Parashat Va'et'hanan

Guard Yourselves Very Well

The Torah requires us to eat and live healthfully and responsibly.

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Eating Right

The Torah teaches us to choose life (Deut. 30:19). The decisions we make must enhance our ability (and the ability of others) to live in this world as healthy physical and spiritual beings.

The Sages throughout the generations internalized this concept very deeply both in the way they lived their own lives and in the way they guided others to live. An example of this is Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, where he enumerates various situations in which a person is not allowed to eat specific foods or drinks out of fear that there may be poison in them. How would Maimonides react today to the myriad of foods found in supermarkets that contain residues of multiple pesticides, or in other words, remnants of poison?

Confronting this issue on a very practical level, we know that it is quite difficult to avoid eating any non-organic food. If we are financially able, we can commit to bringing only organic food into our homes, but even so, once we step outside our front door, the control we have over our food is not always what we would like it to be.

Therefore, to say that the Torah would prohibit eating non-organic food, like it is prohibited to eat pig, is, of course, illogical and unfounded. The Torah would never demand something of us that could not be fulfilled. But, to say that the Torah would release us from all responsibility of healthy eating and living is just as unfounded.

"You shall guard yourselves very well." God cares a great deal about how we treat our bodies, about how we grow our food, and about the kind of food we choose to eat. Through our modern-day application of this ancient wisdom, we have the ability to transform ourselves and the world into greater and stronger vessels to help further the process of universal redemption, may we experience it soon in our days.

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Akiva Gersh

Akiva Gersh has been working in the field of Jewish education since 1998, including teaching Jewish environmental studies and directing Jewish summer programs. He currently works at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel program where he teaches Jewish history to visiting high school students from the United States.