We Are What We Eat? We Are How We Eat

5 min read

We are what we eat. We are how we eat. We are the way we manage everyday behavior that can easily spiral out of control, breaking the biblical prohibition: “But take utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously” (Deuteronomy 4:9). We are commanded by G-d to take the utmost care of the body that houses the soul.

Maimonides writes that when the body suffers, the soul cannot achieve its great heights. Sickness is often consumptive; it wastes the time G-d gives to each of us and further distracts from focusing on other more important matters, perhaps something “for the sake of Heaven.” Our faith demands that health must be of supreme personal concern, and one of the markers of good health is food consumption or restraint.

Spin it how you’d like… add your own “flavor” to it, but truth is we really do become what we eat. There have been alot of scientific studies to sustain that what we eat becomes a part of our cells and body over a certain period of time. “If you consume hot and spicy food, there’s a greater chance that you will be hot headed,” a Harvard study suggests. Nutrients from the foods we eat provide the foundation of the structure, function, and wholeness of every little cell in our body, from the skin and hair to the muscles, bones, digestive and immune systems. A poor diet has been proven as a cause of conditions such as mental health disorders, hypertension, heart and blood vessels diseases, obesity, and diabetes.

What about animals that are abused or not ritually slaughtered, any “spiritual health” impacts?

The Lubavitcher, Rebbe, R. Menachem Mendel Schneerson once stated, “The food a person eats transforms into his very flesh and blood. One’s character is therefore shaped by what he allows into his mouth. Consuming the meat of a predatory animal, for example, ingrains the trait of cruelty into one’s chemical makeup. This tampers not only with his emotional instincts, but also with his intellectual faculties, clouding his ability to properly comprehend G-dly wisdom.”

According to Kabbalah, everything which we consume not only becomes part of us physically, but also spiritually. The food or drink which we consume affects us on a spiritual plane, on a soul-level, influencing our character and affecting our natural tendencies.

If we take a look at the kosher animals, for example, deer, sheep and cows, we find that they are naturally timid, modest, non-predatory, quiet animals. The birds which are kosher are those which are not birds of prey. We see that at the simplest level the characteristics of kosher animals are those that we would seek to emulate -peaceful, modest, non-predatory, “civilized” creatures.

What happens to digested food?

The small intestine absorbs most of the nutrients in your food, and your circulatory system passes them on to other parts of your body to store or use. Special cells help absorbed nutrients cross the intestinal lining into your bloodstream. Your blood carries simple sugars, amino acids, glycerol, and some vitamins and salts to the liver. Your liver stores, processes, and delivers nutrients to the rest of your body when needed. You have nerves that connect your central nervous system-your brain and spinal cord to your digestive system and control some digestive functions.

How do we connect to our Creator by eating?

Whenever we eat something mindful of our Creator and divine purpose, our act of eating acts as a connection to Above. The energy we receive from that food itself becomes elevated into that higher purpose. On the other hand, if we just eat that food because we are hungry, with no inner intent, we and the food remain just another chunk of this fragmented world.

How it works with kosher food?

Kosher means “fit for use.” This food is fit for eating because it can be elevated through the right kind of eating. That’s why it is also called mutar in Hebrew, which means “untied.” It’s not tied down to being just another material thing. Through your proper eating, it can become a divine offering.

Some of these animals reflect this spiritual negativity in their actual nature and behavior. So Nachmanides speaks of the negative character traits imbibed with the flesh of non-kosher species. In addition, in many cases, what is not healthy for the soul is also clearly not healthy for the body, as well. So we have nutritionists confirming that a kosher diet is more healthy.

As for cruelty to animals, this is something expressly forbidden by the Torah.

In a case where there is direct human benefit, we are permitted to take an animal’s life. Even then, it must be done as compassionately as possible.

The Torah gives us ways to elevate this otherwise routine aspect of our lives, to infuse it with holiness, and to learn from it. Whether Jew or Noahide, all humanity can take a lesson from this.

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