Food and Spirituality in Judaism, or - Feel Free to be Amazed!
Please Donate to Custom & Craft
Download your Service. We offer both printer-friendly and interactive version for your convenience.
We rely on support from users just like you! Please donate
today to keep maintaining this free resource!
Customandcraft.org is a fiscally sponsored project of Jewish Jumpstart (EIN: 26-2173175) which is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt California public benefit corporation. Your gift is tax deductible to the
extent allowed by law.
Share this Clip with your friends, family,
community and social networks with just one click.
Copy and paste the URL of this Clip to share or view.
Open in new window
Share This Clip on Social Networks
Food and Spirituality in Judaism, or - Feel Free to be Amazed!
Food that is eaten daily can be taken for granted. One of the ways Judaism helps us to keep our sense of appreciation alive is by instituting blessings to be said before and after eating.
Wonder or radical amazement is the chief characteristic of the religious man’s attitude toward history and nature. One attitude is alien to his spirit: taking things for granted, regarding events as a natural course of things.
To the prophets, wonder is a form of thinking. It is not the beginning of knowledge but an act that goes beyond knowledge; it does not come to an end when knowledge is acquired; it is an attitude that never ceases.
As civilization advances, the sense of wonder declines. Such decline is an alarming symptom of our state of mind. Mankind will not perish for want of information; but only for want of appreciation. The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living. What we lack is not a will to believe but a will to wonder. In radical amazement, the Biblical man faces “the great things and unsearchable, the wondrous things without number” (Job 5:9). He encounters them in space and in time, in nature and in history; not only in the uncommon but also in the common…
We are trained in maintaining our sense of wonder by uttering a prayer before the enjoyment of food. Each time we are about to drink a glass of water, we remind ourselves of the eternal mystery of creation…
Wishing to eat bread or fruit, to enjoy a pleasant fragrance or a cup of wine; on tasting fruit in season for the first time; on seeing a rainbow, or the ocean; on noticing trees when they blossom; on meeting a Sage in Torah or in secular learning; on hearing good or bad tidings - we are taught to invoke His great name and our awareness of Him. Even on performing a physiological function, we say "Blessed be You...who heals all flesh and does wonders...
(“God in Search of Man” by Abraham Joshua Heschel, 1955)
According to this, blessings aren't said in order to please God, but rather in order to invite the Divine to be a part of our daily experience. This is relevant especially when for many the image that tends to come to mind when thinking of God is of a distant, long-bearded wizard sitting up in the sky, expecting us to obey his strange orders, giving out rewards and punishing our failures. On the contrary, one of the ways of viewing God in Jewish tradition is expressed by the name "Hamakom," which means "The Place." In other words, God is viewed as the constant facilitator of our being, the "place" in which life unfolds. In this sense, blessings are considered to be a way of awakening our consciousness to a life that is full of purpose, sensation and wonder.
"…This is one of the goals of the Jewish way of living: to experience commonplace deeds as spiritual adventures, to feel the hidden love and wisdom in all things."
(Abraham Joshua Heschel)
Reprinted fromThe Jewish Religion: A Companion, published by Oxford University Press.
Kiddush is the sanctification of the Sabbath.
On Friday night, when the Sabbath begins, the Kiddush ceremony is carried out before sitting down to the Sabbath meal. A cup of wine is filled and held in the hand by the person presiding, usually but not necessarily the father of the house, and the benediction over...
We’ve done lots of looking backward, but now is the time to think forward. What are we hoping to accomplish in the coming year? What are we afraid of, and what are we excited about? What is one thing we hope to have accomplished by next Rosh Hashanah? Go around the table and lay out some goals for the year to come.
The World of Beriah (Creation) - Fruits that are entirely edible
[Refill the glass so that there is now half red and half white wine. Drink half or more.]
We drink our third cup of wine. We now have half a cup of red wine and half a cup of white - even though the trees will be full and green and their flowers will blossom; so much more is to come.
These fruits can remind...
The World of Asiyah - Fruits and nuts with a hard outside and an edible inside
[Pour a glass of white wine, say the blessing, and drink half or more.]
Although seemingly inedible from the outside, each of the foods eaten at the level of Asiyah, when peeled or shelled, hold gifts that transcend their outward appearance. Like winter, where everything lays dormant and hidden, these...
ASK YOURSELF IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
Like a mini-spiritual workout! You don’t have to answer every question, but tackling a few is impactful.
1) When do I feel that my life is most meaningful?
2) What would bring me more happiness than anything else in the world?
3) What are my three most significant achievements in the past year?
4) What are my biggest mistakes in the past year?
The quintessential Rosh Hashanah treat is apples and honey. Take a sweet, crisp, apple and dip it in some honey. Before eating we say a mini-blessing, hoping that the year to come will be tova umetukah, good and sweet!
Pick up a slice of apple, dip it in honey, and say:
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha'olam borei pri ha-eitz.
We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the...
Jewish meditation can refer to several traditional practices, ranging from visualization and intuitive methods, forms of emotional insight in communitive prayer, esoteric combinations of Divine names, to intellectual analysis of philosophical, ethical or mystical concepts. It often accompanies unstructured, personal Jewish prayer that can allow isolated contemplation, or sometimes the instituted Jewish services. Its...
This is adapted from an original post that I wrote in 2010.
The 10 Days of Repentance represent the window of time in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, during which time we are meant to repent on the sins of the past year. I’ve always found it tough to focus on this and properly bring it down to earth, so I developed this writing exercise to help me through it. It can work for anyone, irrespective of faith....
The Yamim Noraim (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) are here. We’re tasked with reflecting on our lives and practicing teshuvah (returning). Through teshuvah we examine our actions over the past year, seek forgiveness from ourselves, others, and the Divine and dedicate ourselves to do better next year. These sacred days provide an opportunity to ask ourselves the hardest questions and explore all the...
More Clips from Livnot U'Lehibanot
Expanding on the second question, Jewish tradition holds every living thing (and even inanimate objects) as containing a certain amount of wonder, as if there is a secret hiding inside of everything, yearning to be recognized, revealed and even protected. In our tradition, trees are to be respected. Just as there are human rights and animal rights, there are tree rights. For instance, you can't just wantonly chop down a...
Why did our Sages call it Rosh HaShana for the Tree (and not Trees)? This question was not asked in the Talmud, but in one of the earliest Kabbalistic writings, the Zohar. By the way, an interesting fact is that most of the questions, asked by Sages in the Zohar, were answered not by others but by the "asker." The inner Torah teaches that everything we need to know is already inside ourselves. Every time the question is...