It was Purim two years ago that we first met the
Shwarznegers. We had just moved into the neighborhood and
they very kindly invited us together with our six children,
to join them for the seuda. We enjoyed the food and
the companionship and were not unduly disturbed when
Mr.Shwarzneger urged us to partake of the Chinese salad.
"Do eat some of this, friends; it's steeped in soya and I
read in the paper recently that soya oil is one of the fats
which builds 'good' cholesterol." My wife, innocently but
unwisely, asked if he believed everything he read in the
paper. Using obvious self control, our host replied that of
course he didn't believe everything he read, but
nobody could argue with facts. We changed the subject after
that and the meal concluded merrily and smoothly.
A few days later, I heard that Naftoli Shwarzneger, our new
friend's son, had just got engaged. I happened to see the
father in the street, and crossed the road to wish him Mazel
Tov and also to thank him for a delicious meal on Purim. He
was carrying three trays of eggs which he put down on a stone
fence to shake my hand. "These are organic eggs," he
whispered excitedly, and then added, as if imparting a deadly
secret "We haven't had an egg in the house for years, and
only because of the false information we had, that eggs
increase cholesterol in the blood." He glanced at my blank
face and asked, "Have you never heard of that fact?"
The truth is, I had never given the matter any thought. When
you are touching forty, cholesterol is not really a subject
which bothers you. But Shwartzneger had placed himself into
such a position that apart from stepping out in front of the
flowing traffic, I couldn't move. So I was forced into a
stammered reply, something to the effect that we never ate
more than two eggs a day in our house.
The eggs were balanced precariously on a wall and I thought
that he would knock them over in his agitation. "What!" he
shrieked, and the eggs shook ominously. "I just can't
believe such a thing. Two eggs a day and you have been doing
that for years? Just look at you. You are killing yourself,
man, you mark my words." I looked around and wished there
were a nearby hole into which I could sink. His shriek had
brought the considerable crowd of passersby to a standstill,
and it seemed as if each one of them was gazing at me in
"Yes, indeed!" continued Shwarzneger, making sure his voice
reached out to the great crowd. "Have you never heard of the
mitzvah of venishmarten meod lenafshoseichem"
— that you are obliged to look after yourself? Two
eggs a day! Have you checked your cholesterol level? Have
you had a stress test for your heart? Have they done an
E.K.G? I'm surprised you are still breathing normally. Who
knows what they'll find when you have yourself checked out.
I can visualize the blocked arteries, for sure. Tell me, are
you not in any pain when you walk?" The truth is, I am very
fit, but I just shook my head helplessly.
"Aha, I'm right aren't I? You're just the right age to be in
danger of a severe heart attack. I am in a hurry right now,
but I will keep in touch, as I am right up to date with all
the news in the medical world. I'll help you get out of this
predicament." With that, he picked up his eggs, clearing the
way for me to move on, and for the crowd to disperse.
I remembered his promise that evening, as I climbed the steps
to my flat, on the third floor. This was the first time I
had ever noticed that the steps were rather steep and that I
was breathing heavily. As I got home, I noticed beads of
sweat on my brow, and I decided to phone my new friend right
away, to ask what he would suggest. He was in the middle of
the engagement party, but like a true friend, he left his
guests to come to the phone. "Listen to me. There is no
immediate hurry for medical attention right now. You've come
to the right address. I will call you daily to keep you
updated with all the latest findings in the field of
The evening after that, I was surprised to see that each of
my little children had a cup of coffee standing by their
plate. "Mrs. Shwarzneger phoned with a message from her
husband that he had read an article about caffeine,"
explained my wife. It seems that new research had come to
light that caffeine strengthened the heart muscles. The two
of them were now drinking several cups of coffee a day,
although previously they had shunned the beverage.
On the following day when I asked Shwartzneger about this, he
told me that they had stopped drinking coffee, although they
had drunk it for two days, because researchers in England
claimed that in spite of some opinions that coffee was good
for you, it was addictive. I immediately phoned my wife and
asked her to pour the coffee down the sink. I heard the
children's protests over the telephone, as she carried out my
wishes, which only proved how wise Shwarzneger was. They had
become addicted in one day.
Thus began our introduction to healthy eating and a longer
life expectancy. During the months which followed, we had
salt-free menus for a while, meatless weeks, and a week with
wine to every meal. "You can't argue with facts" our mentor
claimed. "I saw it printed black on white that bitter
chocolate is good for the heart whereas milk chocolate is
not. Sounds strange, but it is a fact." The bitter
chocolate went down well after our daily meat, which
Shwarzneger now assured us was best for the heart. We stopped
eating fish because there was an article about fish being
full of mercury.
It was almost a year later, just before Purim, that my
parents came to visit. My mother commented on our collective
loss of weight. She asked why the children were looking
slightly emaciated: had they been sick? Not in the least, we
hastened to assure the concerned grandparents. While they
were with us I did not contact Shwarzneger at all, and,
rather guiltily, we ate all the forbidden foods, knowing that
the dreaded cholesterol, which we had seemingly banished once
and for all, was creeping up on us.
My parents asked us to spend Pesach with them, as we had not
been there for several years. We accepted their invitation
with alacrity, and over Yom Tov, we regaled them with the
story of our healthy year. They did not argue with facts.
They laughed and laughed uncontrollably. We went back home
but unfortunately, we now lost our new friends who had been
so good to us this past year.