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Is a sweet year always good?

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The well-known Rosh Hashanah greeting “Wishing you a good sweet year”, suggests a happy and joyful year ahead, as symbolised by the apple and honey. However, taking this literally, do “sweet” and “good” necessarily go together?
by RABBI PINCHAS ZEKRY | Sep 07, 2017

At this receptive time of the year, the focus is on the spiritual level. However, in accordance with Judaism’s philosophy, Maimonides stresses the interaction between the body and soul. This is the basis of the Rambam’s philosophy of health and medicine.

His approach to this subject is: The body is the home of the soul and the soul guides the body. That means the body and the soul are one unit, which follows the Torah instruction Venishmartem meod lenafshotechem - Take great care unto yourselves.

Thus, as we approach the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe), our introspections to improve ourselves, have to take into consideration both the soul and the body. They cannot be separated.

Some so-called “sweet” items are actually illnesses of society, critically affecting the body and consequently the soul. Take for example, drugs that are becoming socially acceptable and the damage it causes to the individual and the family.

As much as we love our children, how often do we unintentionally expose them to health risks arising from indulgence in sweet and junk foods?

Recently, Israel’s health ministry launched a healthy eating revolution at schools. Only healthy nutrition is allowed into the school and the sale of junk food, sugary snacks and fizzy drinks in the tuck shop, is banned.

Consider too, the widespread consumption of sweet confectionery at birthday parties. In an average class, it’s almost a weekly occurrence.

In addition, how many birthday gifts end up as waste? May I suggest that these gifts be replaced by vouchers of nominal amounts and the child be encouraged by the parents to use them wisely, or donate these to charitable organisations that care for the underprivileged.

When it comes to care for our children, there is also the question of sweet quality time. One psychologist asked the children to draw a picture of the family. One child drew a profile of his parents each with a cell phone on their ear.

Recently an Israeli, Moriah Shapira, a career woman with five children, started a group called “Mothers Unavailable” in which members undertake to switch off their cell phones for two hours in the evening during which time there would be full dedication to the children. This initiative spread rapidly, so much so, that this organisation was renamed “Mothers and Fathers Unavailable”.

Following on the well-known verse “Ki Mitzion Teitzei Torah - Out of Zion shall go forth the law”. Perhaps the example from the land of Zion set by the Israeli Health Ministry and Shapira should be adopted here in South Africa in our home and schools.

I should conclude with a passage from the liturgy of the Yamim Noraim. “Haneshama lach vehaguf paolach chusa al amalach” - The soul is yours and the body is your handiwork take pity on your labour.

Thus, as we enter the year 5778 with a commitment to improve the combination of the soul and the body, may the prayer be indeed acceptable and fulfilled.

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