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Parshas Eikev - It's Good to the Last Drop & Extend Your Life         22 Av 5778

08/03/18 08:52:54


I am one of millions of people worldwide who enjoy a hot cup of coffee in the morning. Saying a Bracha before the first sip only creates a greater anticipation of that satisfying taste and feel. The extent of excitement for the first sip is equal to the depth of disappointment when taking the very last sip. Even though the anticipation for taking that first sip is radically different than the realization that the last sip is about to occur, both are equally tasty and desirable in their own way. Some people drink coffee for its taste while others drink it for the jolt or pick up needed to become fully awake to face the day. This week, I asked someone who at the time was drinking black coffee if he took sugar or any sweetener. He replied, “I don’t even like coffee; it just helps me wake up in the morning.”

I’m not a collector of pins, refrigerator magnets or mugs, but I do enjoy reading the messages on them. Some are cute but others convey deep meaning and insight. The other day I noticed a coffee mug that read ‘A Good Day Is Ahead, First Coffee’. That statement tells a lot about a person, his need for that cup of coffee and the accompanying outlook regarding his day. The phrase could imply that just one cup of coffee in the morning provides positive physical or mental health. Scientists are constantly researching and studying the effects of different foods and beverages, evaluating whether they are beneficial or harmful to our health. An article appeared in the July 2nd issue of Healthy Day News. stating that people having a morning cup of java -- and another and another -- might prolong your life. In fact, drinking lots of coffee – as much as eight or nine cups a day - was associated with a lower risk of early death. Furthermore, to reap the benefit, it makes no difference if your coffee is decaf or caffeinated, instant or brewed! "This study may provide reassurance to coffee drinkers," said lead researcher Erikka Loftfield, an epidemiologist at the U.S. National Cancer Institute. But Loftfield cautioned that because this was an observational study, it be stated that coffee caused people to live longer. However, the researchers did conclude that people who drank eight or more cups of coffee a day had a 14 percent lower risk of dying over a 10-year period of study compared with those who did not drink coffee. The Mayo Clinic reports that recent studies have generally found no connection between coffee and an increased risk of heart disease or cancer. In fact, some studies have found an association between coffee consumption and decreased overall mortality, possibly including cardiovascular mortality, although this may not be true in younger people who drink large amounts of coffee.

Why the apparent reversal in the thinking about coffee? Earlier studies didn't always consider that known high-risk behaviors, such as smoking and physical inactivity, tended to be more common among heavy coffee drinkers. Studies have shown that coffee may have health benefits, including protecting against Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes and liver disease, including liver cancer. Coffee also appears to improve cognitive function and decrease the risk of depression.

The benefits of long life give us more opportunity to learn Torah, perform more Mitzvos and increase the good in the world by contributing to it. One major commandment for attaining long life is honoring parents. The Mitzva of honoring one’s mother and father was read last Shabbos in VaEschanan, but the reward of long life is mentioned in this week’s parsha Eikev which records the second paragraph of Shema. It states in Parshas Eikev, Devarim 11:21 “L’Maan Yirbu Yimeichem Vimei B’Neichem Al Ha’Adama Asher Nishba Hashem La’Avoseichem Laseis Lahem, imei HaShamayim Al HaAretz”: “If you do this (honor your mother and father), you and your children will long endure on the land that God swore to your ancestors, promising that He would give it to them as long as the heavens are above the earth”. In reality, the reward for long life is mentioned by the commandment, the extension of life mentioned here is to be in the land of Israel. Is there a connection between reciting of the Shema and long life?

The Shema declares the relationship between Hashem and the individual Jew and vice versa. This relationship is then transmitted from one generation to the next by teaching Torah every step of the way during our lifetime. The emphasis on following and observing Mitzvos strengthens the connection we have to Hashem and to our future generations. The sav Sofer explains the comparison of the days of heaven to the land of Israel. Eretz Yisrael is a holy place, thereby encouraging readiness to serve Hashem. For this reason it is meritorious to live in Israel in order to more easily connect to God. The Torah testifies that the Land of Israel is an atonement for those who dwell upon it. There is an influence that the land has on the people and the people have on the land. If the Jews observe the Torah in Eretz Yisrael it adds blessing to the land from which, in turn, the people benefit. The Ksav Sofer, Reb Shmuel Sofer, lived in the nineteenth century in Pressburg, far from the land of Israel. I have no doubt that the lesson of fulfilling the Torah helps establish a sanctity to a place, bringing blessings to the people who live there. The length and expanse of heaven is great, providing rain for the growth of the land which provides sustenance and life, influencing the people who benefit from it. There is a continuity from one generation to the next of passing down the traditions and teachings of the Torah. The words and teachings from the earlier generations are identical in taste and sweetness to the latter generations.

We recite Shema twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. The morning Shema is not better or more powerful than the evening one, nor is the evening Shema more powerful than the Shema recited in the morning. They equally reinforce the bond and relationship we and our children have to Hashem. This is analogous to the first and last sip of coffee and to the first and last cups of the day. The health benefits extend the entire day, impacting all the days of a person’s life. As we acquire the taste for a good cup of coffee, we cherish every sip. As the saying from Maxwell House states, “It’s good to the last drop.” This quote not only applies to coffee; perhaps its source stems from the delicious taste of Torah. From the very first words to the very last words of Torah a person learns in this world, every single taste of learning Torah forms the Elixir of Life!

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Wed, October 23 2019 24 Tishrei 5780