The Passover season is steeped with the message of the strength of change. Each of us as an individual is capable of change, and collectively we are capable of national change. The reason change is possible is because we are a free people with the ability to exercise free choice.
Pesach is called by the sages as “Zman Chairusanu”, the “Time for Our Freedom”.
Freedom from our past mistakes.
Freedom from our Yetzar Hara (the inclination to do bad).
Freedom from our self perceived and self imposed limitations, both spiritual and physical.
I would like to develop just one angle of this concept of Freedom: Freedom from eating. For too many people, eating can really be a sort of enslavement. So often, we see food and immediately feel compelled to eat it without really asking ourselves, why?
Try describing the Pesach holiday to someone who has never heard of it before: “What?” “Are you serious?” “What do you eat?” Yet, many people who find it hard to stick to any other diet or nutritional regimen manage to completely refrain from eating any chametz (leavened foods) for the duration of the holiday. Interestingly, patients who are candidates for bariatric surgery, undergo a 14 or 28 day liquid-only diet. These patients learn something very important: they don’t have to eat what they used to think of as essential food to be properly nourished. They have found that by viewing food purely as a source of nourishment, not as an emotional or social activity, they feel empowered to walk into a room full of food and selectively choose what they want to eat instead of eating compulsively just for the sake of eating.
On Pesach, we also restrict certain, seemingly essential foods entirely, forcing ourselves to completely rethink our entire relationship with food. This paradigm shift can help us reestablish a much healthier relationship with food. Eating is meant to be for nourishment and health, not for socialization or emotional dependence.
Through the rest of the year, we also have that ability to choose. However, during the Jewish month of Nissan and particularly during the holiday of Pesach, we are granted an additional, heavenly strength to use that gift of choice to choose to act in ways that will bring us freedom. I ask you, as individuals and as role models to the others, to educate yourself about good eating habits: learn about options, choices, and new foods that can dramatically change the way you look and feel. I’ve pulled together a Pesach Bulletin that is full of really great ideas and additional resources for truly making this night different from all other nights. It is available online at www.nutrition4allseasons.com or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is important to remember that we are spiritual beings in a physical world; let’s not lose sight of the more important, spiritual component. Imagine how improving your nutrition and health would enable and empower you to be a better person, a better parent, a better employee and a better Jew. Picture what it would feel like if you were able to make healthy informed intelligent food choices. Imagine what being free to eat nourishing delicious and good food would look and feel like. Proper nutrition will give you the energy, the tools that you need to reach your goals of a being better person, free from your past, free to experience real Torah freedom. Pesach actually means Peh-Sach, the mouth talks (not the mouth eats). Use this Pesach as an opportunity to talk about Freedom with your family and engage them in the process of exercising their right and ability to make healthier choices in all areas of their lives.
Yaakov Rosenthal a board certified health counselor is committed to working with Jewish men and women in order to help them deal with the overall deteriorating quality of health and wellness within our community. He can help you deal with the conflict of wanting to eat healthy food but ending up eating pizza, macaroni and other junk food by focusing on ways to regain one’s health and vitality in a way that makes sense – without weight loss diets that focus on deprivation or denial. He can be reached at 201-468-0106 or by email at email@example.com