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Parshas Re'eh - Too Much Sugar Isn't So Good         29 Av 5778

08/10/18 09:25:40


Candy, candy, candy! Every kids’ dream diet. A universal custom in almost every Shul is to have at least one candy man who has a seemingly endless supply of sweets for children of all ages (typically from three until ninety- three). A second universal custom in almost every Shul is the throwing of candy at an aufruf, the Aliyah a groom receives the week before his wedding, or at the Shabbat Chattan which, in the Sephardic tradition, the Chattan is called up to the Torah the Shabbat following his wedding. On a similar vein there is also the custom to throw candy to/at a *bar/bat Mitzva boy or girl. Showering the new groom or the bar/bat mitzvah with sweets is a beautiful way to send a message of happy sweetness as they enter a new, major chapter in their lives. As the anticipation grows for the release of the candies, all the children position themselves to swoop in and grab as much candy as they can hold. Or chew. It is amazing how quickly the floor gets cleaned up. In fact, so quickly that I can’t help but make my usual corny remark, ”We now continue with Yekum Purkan as the grounds’ crew just finished another amazing clean-up.

The annual Shavuos night candy grab is unique at Beth Jacob. Those who do not know about this annual event should make it their business to be at Beth Jacob for Shavuos. I will stop at that. A new custom has sort of arisen at the Shul: a kiddush sponsored celebrating the birth of a baby girl. This ‘new’ tradition includes cupcakes and an accompanying smorgasbord of sweet, spicy, gooey, array of candy choices for kids to load up on. At the most recent kiddush in honor of the birth of a baby girl, I overheard a parent say to her four-year old child, his pockets overflowing with candy, “I think you’ve had enough sugar for today.” Is it any wonder why our children are so charged up? Children have enough natural energy in their bodies without needing a sugar boost to their systems. It is interesting to note how even infants enjoy something sweet. Yet, as we get older our tastes change and sometimes we remark about an icing or cake that “is too sweet”. Ever hear a child say something is too sweet?

The human body begins its constant change from birth. From the moment we are born until the last breath before we die, our bodies are constantly adjusting to our new weight, height and shifting metabolism. We don’t feel the subtle change from day to day, but from one decade of our life to the next we experience a fluctuation in our bodies’ vital signs. The effects of change in life typically do not manifest themselves immediately. The results of a good habit or bad habit are rarely detected early. It takes years before we realize or begin to feel the effects, whether positive or negative. With regard to sugar, most children are not negatively affected by the consumption of sugar as their bodies tend to burn it off. As we age, however, our metabolism slows, requiring more exercise and less intake of sugar in order to burn off enough calories to keep us from gaining weight. Sugar is so sweet, yet can be deadly. So, too, in religious life and the Torah. There are certain issues, tests, and challenges that we face as a people who are sometimes looking for something too good to be true.

In this week’s Parshas Re’eh the Torah states in Devarim 13:2: “Ki Yakum B’Kirbecha Navi O Choleim Chalome, V’Nasan Eilecha Os O Mofeis.”. “This is what you must do when a prophet or a person who has visions in a dream arises among you. He may present you (or predict) with a sign or miracle, and based on that sign or miracle say to you, ‘Let us try out a different god. Let us serve it and have a new spiritual experience.” These verses are the warning against following a false prophet. Despite the possible miracle or great feat they may do in the beginning, one must look at how it all comes out in the end. Rashi explains the two words ‘sign’ and ‘miracle’. The sign refers to a sign in the heavens; the miracle or wonder referring to something on earth. Nevertheless, despite the performance or even validation of a prediction, one shall not hearken to him (the false prophet). The Ramban and others ask, “Why does Hashem grant the false prophet the power to show a sign?” Rashi concludes, ”For Hashem your God uses it to test you, to turn away from the false prophet and follow Hashem.” The Rashbam and Ramban explain that there are a few people who have a special gift to know the future, but a spirit of impurity influences them to prophecy. This was the power of the prophets of the non-Jews such as the magicians and sorcerers in Pharoah’s court. The sefer Torah U’L’Moadim enlightens us that these are the two reasons a person could rationalize something that is the antithesis of Torah, causing him to stray from the true Torah. The two reasons a person strays are (1) misinformation or false wisdom and knowledge and (2)pure desire and craving. These reasons follow the principles of do not follow our eyes and heart, and thoughts based upon falsehoods and desire are born out of apostasy, which the intellect tends to do. The eyes can see the good, but they are simultaneously able to see the bad. We need to be the chochom (sage/wise person) who is able to look to the future and understand what will come based upon decisions made today.

In life, things don’t necessarily emerge in the end looking as good as they did at the beginning. Sugar seems to be a wonderful treat in the beginning but may cumulatively not be good for us later. A Navi Sheker leads a person down a false path while a true Tzadik,or Talmid Chacham, realizes that the end may not seem as sweet as it was at the start. There are times when difficult, unpleasant decisions need to be made before in order to avoid worse outcomes later. Rabbis need to take a stand on certain issues that are viewed as being too harsh, devoid of the sweetness we enjoy. This may result in the Rabbi or leader becoming less popular. Nevertheless he is trying to evade a much worse outcome later down the road.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


The original custom to throw candy at an Aliyah to the Torah was only for a groom as he approaches his marriage, wishing him a sweet new life with a new wife as an additional component. This custom did not originally apply to a bar or bat mitzvah child transitioning from childhood to adulthood. Nevertheless, the custom evolved to include the bar or bat mitzvah as well.

Wed, October 23 2019 24 Tishrei 5780