Tuesday, August 8, 2017

I Got No Satisfaction, That's Why I Sing The Blues (Bob Weir - "One More Saturday Night")

I was introduced to a new four lettered word about three months ago. Frankly, I thought I had heard them all. The new four lettered word that I learned was “Diet”. Well, I had heard of the word before; but it was in terms of religious ritual, Kashrut. I had heard the word in the context of New Years’ resolutions, and other people’s health issues.  I had even heard it whispered about me as something I should think about. Even my doctor had used the word with me, suggesting that my indigestion and bad back were exacerbated by my weight and “maybe if you lose a few pounds those issues would go away.” Yes I had heard of the word “Diet”, but I didn’t begin listening to what it meant and what it didn’t’ mean until I decided to begin a Diet. So for the past three months I have been on a low fat, no carb diet in which I try to restrict my caloric intake to below 2000 calories. I am allowed 7 oz. of protein, and an assortment of vegetables and only those fruits that are low in sugar such as apple, strawberries, cantaloupe and strawberries. Yes, I have lost weight. Yes there are foods that I missed. At various points during these past few months, I have missed pasta, I have missed a hamburger. Even this week, my son and I went to a baseball game (the New York Yankees were in Toronto playing the Blue Jays), and I stared at my son as he enjoyed his hot dog. What I wouldn’t have done for a “dog and a beer”! Yet as each day and as each week goes by, I don’t feel as if I am starving, I don’t feel hungry, and I don’t feel dissatisfied. Actually, it’s quite the opposite, I have even found some clothes that I forgot that I owned!
            This week’s Parsha is Eikev. Here in his second discourse, Moshe explains to the new generation how the second set of tablets that contain the Aseret Dibrot (Ten Commandments) came into being. He explains how God forgave their parents of their idolatrous behavior in regards to the Eigel Zahav (Golden Calf), and all B’nai Yisroel must do essentially refrain from Idolatry, serve God, worship God, and the nation will be rewarded with water, grass and quality lives. Moshe also reminds B’nai Yisroel that they have nothing to fear when they enter into Canaan and conquer the land even though they maybe outnumbered, because God has already demonstrated that he will protect his people. He did so during the Yetziat Mitzrayim (Exodus from Egypt), and as long as B’nai Yisroel keeps its side of the B’rit (covenant), God will continue to protect his people. V’Haya Im Tishma’u El Mitzvotai Asher Anochi M’tzaveh Etchem Hayom L’Ahavah Et Adonai Eloheichem Ul’Avdo B’Chol Levavchem Uv’chol Nafshachem. V’Natati M’tar Artzechem B’Ito Yoreh Umalkosh V’Asaftah D’Ganecha V'Tiroshcha v’YitzharechaIt will be that if you hearken to My commandments that I command you today to love Hashem your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I shall provide rain for your Land in its proper time, the early and the late rains, that you may gather in your grain, your wine and your oil.  V’Natati Esev B’Sadcha Livhemtecha V’Achalta V’Savata – I shall provide grass in your field for your cattle and you will eat and be satisfied (Deut 11:15). Among the rewards is grass for our cattle and we will eat and be satisfied.    
In this second paragraph of the Shema, we are told that there is a reward for our obeying God’s commandments and there will be retribution for disobeying God’s commandments. Among the rewards is a phrase that, at first glance, does not seem like such a reward. The simple meaning of the verse suggests that we will eat the grass and or the cattle, but whatever we eat, we will be satisfied –v’Savatah. Satisfied implies that we will not be wanting for anything. Satisfied means fulfilled content. How can the grass that God will make plentiful satisfy us? Have we ever been too busy to eat? Have we ever been in a place or a situation that cause our adrenaline to pump that we didn’t even feel hunger pangs? Most probably yes, we have all been in situations or places where we were too busy, to wound up, too excited to eat. Yet, we were clearly in a place, both physical and spiritual where we were satisfied.  Rashi, the great 11th century French commentator, explains the verse as follows: “When you are very prosperous, you must be very careful not to rebel against God, because man rejects God only when he is sated.” Our relationship to God is synonymous with our own health. We need to pay attention to this very vital and simple relationship in order for us to appreciate the layers of complexity that life ultimately presence. When we are in poor health, when we violate this very simple and vital relationship, the rest of life seems insurmountable and overwhelming. When we are very comfortable, when we are perhaps too comfortable, when we are full, when we are bored, when we take things for granted; that is the time to worry about our relationship with HaShem.
            So it turns out that “Diet” is not such a dirty four lettered word after all.  Instead the word “Diet” requires those who engage in a “Diet” to understand a much a word three times longer: “Satisfaction”. Like our physical health, when we have our spiritual health, we are able to appreciate the layers of complexity and the beauty of life. When our health, physical or spiritual, is poor, then we are too overwhelmed to see any of life’s beauty. However, when we understand that often times, we can derive satisfaction from less quantity, we began to find the beauty in the world around us, the goodness and the fulfilling nature of the food we eat, and the holiness of the life we are capable of leading.


Rav Yitz

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