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Parashat Ekev

They came to destroy us. They failed. Let’s eat!

This cycle underpins our very understanding of Judaism.

We proudly boast of our religion centred around food – the caricature of the Jewish mother pictures her feeding three people with two hands, a Jewish grandparent is judged on the quality of their chicken soup.

My family and I are currently in Israel. We have taken the task of sampling everything along the spectrum of Israeli cuisine very seriously.

In many ways, the foodie experience has overshadowed my cousin’s wedding, which I’m pretty sure was the initial reason for the trip.

We’ve eaten at the fishenchips in the Shuk, Jachnun bar, Melach HaFalafel, Crave Restaurant, New Deli, McDonalds, the-classic-icecream-stand-at-the-end-of-the-hike-trail; a tour-de-force of eating like good Jewish men and women, which we plan to bring to a climactic peak at Tmol Shimshol in Jerusalem.

We are happy to brand ourselves as a religion of food, but when it comes to prayer, we are less comfortable with the association. We’d rather be ‘Jews – the people who eat a lot’, than ‘Jews – the people who pray a lot’.

Perhaps there is a reason we feel the Jewish emphasis on food more strongly than its emphasis on prayer.

This week’s parasha contains the origin of the requirement to say Grace After Meals:

“When you will eat, and be satisfied, then you shall bless Hashem, your G-d for the good land which He has given you” (D’varim 8:10)

When one eats a meal with a minyan (ten men), the ‘major zimmun’ prayer is added onto the Grace after meals – however only if seven of those men actually partook in the meal.

The same is not true for prayer – the extra blessings added on for praying with a minyan present require only six of those men to participate in the prayer.

Rabbi Yisroel Salant understands this difference as a message regarding the importance of food. He asserts that it is more important to invite people to eat at your table, to ensure that those around you are fed than to invite your fellow Jews to join you in prayer.

This weekend Hineni madrichim will be on Ideology Sem, where we will come together to discuss our ideology and make sure Hineni is in its best shape for our chanichim, and if I know anything about Hineni, there will be lots of food, and heaps of prayer. Three big meals and lots of snacks in between, combined with three big minyanim a day (Shacharit, Mincha, Ma’ariv), and lots of personal introspection (the equivalent of a snack) in between. I have no doubt that our madrichim will be able to find their spiritual fulfilment in both the prayer and meal times.

So I invite you to rejoice along with the hungry madrichim in our holy relationship with food;

but before you tuck in, make sure the plate next to yours is full as well :)

Shabbat Shalom


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