The Price of Overindulgence on the Chaggim

Colorful gummies
Colorful gummies

This is a guest post by Sorelle Weinstein, who is Communications Director of Chabad of Riverdale in New York. She has edited over sixty published works over the course of her career. Visit FlowingPens to view her edited works and read her blog “Double Take.”

The morning after Purim, I woke up to the sound of a chair being dragged across the kitchen floor. Apparently the top shelf of the cabinet was not the best hiding place for the bulging bags of Purim candy. My daughter was not deterred. Candy bars falling out of her pockets, she told me sheepishly she just wanted to “see something.” It took me a few minutes to recover from feeling initial anger at her deception. Finally composed, I shared with her that I too had stood on many chairs in my childhood and I too snuck candy into my pockets.

Who’s to Blame?

The gift-giving, costume-wearing, treat-distributing holiday of Purim had produced a sensory overload in my children that was impossible to ignore. But who is to blame? The children? The minute the treats entered the house their tongues began to salivate. If they HADN’T gone on a hard target search for their candy, it would have been a REAL shock.

Some may say, “It’s just a bit of fun.” or “It’s just one day out of the year.” But are we really talking about merely this one day? Are we more health conscious on Chanukah with our oil-soaked donuts and fried latke binges? Are we that careful on Shavuot with our chocolate peanut butter cheesecakes? How much food do we prepare each week for Shabbat and the six-course meals for dinner, lunch, and seudah shlishit?

Do we truly show our children that all things are better in moderation?

The Paradox

In today’s world, we enjoy a heightened consciousness of the importance of a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Many of us are making great strides in our fitness and running regimes and are embarking on new lifestyles that promise us improved health and appearance. But it seems to me that there is a disconnect in the message that we transmit to our children.

Can we say, as Orthodox Jewish parents, that we are working hard enough to educate our kids about the commandment to look after our bodies?

Food for Thought

Our Jewish calendar is replete with holidays whose names conjure up thoughts of excessive baking, eating, and sitting around the table all day. It seems like an almost impossible feat to incorporate health, moderation, and mindfulness into our holiday observance. But if we are truly to teach the next generation about the importance – nay, the mitzvah – of a healthy attitude toward food, then we will need to rethink the way we approach eating over the holidays, and prioritize our children’s health over our desire to maintain the status quo that we justify in the name of tradition and keep up with the Goldbergs.

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4 Responses

  1. Jennie Rosner says:

    hey girl, that is awesome, and we completely agree, dani and i were literally having the exact same conversation, happens to be about pesach, last night…ours was more focused on the financial burden all these holidays put on people, but the idea was the same…the jewish holidays are absolutely beautiful, they are meant to remember, teach, remind, and enjoy…they are NOT meant to overeat, overindulge, and overspend for NO REASON…in the torah they were celebrated by the gathering of friends, families, and communities to bring Korbanot…am i denying that a holiday meal is important, never, but you can have kiddush, challah (or hamotzi as the case may be) and a SIMPLE meal that is absolutely BEAUTIFUL, without overcooking, overeating, or overspending…who instituted the idea that one must have a 10 course meal with a thousand sides and salads and appetizers and desserts…any one of us can stop that nonsense, but we would most likely be shunned from the community, or labeled as “the ones that don’t cook enough for guests” because now everyone expects absolute gluttony, even as they jokingly say…oh my G-d you cooked enough for an army, or, you sure you cooked enough…
    thanks for putting the truth out there :)

    let’s start a new community where we see judaism for what it is, an absolutely beautiful religion with really beautiful laws, and practice them the way they were intended to be practiced…

    love ya sweetie, be well

  2. Orna says:

    A very well articulated post! I agree with you Jennie, how we can still make shabbat and the chaggim ‘mechubad’ without the absolute gluttony that is sadly expected nowadays.

  3. trilcat says:

    Crazy thing is that I gave out trays of cut vegetables and techina, and parent after parent told me that their kids absolutely gobbled through them. Apparently, kids do actually get sugared-out on Purim.
    (I mean, finger food, dipping, nice colors all help, but kids who are anti-vegetable won’t eat them anyway)

  4. Sorelle says:

    Jennie – I agree with every word. What may have started as a desire to beautify shabbat and chagim has devolved into a competition where a successful meal is one that boasts the most elaborate and sophisticated dishes and desserts in a desire to impress. The negative consequences are far-reaching. We are over-spending, we are so caught up in the preparation that unless you have a housekeeper/chef in your employ to ease the burden, you spend all week cooking. In order to justify all the work and preparation we have put into this ONE meal, we need to invite more than one couple to make all the toil and labor worthwhile. By the time the meal rolls around, you are exhausted and can barely focus on your friends around the table who, very frequently, whether consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally, will be judging the meal by the amount of courses and quality of silverware. And we are teaching our children that anything less than 4 main courses and 5 side dishes smacks of inadequacy. It’s a distortion of the original point, and as you said, total nonsense. Love you xx

    Leah – your Mishloach Manot looked awesome, and as you said, I am not surprised that there were kids who were downright grateful for something other than the usual junk.

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