Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Vows of Vegetarianism and Peace

Life Lessons from Rebbetzin’s Heart  - Parashat Matot
Discovering Your Own Healthy Diet 
My husband and I were both vegetarians for several years before we embraced the Torah way of life. Most of our friends from the Yeshiva had been vegetarians as well. We were part of “The Return to Nature” movement so prominent in the seventies. How could we take a sacred life merely to indulge in our own gluttonous pleasure? Later, we realized that vegetarianism had saved so many of us from numerous un-kosher foods, making us more sensitive to spirituality and open to accepting the Torah. Today, I have several orthodox Jewish friends who are not only strictly vegan, but moreover, hardcore ‘raw foodies.’ However, when my husband and I began learning in the Yeshiva, we were taught that when we eat with the intention to use the energy to further our uniquely human service of G‑d, we could lift up even meat. When we eat in order to have energy to learn Torah and perform mitzvot, the animals we eat are elevated along with us, and become reunited with their G‑dly source. Conversely, if we eat solely for our own selfish desires, we swallow the meaningful life of even a vegetable with no excuse. “It’s not fair!” cries the helpless plant. My sister, who had been vegetarian since she was twelve because she didn’t want to take the life of an animal, and because she disliked the taste of meat, has in her later years begun to relish bone broth. Still, an avid health foodie, she now understands the importance of protein and minerals from bone broth which supports the body’s detoxification process. Today, the health food world claims that bone broth is one of the most powerful superfoods on the planet. Slow cooking draws out collagen, marrow and other healing elements from the bones, including amino acids, minerals, glycine, and gelatin – which help heal the gut and reduce inflammation. Having recently emerged from my juice fast, I’m still vegetarian. I feel great implementing my yearly vegan detox for about six weeks every summer. I believe there is no right diet for everyone. It really depends on the individual constitution. Each of us must get to know our own body and discover the way different foods affect us. 

Human History from Herbivore to Carnivore
Originally, both Adam and Chava, and their descendants for 1600 years, were vegetarian ‘fruities.’ Their diet consisted of seed, herb, tree, and fruit as it states, “Behold, I have given you every seed-bearing herb which is upon the surface of the entire earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; it will be yours for food” (Bereishit 1:29). According to Rabbi Yosef Albo, the original Divine plan was for humanity to refrain from killing and eating meat because killing animals is cruel and ingrains negative traits in the human character. The only reason Hashem permitted meat to Noach and his descendants was that people had degenerated into bestial, violent and corrupt behavior, equating humans and animals. This prompted G‑d to cleanse the world with the great flood. After the flood, G‑d implemented a new world order in which people would recognize humanity’s Divine purpose and moral superiority over the animals. In order to emphasize the differences between animal and human being, Hashem permitted eating flesh of animals: “Every moving thing that lives shall be yours to eat; like the green vegetation, I have given you everything” (Bereishit 9:3). Our dominion over animals reminds us that we are charged with divine responsibility to perfect the world (Sefer HaIkkarim, Book III, chapter 15).

The Gravity of Keeping Your Word

If a person no longer desires to be a vegetarian, is he permitted according to Jewish law to switch to eating meat without any spiritual ritual transition? Most of us, Jewishly-under-educated Jews would have no idea that a decision to become a vegetarian, among other major decisions, may constitute a vow, and that we may need to have our ‘vow’ annulled. Parashat Matot teaches the laws of vows:

ספר במדבר פרק ל (ג) אִישׁ כִּי יִדֹּר נֶדֶר לַהָשֵׁם אוֹ הִשָּׁבַע שְׁבֻעָה לֶאְסֹר אִסָּר עַל נַפְשׁוֹ לֹא יַחֵל דְּבָרוֹ כְּכָל הַיֹּצֵא מִפִּיו יַעֲשֶׂה:
“When a man makes a vow to Hashem or takes an oath imposing an obligation or prohibition on himself, he shall not break his word; he must carry out all that has crossed his lips” (Bamidbar 30:3).

רש"י על במדבר פרק ל פסוק ג
נדר - האומר הרי עלי קונם שלא אוכל או שלא אעשה דבר פלוני יכול אפי' נשבע שיאכל נבלות אני קורא עליו ככל היוצא מפיו יעשה ת"ל לאסור איסר לאסור את המותר ולא להתיר את האסור: לא יחל דברו - כמו לא יחלל דברו לא יעשה דבריו חולין:

This is when one says, “Behold I take upon myself an obligation which is sacred to me as an offering, that I will not eat or that I will not do such and such a thing… i.e., to forbid for himself something which is permissible to him… (Rashi, Bamidbar 30:3).

This implies, that, when we take a certain obligation or restriction upon ourselves and verbalize it, with a statement such as, “I’m vegetarian!” then we have taken a vow upon ourselves and would need to get our vow annulled, in case we no longer desire to be limited by it. The Shulchan Aruch takes the issue of vows quite seriously and writes an introduction at the beginning of the Laws of Vows describing the severity of not fulfilling a נֶדֶר/neder – vow (Shulchan Aruch, Yore Deah 202). Normally, a vow is binding when a person takes upon himself verbally to fulfill a mitzvah, such as deciding how much and when he is going to learn, to visit the ill, to perform a certain act of respecting his parents, or to avoid eating something specific. In such cases, in order to avoid the problem of having made a vow, it is good to say “bli neder – without a vow.” A vow is binding sometimes even without words, such as if someone completely made up his mind to give tzedaka (charity). Here is what I found in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch on this topic:

A person accepted a stringency upon himself in matters permitted in order to serve as a barrier and a fence for self-control, e.g., fasting during the days of Selichot, or not eating meat and not drinking wine from the seventeenth of Tamuz and onwards. Even if he only acted this way one time, but intended to continue, or he behaved this way three times, although he did not intend to behave this way always, if he did not make the condition that it was without a vow (bli neder), and he wants to go back… he needs to be absolved. How is a vow or oath absolved? He goes to three Torah scholars, one of whom must be experienced in the laws of vows and knows which vows may be nullified and which vows may not be nullified and how they are absolved, and the scholars absolve the oath or vow for him (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 67:7-8).

A Vow Only Pertains to the Permissible Realm
If we made a promise and were unable to fulfill it, even something as trivial as a promise to play ball with our kids, it is proper to apologize and receive forgiveness. If we made a decision, even in our own mind, to give someone something, we should do so immediately and not allow regret to stop us from fulfilling our decision, which may be considered a vow. A vow only pertains to the permitted realm. We cannot make a vow to act contrary to Torah law, such as, for example, deciding not to make Kiddush on Shabbat.

Does the Torah Permit Eating Meat?
Eating meat may actually be against the Torah in some cases, as the Torah does not permit eating meat without certain restrictions. During the forty-year wandering in the desert, the Israelites were only permitted to eat meat as part of the sacrificial service. The Talmud states that only a person who is well versed in Torah is permitted to consume meat:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת פסחים דף מט/ב
תניא רבי אומר עם הארץ אסור לאכול בשר (בהמה) שנאמר זאת תורת הבהמה והעוף כל העוסק בתורה מותר לאכול בשר בהמה ועוף וכל שאינו עוסק בתורה אסור לאכול בשר בהמה ועוף:

The unlearned may not eat meat as it states, “This is the Torah concerning animals and birds” (Vayikra 11:46). Whoever is involved in Torah is permitted to eat meat and chicken but whoever is not involved in Torah is prohibited from eating meat and chicken (Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 49b).

Vegetarianism – The Ideal of the Messianic Era
Hashem only permitted meat to Noach because he studied Torah. Everything in creation needs to be elevated. Therefore, each kind is nourished by a lower creation: the vegetative by the inanimate, the animate by the vegetative, and the human may be nourished by the animate as long as we actualize our human potential by learning Torah. Without being involved in Torah, we are not on a higher level than the animals and therefore unable to elevate them (Kli Yakar, Bereishit 9:2). Rav Kook saw the craving for meat as a manifestation of spiritual decline. He believed that in the days of the Mashiach, all humanity will return to a vegetarian diet (A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace 6:32). In the Messianic Epoch, higher knowledge (da’at) will spread even to animals (Olat Rayah, Vol. 1, p. 292). This echoes the prophecy of Redemption: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox… They shall neither hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain” (Yesha’yahu 11:6-9). Although Rav Kook believed that the vegetarian virtue of the generations before Noach represented a high moral level, he himself ate chicken on Shabbat as a symbolic reminder that the Mashiach had not yet arrived. However, in the Messianic Age, humans and animals will once again become vegetarians as at the beginning of creation (A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace 6:32). Just as the predatory instinct will be removed from the animal kingdom, and creatures will no longer kill one another to live, so will people cease exploiting one another. Even the sacrificial offerings in the Third Holy Temple in Jerusalem will consist of vegetation alone (Olat Rayah, I, p. 292); (Based on, The Vegetarian Teachings of Rav Kook, Richard Schwartz, Ph.D. with the editorial assistance of Rabbi David Sears).

Monday, July 18, 2016

Does Pinchas Serve as a Model for ‘Price-tag’ Activism?

Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart - Parashat Pinchas
Unanimous Outrage against Jewish Terrorism
The Gay Pride parade in the city of Be’er Sheva was cancelled last Wednesday in protest of Israel’s High Court of Justice banning the parade from passing through a central street. The reason for the ban was to avoid violence, such as what happened at Jerusalem’s Gay Pride parade last summer, when Yishai Schlissel murdered a 16-year-old girl, Shira Banki. Prior to the parade, Yishai had distributed a letter that read, “It is the obligation of every Jew to keep his soul from punishment and stop this giant desecration of G-d’s name next Thursday [at the gay parade].”

When my husband told me this news, my first reaction was, “People will say that the murder had a positive effect.” “That’s exactly what Hertzog and the ‘leftwingers’ are saying,” responded my husband. While, I am far from upset about the cancellation of the Gay Pride parade, I firmly oppose anyone taking the law into their own hands, justifying murder or even stone throws in the name of the Torah. The only exception is if, G-d forbid, our own lives are directly threatened, as it states, “Whoever comes to kill you, you must arise to kill him” (Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 58a). It is only for this reason that my husband, unfortunately, needs to carry a gun. For years, Bat Ayin has struggled to clear its reputation of being particularly extremist and ‘a bunch of Jewish terrorists.’ Contrary to public opinion, most of Bat Ayin’s residents, like myself, strongly oppose murders such as that of Shira Banki, the Arab teenager in 2014, and Yitzchak Shamir in 1995. I totally share the sentiment of Rabbi Joel Zeff, a new addition to B’erot’s faculty: “I can think of no greater desecration of the name of G-d, no more egregious perversion of the Torah, than that committed by these young men [who murdered the Arab teen from Shuafat]. Their unforgivable crime is compounded by the inestimable damage it has done to Israel’s already uphill battle to gain understanding for its struggle against terrorism. My only (small) consolation is the unanimous outrage against this barbaric act expressed by the entire spectrum of Israeli society” (Rabbi Joel Zeff, Parshat Pinchas: Zealot or Cruel Murderer?).

Erroneous Comparison between Arab Terrorism and ‘Price-tag’ Activists
The few acts of Jewish terrorism over the years have caused the world at large to erroneously equate the injustices done against Jews to that against Arabs in Israel. I remember discussing this issue with one of my leftist minded family members who claimed that, “Jews and Arabs are equally guilty, since violence committed by Jewish Israeli settlers and their supporters against Palestinians and Israeli security forces is just as bad as Arab terrorist acts.” Wikipedia even defines a term called ‘Israeli settler violence.’ Just as the Middle East conflict in general is blown out of proportion in the news with the demonization of Israel, so are the ‘Price-tag’ acts greatly exaggerated. In reality, only a minority of the so-called ‘Palestinians’ have the courage to stand up against Arab terrorism, while Jewish terrorist supporters comprise an extremely small minority of Israelis. “Demographically and organizationally, price taggers stand on ‘the fringe of the fringe’ of the settler world. Estimates suggest they number in the mere hundreds. The coordination (if any) of attacks is informal and spontaneous” (‘The Simple Jew’: The ‘Price Tag’ Phenomenon, Vigilantism, and Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh’s Political Kabbalah, Tessa Satherley). Conversely, the majority of the Arab world, and particularly the ‘Palestinians, support terrorism and the murder of Jews. Their leaders call to publically celebrate the murderers and name streets after them.

Hashem Sanctions Pinchas as a True Zealot
The example of Pinchas, in this week’s parasha has been used as a role model for zealotry. The Torah recounts that Zimri, the head of the tribe of Shimon, was publicly engaged in immoral behavior with a Midianite woman called Kasbi. Hashem sends a severe plague as a punishment. While, Moshe remains passive Aharon’s grandson, Pinchas, decides to act on his own, grabs a spear, kills the offending couple and stops the plague. Subsequently, G-d grants his covenant of peace to Pinchas as a reward for his zealotry:
ספר במדבר פרק כה
(י) וַיְדַבֵּר הָשֵׁם אֶל משֶׁה לֵּאמֹר:(יא) פִּינְחָס בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן הֵשִׁיב אֶת חֲמָתִי מֵעַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקַנְאוֹ אֶת קִנְאָתִי בְּתוֹכָם וְלֹא כִלִּיתִי אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקִנְאָתִי:(יב) לָכֵן אֱמֹר הִנְנִי נֹתֵן לוֹ אֶת בְּרִיתִי שָׁלוֹם: (יג) וְהָיְתָה לּוֹ וּלְזַרְעוֹ אַחֲרָיו בְּרִית כְּהֻנַּת עוֹלָם תַּחַת אֲשֶׁר קִנֵּא לֵאלֹהָיו וַיְכַפֵּר עַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:

“Hashem spoke unto Moses, saying: ‘Pinchas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aharon the Kohen has turned My wrath away from the children of Israel, in that he was very jealous for My sake among them, so that I did not wipe out the children of Israel in My jealousy. Wherefore say: Behold, I grant him My covenant of peace. It shall be for him, and his descendants after him, a covenant of an everlasting Kehuna; because he was jealous for his G-d, and made atonement for the children of Israel” (Bamidbar 25:10-13).

Who Can Walk the Tightrope between Zealotry and Murder?
The question remains whether latter-day price-tag zealots are justified in modeling themselves on the case of Pinchas. The rabbis of the Talmud recognized that they could not abide a society in which individuals justify violence in the name of Torah. Therefore, they greatly limited the cases where individuals may act out of zealotry. As far as I know, there are only two cases where the principle of קַנָּאִין פּוֹגְעִים בּוֹ/kanaim pogim bo – “zealots may slay him” applies: 1. When a person curses G-d’s name with the name of a false god (Rambam, Laws of Idol-Worship 2). 2. Whenever a man has relations with a gentile woman in public, i.e., the relations are carried out in the presence of ten or more Jews (Rambam, Forbidden Relationships 12:4). There are many limitations within these limited cases: For example, any zealot, who strikes the transgressor the moment he withdraws after having sinned, is considered a murderer. This is why Pinchas was careful to kill the offenders in the midst of relations. Malbim notes, that it was a miracle that everyone saw that they were killed while engaging in the forbidden act, as otherwise, Pinchas would have been accused of murder. The difference between a true zealot for the sake of Hashem and a murderer is such a minute hairsbreadth that without the many miracles done for Pinchas, he may have easily been considered a murderer by the Rabbis. This is why the Torah has to testify regarding Pinchas’ pure intentions for the sake of Hashem’s honor. Not an iota of self-righteous indignation or personal revenge tainted Pinchas motivation. Which modern day ‘zealot’ can claim to be a true zealot like Pinchas? Who can fulfill all the qualifications that renders him a true zealot, sanctioned by Hashem himself for the ability to walk on the tightrope between murder and zealotry?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Do Our Eyes Have Power to Effect Reality?

Life Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart - Parashat Balak

Developing Optimistic Eyes 
Everything in life depends on how you look at reality. I just harvested some strawberries from the garden and prepared them to serve my husband for breakfast. After their required 3 min. soak in veggie wash, they had lost some of their red and sparkling nature. “Sorry, they look so squishy,” I apologized. “They look great!” countered my husband. Life becomes much more colorful and enchanting when we develop optimistic eyes. Drinking half-full cups of lemonade is the secret to happiness. “Oh, my friend, it’s not what they take away from you that counts. It’s what you do with what you have left” (Hubert Humphrey). The new science of epigenetics asserts that our genes are influenced by our attitude. No wonder that people with positive outlooks live longer. The eye is a two-way communicator. It is not only passive receptive, but also active and impacting. Quantum physics proves that things act differently when observed. Just looking at light influences its behavior. It is not only looking, but the way we look at others that has the greatest impact. When we look with compassionate eyes, they become a source of spiritual nourishment. Thus, a mother’s loving gaze nurtures her baby no less than the physical nourishment of her milk. The Meshech Chacmah explains that Hashem allowed Avraham Avinu to see the entire land of Israel because seeing something ownerless causes the person to possess it. Since no one ever possessed the spiritual body of the Holy Land, it could be acquired through seeing alone. When Avraham gazed at the land of Israel, he conquered it spiritually as an everlasting inheritance for his children. Therefore, is states, “The entire land that you see- I will give it to your children forever” (Bereishit 13:15). Avraham’s eyes had this power because he had developed a good eye, as it states, “Anyone who has mastered these three traits is of the students of Avraham Avinu, and whoever possesses the opposite three traits is of the disciples of the wicked Bil’am. The students of our father Avraham have a good eye, a meek spirit and a humble soul. The students of the wicked Bil’am have an evil eye, a haughty spirit and a coarse soul…” (Pirkey Avot 5:19). Rambam writes that someone with a “good eye” exhibits the characteristic of הסתפקות/histapkut – being satisfied with his lot. What he has is enough for him and he doesn’t constantly seek more money or material possessions. Therefore, Avraham didn’t want to take even a shoelace or a string from the King of Sodom.

Bil’am’s Evil Eye
Conversely, ayin hara (the evil eye) is never content. In his boundless greed, B’ilam was seeking more and more money from Balak (Rashi, Bamidbar 22:18). This greedy, grabbing instinct is the source of ayin hara, which plays such a pivotal role throughout Parshat Balak. It was specifically through his evil eye that B’ilam attempted to curse Israel.
ספר במדבר פרק כד (ב) וַיִּשָּׂא בִלְעָם אֶת עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל שֹׁכֵן לִשְׁבָטָיו וַתְּהִי עָלָיו רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים:
“Bil’am lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel dwelling tribe by tribe, and the spirit of G-d was upon him” (Bamidbar 24:2).

Rashi explains that by lifting up his eyes, Bil’am tried to impose an evil eye upon them. Yet, Hashem protected the Jewish people in the merit of our modesty (keeping our private life hidden from the eye). So why didn’t Bil’am just bless Balak? It would seem that either cursing the Jews or blessing the Moabites would result in a victory for Moav. The reason is, that Bil’am’s evil eye didn’t allow him to bless anyone.

Some men are specially fitted for the transmission of blessings by having acquired a ‘good eye.’ Others are specially fitted for the transmission of curses, wherever they cast their eyes. Such was Bil’am, who was the fitting instrument of evil. Even when he blessed, his blessing was not confirmed. Yet, all his curses were confirmed, because he had an ‘evil eye’ (Zohar, Vayikra 63b).

Don’t Flaunt Your Assets
A narrow or an evil eye may damage the person it sees. Perhaps through the energy fields surrounding him, it can cause lack of money, discord in the home, difficulty in finding a soul mate, or make a person feel stuck in his life. There are many examples in the Torah, Talmud and halacha, about the importance to protect ourselves from ayin hara. The Torah records that when the brothers entered Egypt to get food during the famine, they did so “amongst those going down to Egypt for food.” This expression teaches that they blended into the crowd. According to Midrash Bereishit Rabbah 91:6 quoted by Rashi, Ya’acov instructs each of his sons to enter through a different gate to avoid receiving an ayin hara, because they were all beautiful, strong, tall and handsome. Why would that bring about an evil eye? If they came as a group and drew attention to themselves, people could become jealous by seeing a family of able-bodied handsome men. We are all connected spiritually and therefore can affect one another. Rabbi Dessler asked his father, “how is it fair that people suffer because of the jealousies of others?” His father answered him that the person may be partly to blame by carelessly flaunting his possessions and causing jealousy to arise. Each display of wealth, beauty or power can be a jealousy-causing act. This jealousy may cause others to cry out in pain- a cry that rises up to the Heavenly Court (Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, Michtav Me’eliyahu).

Protection from Ayin Hara and Negative Energy
Rabbi Yochanan was accustomed to sit at the gates of the women’s mikveh. He said, “When the daughters of Israel come up from the mikveh they look at me and have children as handsome as I am.” The Rabbis said to him, “Is not the Master afraid of the evil eye?” – He replied, “I come from the seed of Yosef, over whom the evil eye has no power, as it is written, ‘Ben porat Yosef, ben porat alei ayin – Yosef is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine above the eye,’” (Bereishit 49:22). Rabbi Abahu said with regard to this verse, “Do not read ‘alei ayin’ but ‘olei ayin’ (literally, “rising above the eye,” i.e., above the power of the evil eye).” Rabbi Yossi in the name of Rabbi Chanina derived [proof that the evil eye has no power over the descendants of Yosef] from this text: “Let them multiply like fish [ve’yidgu] in the midst of the earth” (Bereishit 48:16). Just as fish [dagim] in the sea are covered by water and the evil eye has no power over them, likewise the evil eye has no power over the descendants of Yosef. Furthermore, the evil eye has no power over the eye that did not want to take nourishment from what did not belong to it (Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 20a).

Rabbi Soloveitchik explained that in contrast to certain people who live their lives based on the comments and perceptions of others, Yosef had confidence in himself, and did not change according to the whims of others. Since Yosef was not “swayed by the crowd,” he was not susceptible to the evil eye. He did not live from that which did not belong to him – therefore, the destructive comments of others had no effect. Taking nourishment from what doesn’t belong to us comes from a feeling of lack in our own lives that makes us become energy suckers. The more we learn to trust in Hashem, and feel His love and personal protection in our lives, the less we need to take nourishment from what doesn’t belong to us. When we develop Emunah, that Hashem gives us exactly what we need, we can be happy with our own portion.

Sending Positive Energy and Blessing through Our Eyes
We cannot just dismiss the power of negative energy as being nonexistent so long as we don’t believe in it. Just as there is light and holiness in the world, so does the opposite exist. It would be foolish not to work on strengthening our immune system in order to protect ourselves against viruses and bacteria. Likewise, we need to strengthen our emunah system in order to protect ourselves from negative spiritual energy. By viewing ourselves through Hashem’s perpetual kind and open eye, and by not looking with desire at what belongs to others, it is possible to rise above the influence of negative energy like Yosef the Tzaddik. The human eye is an energy center that can send out either negative or positive energy. Through seeing, a person can affect reality through ayin hara (the evil eye), and ayin tovah (the good eye) which has an even greater influence (Rav Tzadok of Lublin, Takanat Hashavin 6). “A good eye is blessed” since it sends out positive energy. The power of good is always greater than the power of evil. When we work on removing our own negativity, by consciously sending out positive energy to others through our eye, we gain protection from ayin hara and engender much blessing in the world.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Does Juice Fasting Help Maintain Health and Alleviate Cravings?

Life Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart - Parashat Chukat
In Defense of My Annual Juice Fast
I’m on my 6th day of my annual juice-fast, going strong. Every summer when the apples begin to ripen on our trees, I know it is my time for internal cleanse. Not long ago, we scrubbed our home inside and out. Now, it is time to tend to our body. Why do I spend money and effort on organic produce with so much of my precious time going into preparing veggies and fruits and pushing them through the juicer? Then, comes the hardest part. At the end of the day, I stand fretting over my kitchen sink, cleaning all the small pieces of my twin-gear juicer and the spurts of juice and veggie scraps sticking to the kitchen-cabinet doors. Why do I go to bed on a nearly empty stomach, withstanding temptation for even the smallest bite? My husband, the MD doctor, doesn’t believe in what I’m doing. He thinks it all a waste of time, effort and money. At this point, upon my earnest request, we avoid discussing the issue. He quietly withholds expressing his disapproval, since a supportive environment is important for success. The reason I’m so determined to exert myself every summer is to maintain my health and alleviate cravings. What’s so healthy about juice fasting? Some people call juice-fasting ‘the biggest scam in the fitness industry.’ Their main argument is that there is no scientific research proving its effectiveness. They believe that it is impossible to detoxify the body, because the digestive system already eliminates waste material and bacteria from the small intestines and colon. Therefore, no fecal matter sticks to the sides of the intestinal wall. However, anyone who has tried a colonic (colon hydrotherapy) can testify otherwise. No scientific proof is needed after seeing with your own eyes what emerges from your colon, even after having consumed no food for days or weeks. My hydro-therapist, Marina, shared the story of one of her clients, a famous professor of medicine who needed a liver transplant. His doctor, who happened to be Marina’s client, recommended a liver cleanse and a colonic as a preparation for the transplant. At first, the MD professor was, needless to say, extremely skeptical. But when he experienced the amount of fecal matter, visible through the transparent tube, emerging from his supposedly self-cleaning colon, he was dumbfounded.

Why Would Your Colon be ‘Self-Cleaning’ If Your Mouth is Not?
As I clean my juicer from all the plant material sticking to its various parts, I am reminded of the digestive system of the body. Food enters the top and waste material exits the bottom. Just as eating too much or the wrong foods can cause constipation, also when you put in a lot of veggies, especially soft ones like tomatoes, the juicer can get clogged up, and then needs to be cleaned out, before putting in any additional produce. If you want to argue that the human body is more sophisticated than an electric appliance, then just recall the last time you went to your dental hygienist. Did she not remove specks of plaque or tartar from your mouth? Why would your colon be ‘self-cleaning’ if your mouth is not? As for scientific proof, it is known that scientific research is undertaken by the medical establishment, which apparently has not yet been sufficiently motivated to carry out such a study. Nevertheless, it is possible to find scientific research proving the effectiveness of colon hydrotherapy. For example, surgeon Zhao Fa, Guo Linli, concludes from a 98% success rate in a case study of 690 patients that colon hydrotherapy is more effective in cleansing the large bowel than the use of either oral mannitol or magnesium sulfate. (Colon Hydrotherapy for Pre-endoscopy preparation Hebei Medical Journal, Dec 2004, Vol 25, No. 12). The reason why keeping our colon clean, especially in our generation, is so vital for maintaining our health, is that more plaque builds up on our bowel due to the prevalent unhealthy SAD diet. Toxins from processed/refined foods (artificial food additives, preservatives, chemicals, etc.), and the polluted environment may clog our digestive system causing diseases and inflammation. Furthermore, constipation among kids is a growing problem because of the junk foods they consume.

The Israelites Derided the Most Wholesome Food in the World
The human tendency to reject a wholesome and healthy lifestyle goes all the way back to Biblical times. The healthiest and purest food ever in existence is the manna that the Israelites consumed during their 40-year desert wandering. Manna, like the fruits of Eden, is a form of supernal light. It included no mixture of evil (since no evil descends from Heaven) and therefore, contained no waste. Every spark of it was completely absorbed by the body (Rabbi Chaim of Vollozin, Ruach Chayim, Pirkei Avot 3). Yet, the Israelites rejected this superior food, in their desire to fulfill their cravings:
ספר במדבר פרק כא (ה) וַיְדַבֵּר הָעָם בֵּאלֹהִים וּבְמשֶׁה לָמָה הֶעֱלִיתֻנוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם לָמוּת בַּמִּדְבָּר כִּי אֵין לֶחֶם וְאֵין מַיִם וְנַפְשֵׁנוּ קָצָה בַּלֶּחֶם הַקְּלֹקֵל:
“The people spoke against G-d and against Moshe, ‘Why did you make us leave Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread and no water, and we have come to loathe this light food’” (Bamidbar 21:5).

The children of Israel craved heavy, material food that would give them a sense of greater physical satisfaction than they experienced when consuming the very light and spiritual sustenance of the manna. They didn’t care that the manna supplied them with all their nutritional and even spiritual needs. All they wanted was to fill their stomachs with something more substantial, even if the body wouldn’t absorb it completely. As a punishment for rejecting the pure manna, Hashem sent them the plague of the poisonous, impure serpents (Bamibar 21:6-7).

Why is it so Hard to Overcome Cravings?
I identify with the common craving for comfort foods, so widespread today. Our brain, which works unconsciously in accord with stimulus and response, s often causes us to eat things we know we shouldn’t. A vicious circle is caused by overeating and snacking. This dysregulates our leptin and insulin levels, causing fluctuations of the blood sugar, which in turn triggers more food cravings. Moreover, carbohydrates and sugar increase the release of serotonin which provides a quick energy fix. When our blood-sugar levels bounce back and become low, we go for the sugar. Since 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut, a healthy colon cleansed from toxins and parasites is vital for overcoming food cravings. Many people testify to passing worms when juice fasting. We all have a very diverse community of microbes in the gut. They have one primary goal: survival (their own and not necessarily ours). Different species prefer different nutrients. Some like sugar, while others prefer fat. Rather than just passively living off whatever comes their way, they release certain chemicals, which induce specific cravings.

Killing Our Cravings
In order to live a true Torah life, we need to eradicate the physical cravings which prevent us from serving Hashem with our entire being.  teaches that in order for our Torah to endure, we need to work on overcoming desiParashat Chukatres for anything other than the Torah.

ספר במדבר פרק יט (יד) זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה אָדָם כִּי יָמוּת בְּאֹהֶל…
“This is the Torah law, when a person dies in the tent…” (Bamidbar 19:14).

Our sages read this Torah verse as follows, “This is the Torah of a person, when he dies in the tent.” The ‘tent’ is a metaphor for Torah. Thus, the verse can be understood to mean that in order for a person’s Torah to endure, he has to be willing to die for it (Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 63b). What does this mean on a practical level for people who do not risk their life for the sake of keeping the Torah? We must be willing to “die for Torah” on a smaller scale by renouncing anything that pulls us away from the Torah. Certainly, giving into our cravings and overeating, pulls us away from the Torah way. Therefore, if juice fasting followed by colonics eradicates craving-causing parasites from the gut, it certainly helps us live a better Torah life. Perhaps, we may even venture to say that the self-discipline and abnegation entailed by juice fasting for the sake of killing our cravings is a way of “dying for the Torah.”