Full disclosure: I’ve always had food issues.
As a toddler I was often caught gnawing on a stick of butter or hiding green beans in the recesses of my high chair; as a child in Hong Kong, I refused to eat the fragrant Cantonese dishes and opted only for sticky rice. My sophisticated palate however, upon returning to the states, graduated to such delicacies as Campbell’s soup and Swanson’s frozen TV dinners.
As a teen, I became aware of the cruelty involved in the production of animal products and became a sporadic yet zealous vegetarian. As a teen, I also became aware of the cruelty involved in the weight loss culture and nurtured a warped body image. To an adolescent girl in the toxic ’80s, food quickly became the enemy.
Today I consider myself in recovery — daily I am in heated negotiations with breakfast or signing a treaty with lunch or starting a cold war with dinner. The enemy never retreats; I need the enemy to survive. An alcoholic triumphs by avoiding alcohol while the victim of an eating disorder still must eat. So triumph rests on the mantra I am not my weight.
And like Jacob and his hip wrestling with G-d to become Israel, I wrestle with ugly voices from the past whispering a moment on your lips, forever on your hips. But what does any of this odd confession have to do with working at an orthodox Jewish girls’ school?
Well into my second year of teaching at this Yeshiva, I have finally begun to see food as a bracha, a blessing.
It’s common knowledge that observant Jews glorify HaShem, G-d, by following the Halakha, or divine law handed down to Moshe in the Torah and revisited by rabbis for centuries. The literal Hebrew translation of Halakha, incidentally, is “the way to walk” rather than merely “the law.” And one of the beautiful ways they walk is by keeping Kashrut, or eating only what is kosher.
Hence the two microwaves in the faculty lounge where I work — I use the one labeled NOT KOSHER. So when I heat up my tasteless veggie chik’n or leftover kung pao tofu, I get a little reminder from above that I’m breaking G-d’s heart. Or as my students would respond: #funnynotfunny.
Obviously as a follower of Jesus, I accept His death on the cross as a new covenant, one that frees us from the legal obligations to the original Sinai Covenant. To a Jew, that statement is blasphemy; to a Christian, it is freedom. The kind of freedom only Messhiach, or Messiah, could bring as explained in Colossians 2:13-14 and even Jeremiah 31:31.
But that doesn’t mean the Jewish devotion to eating clean and compassionately and with a fear of the Lord isn’t absolutely enchanting — liberating actually — to this woman who was taught to see food as evil.
I’m inspired daily by the passion my Jewish colleagues have for HaShem. Nowhere have I seen such an awareness of His power, His love, His commandments, and His importance than in the presence of our rabbis, our mechanechet, Chumash, Talmud, and derachim teachers, as well as our Israel guidance and other counselors. And while many of my students are still figuring it all out (I mean, they are teenagers), they model the same devotion.
Last May I decided to put together gift bags to encourage my AP English students as they approached the juggernaut of the College Board’s national exam and dreamed of that elusive perfect score of 5. Mini bubble wands, Play-Doh (to shape the number 5), and glow sticks quickly filled each neon bag. Of course, Wrigley’s peppermint Cobalt 5 gum would be perfect… purchased! And promptly returned to CVS because NOT KOSHER, Candice.
How beautiful. How good. How instructive to know G-d cares even about chewing gum. That G-d cares even about what, how, and when we feed our bodies. That G-d cares even about how we treat His animals. That G-d cares even about microwaves.
When I gave birth for the first time, I finally saw my body as powerful, creative, and worthy rather than weak, unruly, and worthless. Witnessing first hand G-d’s people keeping Kashrut has been a similar experience for me — incredibly personal and difficult to capture here in the confines of this web log.
Suffice it to say, I now see food as a means for connecting to G-d, my creator and savior, who blesses me in untold ways. And while I use the lesser microwave at work, I am a greater person for being on that campus. Barukh HaShem, and Thank G-d.
#shanatova #christianity #judaism #yeshiva #kashrut #bodyimage #eatingdisorderawareness #englishteacher