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Parashat Re’eh – Living Life in Moderation


The marshmallow test is one of the most famous pieces of social-science research: Put a marshmallow in front of a child, tell her that she can have a second one if she can go 15 minutes without eating the first one, and then leave the room. Whether she’s patient enough to double her payout is found to be indicative of a willpower that will pay dividends down the line, at school and eventually at work. Passing the test is a promising signal of future success.

Self control and delayed gratification are an important theme that we find throughout the Torah.

We find it in the Parasha this week when the Torah writes:

“When you say, ‘I wish to eat meat,’  because you crave meat, you can eat meat to the full desire of your soul.”

Here the Torah continues to caution us; If you have a craving or desire, be vigilant, because it is possible for your entire personality to become preoccupied with eating meat.

Meat and foods in general are only one of the seemingly endless categories through which a person can enter into a downward spiral of addiction.

Even something which is permissible is subject to being abused and may lead to overindulgence. Gluttony, alcoholism and drug addiction are reprehensible, and in fact, when the Torah wishes to describe the depravity of the rebellious son, it refers to him as a glutton and imbiber of alcohol.

Physical desires that are readily gratified do not remain satiated for long, and unless a person shows restraint, physical cravings can totally consume a persons life.

Rabbi Moshe Ben Nahman (Spain, 1194-1270) interpreted the imperative “You shall be holy” to mean that one should avoid overindulgence, because it can lead to becoming a hedonistic glutton, totally consumed with gratifying every physical craving while technically not transgressing the rest of the Torah. Therefore, the Torah direct us to enjoy the physical pleasures in life. Indeed, that was G-d’s first command to man: “From every fruit of the Garden of Eden you shall eat!” but do so in moderation.

~ Rabbi Haim Shaul