healthy, in order to nourish not just our bodies, but also our spirits. Help us, Holy One, to slow down, and to eat, one bite at a time, savoring and appreciating each bite. As we see our food before us, help us to "be still, and know that I am G!d." (Psalm 46:10)



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