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Sunday, 3 May 2015

Spiritual Brussels Sprouts

Daf Yomi Kesubos 91

“This gum is my latest, my greatest, my most fascinating invention.  It’s a chewing gum meal!  When I start selling this gum in the shops, it will change everything!  It will be the end of all kitchens and all cooking!  No more buying of meat and groceries!  There’ll be no knives and forks at mealtimes! No plates! No washing up!  No garbage! No mess!  Just a little strip of Wonka’s Magic Chewing Gum – that’s all you’ll ever need at breakfast, lunch, and supper!  This piece of gum I’ve just made happens to be tomato soup, roast beef, and blueberry pie, but you can have almost anything you want!”

As crazy as it sounds, scientists in England have been utilizing nanotechnology to come up with food very much like Willy Wonka’s invention.  If it ever did indeed become a reality, would you give up your prime-rib and fillet mignon for some chewing gum?

There was once a fellow who owed a hundred zuz and died.  He left a parcel of land worth fifty zuz.  The creditor came along to claim it.  The children of the deceased went and paid him fifty zuz (to save the family field).  He then came back to claim the field again (since he was still owed fifty zuz). 
They came before Abaye to rule on the matter. He said to the children, “It is a mitzvah for the children to repay the debts of their deceased parent.  The first fifty you gave was a mitzvah.  The creditor’s new claim is a valid legal claim.”

Everybody loves tradition.  There are millions of people around the world who identify as Jews since they were brought up with certain traditions and they, in turn, pass them on to their children.  Believe it or not, more people do a Passover seder than attend shul on Yom Kippur!  It’s a wonderful tradition and it makes you feel like you belong to something bigger.

It’s great that so many feel an affinity to this great tradition that we have inherited from our parents.  But like Abaye says, inheriting does not only come with rights and benefits, it also comes with responsibilities.  A true heir understands that whatever their parent committed to, for better or for worse, must be seen to.  In terms of spiritual inheritance, it means that tradition is not just about inheriting the fun bits of the religion, it’s about the whole package: all the rights, benefits, and responsibilities. 

When you only take half the package, as sweet as it seems, it’s like having a diet of candy and cake.  Sure, it’s yummy at the start, but you can’t sustain yourself on it forever.  Eventually, you’re going to have to eat your Brussels sprouts and rolled oats if you want to be healthy.

Similarly, just eating the candy of Judaism will taste great to begin with.  But it’s not sustainable and your kids will just end up with a toothache.  Feed them a healthy diet of all five food types of Judaism – the parts they’ll gulp down and the parts they’ll have a harder time to swallow.  At the end of the day, the tradition is a beautiful package of a diet!

The Almighty gave us an incredible, wholesome spiritual diet.  It has sustained us for thousands of years.  May you merit swallowing the entire recipe of tradition and passing it on in all its wholesomeness to your children and grandchildren!