As we approach Shavuot, I find myself musing on the ironies of life.
On Pesach my daughter started feeling sick. It continued for several weeks, getting worse each week to the point that she began vomiting and having stomach pains etc. We took her to the hospital and she was diagnosed with celiac disease!
Ironic that on the holiday when we eat mainly gluten free, on Pesach, she became sick from the only gluten containing product: the shmura matza that we eat, which is called the matza of faith and the matza of healing!
Then on Pesach sheni (before we knew she had celiac) she again ate matza. And right after Pesach sheni she got severe stomach pains and became really sick.
Ironic again that on Pesach sheni, the day when we davka can eat chametz and matza together, she was unable to tolerate the matza (or the chametz) and became sick.
So what do I make out of all of this? (Besides a lot of gluten free food)
Well, at first I was not sure what to make out of it. My first reaction was: my daughter wont be able to wash and bentch for bread anymore on Shabbos, yom tov or special occasions. It made me sad. (Okay perhaps I will develop one day a gluten free bread from oats and she will be able to but so far I did not manage to do that yet)
And then I thought to myself: well, at least there is gluten free matza. She can still fulfill that mitzvah with oat matza.
But why did Hashem make her ill eating the shmura matza that brings healing!
I suddenly realized that the matza did actually bring her healing, albeit in a mysterious way. If not for eating all that matza, she perhaps would never have realized that she has celiac and perhaps there would have been more damage to her intestines over time. So in reality it was a hidden blessing and the matza itself actually was the catalyst to bring about her healing.
The first part of healing is to recognize when there is a problem so it can be fixed. So in reality the matza did bring healing because if she would not become ill after eating it, we never would even realize she had celiac! In retrospect I now realize she probably had celiac for years but no acute symptoms yet. She has always felt bad eating gluten. So this is a hidden (and actually now a revealed) blessing.
Is it so terrible not to eat gluten? It depends how you look at it. I realized that I was looking at it in the wrong way. To me it felt a bit devastating. (okay, I admit I still find it a bit devastating….) But when I think deeper I realize it is not so awful. In fact, being that the quality of wheat has become so down in the past 40 years or so, I realize that we probably are better off avoiding gluten even without celiac.
And this is part of the real true healing that Hashem does. This is the month of Iyar, Ani Hashem Refoecha. The month where Hashem heals us. And it is not always in the typical way we imagine. Hashem works in mysterious ways.
But part of healing is discovering the problem and doing what it takes to get rid of the problem.
Hashem works through nature but above nature as well.
Why did Hashem make wheat problematic for certain people? I have no idea. I am not privy to that sort of information. But I do see that many people go through many challenges in life and many limitations. Why those situations exist I don’t know….but I guess we can chalk it up to being in galus, in exile. The world has not yet reached perfection.
There are people allergic to dairy, allergic to nuts, allergic to dust, people with asthma, people who cannot eat chicken or meat….so many problems and so many limitations. And I suppose if a person is unable to eat something, they no longer have to elevate that particular thing. It no longer is something their neshomah has to deal with. They already elevated their portion of that.
There is a purpose to everything. And the trick is to see the good in all situations and take everything in stride, with happiness.
Bread has always been a very basic staple in society and it is such an integral part in Judaism. Bread actually holds a revered place in Torah: there are even laws about not throwing bread around, not stepping on crumbs etc. It has to be respected. In the past people actually lived on bread and often very little else! (Yes, bread back then was healthier, was the real deal, not like the “fake” garbage quality breads we eat today)
But I feel like we are moving towards a new era in the world.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe said a sicha once on Parshas Beshalach reflecting an idea connected somewhat to this.
Bread represents Torah, basic torah study, Talmud etc. It is a staple representing the revealed parts of Torah that one must know in order to observe the commandments etc.
Meat is a fatty food and represents the mystical aspects of Torah which are not essential to one’s regular Torah study but they add inspiration and pleasure, rather like fat which adds richness to food. And that is the idea of Chassidus.
That is why, the Rebbe said, when the Jews were in the desert with Moshe Rabbenu their request for bread was proper: scriptural and legal parts of Judaism were the staple diet of the Jew.
The request back then for meat however was inappropriate because before the giving of the Torah it was unnecessary to reveal such secrets.
Now however the mystical teachings of kabbalah and chassidus are a welcome and in fact necessary supplement to one’s usual Torah studies.
And interestingly in our generation, where Chassidus plays such an important role and will actually bring us to the Geula shleima, the complete redemption, we see that so many people are unable to eat bread or gluten and the emphasis is no longer on that. But people are able to eat meat and fat. Paleo and other diets recommend that type of eating in fact. (.And the emphasis in our generation is on the mystical teachings of Torah: a higher aspect of Torah that has only been revealed to us in the latter generations, closer to the time of Moshiach (when the wellsprings above open up and the world is flooded with new knowledge, both Torah knowledge and secular knowledge, including advances in technology, medical cures etc.)
I do see how society reflects what is happening in the spiritual realms. And it must be that spiritually we are moving towards a new direction in life, a new era, the coming of Moshiach and redemption.
It says that before Moshiach it is also the time of greatest darkness.
We see that in agriculture also things have changed and quality has declined: in the past fruits and vegetables and grains were healthy; were grown in a proper healthy manner. Nowadays so many dangerous pesticides are sprayed on our crops, and GMO has become a terrible part of the agricultural world. These are things that are destroying the nature that Hashem created. This is the idea of the down before the greater up, of the darkness before the light.
Part of the redemption process is restoring health to the world and restoring nature to the world as it was intended by the Creator of the world. That means fighting against GMO’s, pushing for organic crops and doing our best to fight the battles that will bring improvement to the world. But the complete healing and improvement will only come when Moshiach arrives. So more than ever we need to pray for Moshiach!
So you see how even gluten and celiac can bring one to pray even more for Moshiach! Everything Hashem does is for the good. May we merit to see the good.
Wishing everyone a chag sameach for Shavuot (the holiday of the bread offering in the Beit Hamikdash! Hmm, well, ironically it will be a gluten free yom tov for my daughter….)
May we all be mekabel the Torah bsimcha and bpnimiyut.
Musing about life
As we approach Shavuot, I find myself musing on the ironies of life.