November 1, 2012

How to Survive the Jewish Food Culture

Food as celebration is nothing new to the Jewish people. After all, it is a mitzvah (commandment) to eat three meals on Shabbat, to include meat on Yom Tov (the holidays), to make kiddush, a blessing, on wine and to wash and eat challah (bread) at a seudat mitzvah (festive meal). There is no simcha (happiness) without meat and wine, say Chazal (our sages), and there are special foods for every holiday.

But we have lost our way. Eating food as part of any celebration is just fine, but once again today, I sat at a kiddush where the menu consisted of cakes, cookies, Yerushalmi kugel, potato kugel (extra oil, no charge), chulent (even more extra oil) and sugary drinks (not a bottle of water to be found). And then you know what? After we hear the divrei Torah (words of Torah), we go home and eat a whole meal. Another one.

Something has gone wrong. As wonderful as any celebratory kiddush or seudah is, these foods, especially when consumed in mass quantities, will make us sick over the long term.

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