Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

4 Nissan 5765 - April 13, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Home and Family

Here We Go Again

by Bayla Gimmel

I once heard someone relate a theory about weight gain. A study classified people into two groups. The members of the first group were those who tend to consider each meal as a unit. The second group consisted of people who consider food a continuum.

Let's say, for example, that today's lunch consists of a tuna sandwich cut diagonally into two triangular portions, a pickle, a serving of coleslaw and a cup of coffee. Now suppose a group-one person is eating this meal. As she is halfway finished with the second tuna triangle, her phone rings. She would put down her remaining quarter sandwich and go to answer the phone. After hanging up, she would resume her meal. A group-two person would react differently. If her phone rang when she was holding a quarter of a sandwich in her hand, she would stuff it into her mouth, chew it rapidly and swallow it as she walked to the phone. After the phone call, she would make another sandwich and start all over again.

The group-one person was satisfied with the one sandwich she thought of as "lunch." The group-two person consumed two sandwiches but she wasn't necessarily satisfied. She did not consider the sandwich/pickle/coleslaw/coffee as a unit called lunch that has a start and an end. She might have continued eating for an extended period of time.

The conclusion of this study was that group-one types are prone to average or below average weight while group-two people tend to be overweight, if not obese.

Boruch Hashem, we have access to more food than our ancestors ever dreamed of. As we sit around a Shabbos table or participate in a simcha, the bread, salads, vegetables and rice are passed around numerous times and sometimes there are even seconds on the chicken or meat. It is very easy to become a group-two person. Indeed, overweight is a common problem.

HaRav Shlomo Brevda shlita suggests a simple way to deal with the overabundance in today's materialistic society. He says we should take a plate, fill it with a reasonable helping of each of the foods on the table, eat what is on our plate and not take more of anything.

In other words, you can fight materialism. It isn't easy, but you can train yourself to be a group-one individual.

I have a friend whose weakness is nuts. Not the ones you see in the local seed store. She likes the American salted, roasted-in-oil fancy nut assortment that comes in a can and has about two meals' worth of calories in each cup. Whenever my friend sits down at an American simcha and there is a bowl of glistening oily salted nuts in the middle of the table, she turns to a neighbor and says, "Could you please pass the nuts — down to the other end of the table." Out of sight is also out of reach.

There was a successful anti-drug-abuse program in the States called "Just Say No" that encouraged teens and young adults who were offered marijuana and other illicit drugs to forcefully decline the offer with a resounding, "No!" We can and should say, "No" to many of the things that are being foisted upon us by businesses using highly successful marketing techniques.

Let me give you one example. When we lived in the States, our boys wore suits on Shabbos because that was the style there. American boys looked like miniature men in white shirts, ties and either two- or three-piece black suits modeled on the ones their fathers were wearing. When there is a certain mode of dress that is universally accepted in a community as being appropriate for honoring Shabbos, everyone conforms to that standard.

When we moved to Israel, I was delighted to find that my eight-year-old son could wear a white shirt, dark slacks and a knitted vest or a sweater on Shabbos. He didn't need a suit jacket at all. The local standard did not require one. Furthermore, all of the parts of the acceptable Shabbos outfit were washable.

It was wonderful. No expensive suits and no dry cleaning bills. I told all of my friends in the States that this was the life: low tuition, affordable health care and inexpensive children's Shabbos wear that went from the washing machine to the clothesline and back to the closet.

Unfortunately, this is changing. Recently, I passed a store with a window full of what looked at first glance like very, very small men's suits and ties. I came to a sad realization. No, they hadn't made a group of miniature men's suits for a cute window display. They were importing children's suits just like the ones that American boys wear. With it, they were importing a higher standard of living. These suits are very costly to buy and to maintain.

There is the initial price of several hundred shekel, the cost of shaatnez testing, and then week after week of dry cleaning bills. To add insult to injury, it is very common to realize at three o'clock Friday afternoon when all of the children are coming out of the bathtub that the suit is at the cleaner's and the cleaner's store has closed!

That comes at a cost of emotional wear and tear on Mommy, Tatty and everyone else who is within 80 decibel range of the little suit wearer. When I looked in the window, I was sorely tempted to walk up and down in front of the store with a sign reading, "Parents, Just Say No!"

However, it is only by experiencing, first hand, a society where the standard of living keeps ratcheting up—- higher and higher, year by year—-that a person can realize the evils of materialism.

Americans can say, "Been there; did that," but Israelis have not yet reached that level. Fortunately, Israel is still a few decades behind America in conspicuous consumption, and this is one race that we do not want to win.

I remember once, back in the States, I thought I had beaten the system. I found a department store mail catalog that offered 100% polyester boys three-piece suits that were machine washable but looked exactly like the dry-clean-only wool ones, and I bought them for my four youngest sons. One of them was wearing his new suit and walking to shul with a neighbor who was also a classmate. The other boy noticed my son's new suit and made the following comment, "It's a pity — you have so many brothers and your parents have to buy you cheap suits."

You may be thinking, "My child would never make such a comment," but I must tell you that this budding fashion commentator was the grandson of a prominent rabbi—-a leader in the field of chinuch, at that! When the system breaks down, it goes down right across the spectrum. No one is immune.

We would all be wise to remember Rav Brevda's wise advice. Take a reasonable portion of the material goodies out there and don't allow yourself to come back for more.


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