Guess what! We've all been invited to the Succah of one of our most cherished tzaddikim, the Vishnitzer Rebbe shlit'a in Bnei Brak, for the nightly Chol Hamoed celebration that we call, "Simchat Beit HaShoeva", commemorating the holy Chol HaMoed clebrations in our Holy Temple, may it be rebuilt soon, amen. Moadim L'Simcha and Shabbat Shalom!
Succoth begins tonight, Sunday, 23 September, 2018 at sundown. This post, if you follow it, will aid your health and save you from needless holiday weight-gain.
Parenthetically, I don't believe in dieting of any kind - most diets are unhealthy fads that lead to short-term weight loss and long-term frustration, metabolic and/or nutritional imbalance, ailments of all kinds and weight gain. The extremes of Paleo and Primal that tell you to eat all the meat and fat you want but stay away from carbs to total vegan that tells you that an egg, sardine or chicken breast will kill you are not in accordance with Torah and the Rambam's timeless advice on nutrition. But, let's save that discussion for another time. Meanwhile, the best advice is what I call "Ivri", eating just the way our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did. That means eating foods as close to the way Hashem created them, with no interference from food manufacturers and genetic modifiers. With that said, let's talk about Succoth...
In Judaism, Succoth is the annual "joy harvest", where we gather happiness for an entire year. The problem is that with multiple daily festive meals, visiting friends and relatives in their Succas and partying all week long, most people gather pounds in addition to the joy. And, the excess weight eats away at the joy…
But like Rebbe Nachman tells us, there's no despair in the world. Today's Beams might save you from adding two inches to your waistline this Succot. None of us want to go the route of gaining needless weight, so let's do a little holiday-eve preparation with this food for thought:
The perenniel post-holiday problem of many Jewish people is the added calories, pounds, flab, and cholesterol of a week of eating and rejoicing in the Succa. As the Beams is committed to the health of body, mind, and soul, we've composed a few guidelines to combat the expanding Succoth waistline.
Beware of empty calories: empty calories come from nutrient-scant foods, especially manufactured products, fast food and junk food. Stick to what I call nutrient-dense foods, where you get the most nutrients from each calorie consumed. Here, the winners are fresh vegetables, fresh foods and naturally dried (not roasted or salted) seeds and nuts. Nutrient-scant foods (cakes, pastries, sweets, soft drinks and liquor) are outright dangerous to the body.
Beware of the cakes: Many people want to make a blessing on the Succa every time they enter it. But, one really shouldn't make a blessing unless he eats something. For that reason, many folks eat cake ("mezonos", at a minimum amount of a little over and ounce) so they can say the "Leshev B'Succa" blessing, the blessing to sit in the Succa. If a person eats 2 ounces of cake 3 times a day, that adds another 840 calories to his daily intake. The Melitzer Rebbe shlit'a says that one should make a "Leshev B'Succa" blessing only when eating a proper meal that includes washing your hands and breaking bread. So, don't eat cake for the purpose of making a blessing to sit in the Succa. If a person eats 3 average-sized portions of cake a day for the 9 (outside of Israel, 8 in Israel) days of the Succoth/Simchat Torah holiday, he'll gain more than two pounds. We suggest eating sliced fresh carrots or sliced green apples instead of the cake.
Beware of the liquor: Many people make a "Lechayim" every time they visit the Succa of a friend and relative. In Israel, quite a few people that barely touch alcoholic beverages all year long keep them on hand to serve guests, and end up toasting glass-per-glass with the guest. A one-ounce shot of vodka or 86-proof Whiskey is 70 calories, while an ounce of a 72-proof liqueur such as Kahlua or Banana Liqueur is a hefty 117 calories. 3 "Lechayims" a day is enough to pick up another half pound during the week of the holiday. Adding that to the cakes (see above), you've already gained 2.5 pounds during Succoth. Putting the weight on is so much easier than taking it off.
Beware of sweet beverages: Succoth is a time when parents allow the Pepsi and the Coke to flow freely all week long. Now hear this - an 8-ounce glass of Coke Classic is a whopping 97 calories, just as caloric as the equivalent amount of beer or of a slice and a half of bread. A person that drinks 6 glasses of cola a day will gain almost a pound on Succoth, plus wreck his teeth in the process. We suggest that you reach for the mineral water, sparkling water, or herb tea instead, for they have zero caloric value.
Beware of snacks: People like to munch in the Succa. We all know that you can't eat one Frito or potato chip - therefore, those plastic bags empty fast. One ounce of fritos, potato chips, or our Bamba and Bisli add another 160 calories to your calorie-aglore score. If a person drinks two glasses of cola and consumes two ounces of snack foods a day, he'll gain over a pound during Succoth. Again, fresh carrot and cucumber sticks are a virtually non-cloric and healthy replacement for the junky snack foods. And, if you want something sweet, try Madjool dates or dark chocolate that's 85% cocoa or more, but limit yourself to 2 dates or 2 chocolate squares a day.
So, with the cakes, the l'chayims, the cokes and the snacks alone - without the heavy meals that include kugel and fat meats, you've already gained close to 5 pounds. And, if you drink diet beverages and use artificial sweeteners, you might not gain the weight but you'll be likely to suffer from headaches and anxiety.
True, tradition is important; that is, as long as it doesn't ruin your health. Here at the Brody homestead, whole-grained rice, buckwheat groats and quinoa have replaced fried farfel and oil-dripping kugel. We don't fry, but broil and bake. We eat loads of veggies and fresh fruit, and drink local mineral water. Fish and lean poultry have replaced the lamb and veal, and we eat beef sparingly. Dessert is homemade applesauce, fresh cantaloupe cubes, a square of 85% (minimum) chocolate or an almond-stuffed fresh date. Our bread is home-baked and whole-grain, preferably spelt with minimal or no yeast. We want to control what enters our bodies; the manufacturers care about making money, not about our health. That's why we don't buy their products. Our bodies weren't designed to digest the myriad of chemical additives and preservatives that they force-feed us.
The Rambam gives an important reminder - don't eat until you're full. The stomach resembles a washing machine - if you overload it, it can't do the laundry. By the same token, an overloaded stomach can't digest, resulting in indigestion, another common Succoth ailment.
A great way to combat the the expanding Succoth waistline is to walk for an hour a day. Better yet, while you're walking, talk to Hashem in personal prayer. That way, your body gets its exercise and your soul gets its nourishment, that is none other than connecting with Hashem. What could be better? Breslev Israel and the Beams wish you a happy and healthy Succoth with no indigestion and no expanding waistline, amen.
No, it has nothing to do with this ice cream cone. What a shame.
Do you have any idea how hard it is to type with one hand? But that little guy dressed in a skin-tight metallic red jumpsuit who likes to sit on my left shoulder and whisper all kinds of evil world domination plans in my ear won't leave me alone. He said I must finish that second ice cream cone. OR ELSE.
If only the hack was a really cool way to get through the fast without being hungry, thinking about food, having your brain feel like it's gonna explode because it can't get its daily caffeine fix, and getting cranky and irritable because you're all of the above. And really hot. Silly readers, I meant sweaty hot! I don't know whatchu look like!
That would be the BEST. HACK. EVER.
Well, what I'm about to share with you is almost as good, if not better.
So check it out.
Yom Kippur is known as the Day of Atonement, when Hashem forgives us for all of our sins against Him over the past year. You know, it kind of reminds me of what it's like to be a mom. Like, a mom knows her kids are going to do the same stupid nonsense a split second after they apologize. But she forgives them anyway and pretends to believe that they've learned from their mistakes and her punishment. That way, the kids feel better.
But, uh, uh. Mommy ain't no fool. She knows her kids are going to test her again. And again. And again. AND AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN UNTIL SHE HAS TO TAKE A TIME-OUT AT TARGET!!!!! AHHHHHHH!!!!
G-d I LOVE Target!
Truth is, I like Walmart better. But let's save that debate for another time.
Yes, Hashem sure is forgiving. Let's be honest. We don't deserve His forgiveness, and we certainly don't deserve His continued blessings every single second of our lives. He could have continued on just fine without us, but no. He wanted to give us a chance to enjoy being His creations.
Back to the Day of Atonement.
Yom Kippur is also the day when the judgments from Rosh Hashana are signed, sealed, and sent off for the next 365-day cycle of Prime Heavenly Shipping.
So what's the hack already?!
As Rav Brody has said millions of times, there's no double jeopardy in the Heavenly Court. If you confess to a sin, they can't charge you upstairs for it, because your confession has already gone straight up to Hashem Himself, who forgives all sins against Him.
What if we do one better?
What if we also THANK Hashem for all of our blessings on Yom Kippur?
Wouldn't that bring an even more favorable judgment??
Confessing and repenting are mandatory because that's the way we're supposed to ask for forgiveness and another chance.
But what do we do on Yom Kippur to bring ourselves an even greater abundance of blessings?
As far as I know (and I could be wrong because it's happened once in the past,) there is no formal prayer of thanks in the Yom Kippur machzor. Of course, I haven't looked through it in a year, so it could be that I'm wr-wr-wrong. Yuck.
Rav Arush teaches that expressing our gratitude is the best way to keep our blessings coming. So why not express your gratitude even more profusely on the day that your case is being decided?
C'mon. Tell me that's not an awesomely genius super-brilliant mind-blowing hack.
Just remember one thing, people. When your year, G-d willing, is amazing beyond belief, remember me. Give credit where credit is due. And send me some flowers or Adidas anything.
Wishing you all a G'mar Chatima Tova! May you all be inscribed in the Book of Life and enjoy a sweet year filled with every blessing your hearts desire!
We at the Beams offer our deepest condolences to the family of Ari Fuld, who was stabbed to death by a terrorist earlier this week. May his courage, drive, and passion to stand up for truth and Torah values continue to shine. He will be greatly missed.
Tonight and tomorrow, Tuesday night and Wednesday, are Yom Kippur.
A person can't make teshuva with a clogged heart. To help us all unclog our hearts, here are two of my favorite "Yitzchaks", Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot and violinist Yitzchak Perlman with their rendition of Kol Nidre. Close your eyes and listen to the melody, and you'll feel the innermost spark of your neshama yearning to return to Hashem. Enjoy it, and may Hashem bless you with the most meaningful and very best Yom Kippur of your life, amen!
Fasting doesn’t necessarily mean suffering. There’s quite a bit we can do to alleviate the bodily and mental stress that normally accompanies a fast. Today, the day before the fast, follow the following guidelines:
1. Cut down your caffeine intake to minimize headaches. That means stop drinking coffee, tea, and cola at least eight hours before the fast, and preferably twenty-four hours before the fast.
2. Avoid salty, spicey, and fried foods on the day before the fast.
3. Avoid white sugar, white flour, and white rice. Eat whole-grained foods such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread or challa.
4. Drink a lot of water all day long.
5. Eat a good breakfast that includes fruits, veggies, eggs or sardines, and whole grains.
6. The pre-Yom Kippur meal (se'uda mafseket) should include baked or broiled fish, a veggy salad, consomme, a small portion of chicken or turkey, and a side dish of complex carbohydrates such as kasha or quinoa. Substitute sweet deserts with watermelon or other water-retaining fresh fruit, and a cup of herb tea with a whole-grain cookie.
On Yom Kippur:
7. The more you immerse yourself in prayer, the less you'll think about food.
8. Rest between prayers. Don’t run around outside, especially in the hot sun. Save your voice for prayers. Idle talking will make you thirstier, and will detract from the holiness of the day.
After the fast:
9. Drink two glasses of water, and then eat solids gradually, so as not to shock the digestive system. Begin with fruit, like plums or grapes. The worst thing people do is to consume pastries and soft drinks, or “lekach un bronfan” (cake and liquor) right after the fast (these are unhealthy anytime, all the more so right after the fast when they give your body a shock of glucose).
10. Forty-five minutes to an hour afterwards, one can eat a balanced meal with protein, complex carbohydrates, and vegetables. After eating, relax for an hour with your favorite book (preferably Gemara of the laws of Succoth from Shulchan Oruch) and your favorite beverage, then begin constructing your Succa.
Attention diabetics, heart patients, folks with high blood pressure, and people whose health depends on regular medication - you must be especially careful to ask your doctor if you are capable of fasting, and then consult with your local rabbi, giving him the doctor's exact opinion. For many such people, it is a mitzva not to fast on Yom Kippur.
The Israel Cancer Association recommends that cancer patients not fast without approval from their physicians. Fasting could cause considerable discomfort in cancer patients, who need a lot of liquids to alleviate side effects of chemotherapy. Again, first consult the doctor and then the rabbi. Give the rabbi all the details that you received from the doctor.
Don't let children (boys under the age of 12 or girls under the age of 11) be overzealous. Make sure they eat on time.
With G-d's blessing and the above guidelines, you'll have an easy fast. May all of us be signed and sealed in the Book of Long and Happy Lives for the best year ever, amen!