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ISLAMIC AND JEWISH FASTING: A Holy and Spiritually Healthy Diet

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Lack of self discipline will soon put more Americans in a hospital than all infectious diseases combined. About one third of the of the 600,000 Americans who died from various types of cancer last year, died due to their own life style behavior. Smoking, over eating and drinking, and physical inactivity did them in. The same set of self indulgences also afflicted those who died from heart disease last year.

The lack of self restraint so evident in much of modern life leads us first to pleasure seeking, and then increasingly to self induced suffering. Americans spend billions of dollars on pills, diet books and gym memberships but lack the self discipline to restrain themselves from over eating. And young people are leading the way in increasing self indulgence. In the majority of states (30 of 50) the percentage of overweight or obese children is now at or above 30%.

In our consumer driven cultural, we have largely lost the spiritual value of self restraint that is so important in the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim tradition. Self-restraint will be the single biggest factor influencing life expectancy in the 21st century. With self-restraint most people will have a good chance to live into their 80s or 90s.

However, indulgent pleasure seeking and lack of self restraint will increasingly cut short the lives of tens of millions of people. Almost all religions have always taught that self restraint is a virtue. Fasting and ritual dietary restrictions are the most wide spread example of spiritual self-restraint and self discipline.

The idea that people, even thin people, should restrict their culinary pleasures sounds outrageous to our 21st century ears. Dieting is hard enough. Why should we torture and afflict ourselves by fasting? Don’t most people think that being happy is the most important thing? Isn’t eating one of the most accessible pleasures we have? Why should religions restrict our pleasures? For example, why should the Torah decree a day of total denial of food and drink for every Jewish adult? (Leviticus 16:29, 23:27). For twenty-four hours Jews (over age 13 and in good health) are supposed to afflict their souls by abstaining from eating or drinking anything at all.

What we do not eat may be even more important than what we do eat. All animals eat, but only humans choose to not eat some foods that are both nutritious and tasty. Some people do not eat meat for religious/ethical reasons. Hindus do not eat beef, and Jews and Muslims do not eat pork, for religious/spiritual reasons.

On Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement Jews do not eat or drink anything at all for twenty-four hours. Every year for the entire the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, abstaining from food and drink. The Qur’an says “Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint,” Qur’an 2:183. What is the Torah and the Qur’an trying to teach us by decreeing the importance of fasting? What spiritual benefits occur when we fast?

First of all, fasting teaches compassion. It is easy to talk about the world’s problem of hunger. We can feel sorry that millions of people go to bed hungry each day. But not until one can actually feel it in one’s own body is the impact truly there. Compassion based on empathy is much stronger and more consistent than compassion based on pity. This feeling must lead to action. Fasting is never an end in itself; that’s why it has so many different outcomes. But all the other outcomes are of no real moral value if compassion is not enlarged and extended through fasting.

As the prophet Isaiah said, “The truth is that at the same time you fast, you pursue your own interests and oppress your workers. Your fasting makes you violent, and you quarrel and fight. The kind of fasting I want is this: remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor”. (Isaiah 58:3-7)

Second, fasting is an exercise in will-power. Most people think they can’t fast because it’s too hard. But actually the discomfort of hunger pangs is relatively minor. A headache, muscle pains from too much exercise, and most certainly a toothache, are all more severe than the pains hunger produces.

I have on occasion fasted for three days, and found that after the first twenty four hours the pain decreases slightly as the stomach becomes numb. The reason it is so hard to fast is because it so easy to stop. Food and drink is all around, and in easy reach; all you have do is take a bite or a sip.

Thus the key to fasting is the will power to decide again and again not to eat or drink. Our society has increasingly become one of self indulgence. We lack self restraint. Fasting goes in direct opposition to our increasing “softness” in life. When people exercise their will-power and fast, they are affirming their self-control and celebrating mastery over themselves. We need continually to prove that we can do it, because we are aware of our frequent failures to be self-disciplined.

The third outcome of fasting is improved physical health. Of course, one twenty-four hour fast will not have any more effect than one day of exercise. Only prolonged and regular fasting promotes health. The annual fast on Yom Kippur can, however, awaken us to the importance of “how much and how often we eat or drink”.

For many years research has shown that when animals are somewhat underfed, receiving a balanced diet at below the normal quantity for maximum physical health, their life spans were prolonged from 50% to 100%. A 20 year study of rhesus monkeys published in Science in July 2009, found that the group on a reduced-calorie diet was two thirds less likely to die from cancer, heart disease or diabetes than those fed the normal diet.

Even if people do not follow a permanent restricted diet, the annual example of a 24 hour fast keeps the issue in mind. Also with all the additives placed in food these days we need to be reminded of the advantage of eating organically. More important, since our society has wide spread problems with overabundance, fasting provides a good lesson in the virtue of denial.

Health problems caused by overeating and over-drinking are the most rapidly growing health problems in affluent Western countries.Thus going without any food, or even water, for a twenty-four hour period challenges us to think very seriously about the benefits of the spiritual teaching; less is more.

Fourth in our list of outcomes, fasting is a positive struggle again our dependencies. We live in a consumer society. We are constantly bombarded by advertising telling us that we must have this or that to be healthy, happy, popular or wise. By fasting we assert that we need not be totally dependent on external things, even such essentials as food. If our most basic need for food and drink can be suspended for twenty-four hours, how much more our needs for all the nonessentials.

Judaism doesn’t advocate asceticism as an end in itself. In fact it’s against Jewish law to deny ourselves normal pleasures. But in our overheated consumer society it is necessary periodically to turn off the constant pressure to consume, and to remind ourselves forcibly that “Man does not live by bread alone.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Fifth, fasting serves as a penance. Though self inflicted pain may alleviate some guilt, it is much better to reduce one’s guilt by offsetting acts of righteousness to others. This is why, for Jews, contributing to charity is an important part of Yom Kippur. The same is true for Muslims during Ramadan. Indeed, fasting that doesn’t increase compassion is ignored by God. Also, the concept of fasting as penance helps us understand that our suffering can be beneficial.

Contemporary culture desires happiness above all else. Any suffering is seen as unnecessary and indeed evil. Though we occasionally hear people echo values from the past that suffering can help one grow, or that an existence unalloyed with pain would lack certain qualities of greatness, many today seem to think that the primary goal in life is ” to always be happy and free of all discomfort.”

The satisfaction one derives from the self-induced pain of fasting provides insight into a better way of reacting to the externally caused suffering we have to experience anyway. Taking a pill is not always the best way to alleviate pain especially if by doing so we allay the symptoms without reaching the root cause.

Sixth, fasting is good for the soul. It often serves as an aid for spiritual experiences. For most people, especially those who have not fasted regularly before, hunger pains are a distraction. People who are not by nature spiritual/emotional individuals will probably find that a one-day fast is insufficient to help induce an altered state of consciousness. Those who have fasted regularly on Yom Kippur might like to try a two to three day fast (liquids permitted). It is best to go about your daily activities and devote your late evening or early morning to meditation and prayer.

Since you have already fasted for Yom Kippur the easiest way is to simply extend the fast another thirty-six to forty-eight hours. We are prohibited to fast prior to Yom Kippur; eating a good meal prior to Yom Kippur Eve is a mitzvah (religious duty), because Judaism like Islam opposes excessive asceticism.

The seventh outcome of fasting for Jews is the performance of a mitzvah (a religious duty), which is, after all, the one fundamental reason for fasting on Yom Kippur. We do not do mitzvoth (religious duties) in order to benefit ourselves, but because our duty as Jews requires that we do them. Fasting is a very personal mitzvah, with primarily personal consequences. Fasting on Yom Kippur is a personal offering to the God of Israel from each member of the family of Israel.

For over 100 generations Jews have fasted on this day. A personal act of fasting is part of the Jewish people’s covenant with God. The principal reason to fast is to fulfill a mitzvah. The outcome of your fast can be any of a half dozen forms of self-fulfillment. But simply knowing that you have done one of your duties as an adult Jew is the most basic and primary outcome of all.

Finally, fasting should be combined with prayer and the study of Sacred Scriptures (the five books of Moses specifically or Scriptural texts in general). Indeed, the more one studies, the less one needs to fast. A medieval text states, “Better to eat a little and study twice as much, for the study of Torah is superior to fasting.”

Fasting is a very personal, experiential offering. However, though study is also a personal experience, it takes place with a text and/or a teacher. The Divine is often more readily and truly experienced in dialogue with others than in solitary meditation.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is rabbimaller.com

Earthpages does not render medical, legal, financial or other professional services. Those in need of expert assistance are advised to consult an appropriate licensed professional. TOU


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Who Do You Prefer, the Father of the “force”?

Sexta/Viernes/Friday-POSER-Deus - Dios - God

Sexta/Viernes/Friday-POSER-Deus – Dios – God: Caio Basilio via Flickr

Are you one of the many Christians who are into this whole “force of the universe” gospel? Are you more passionately focused in controlling the universe to achieve your personal desires, rather than wanting to do the Father’s will for your life?

It is not actually surprising that people are into the whole “attracting the universe” thing. We live a selfish and self-centered culture in which the Summum Bonum, the highest good, is getting what we want.  “Forget about the Father’s plan, I got my own plan!”

In making our personal plans the Summum Bonum, then it makes sense to “control the universe.” It makes sense to want to be God, for only God has the control over everything. And we want that same power for ourselves.

Many of us cannot totally be blamed for having this kind of philosophy. It was deeply ingrained ever since our childhood. “Pursue your dreams” is what our parents and teachers have taught us. There is nothing wrong in pursuing our dreams, but they are subordinate to God’s will. We were not created to fulfill our selfish goals, but realize God’s.

As Christians, Jesus is our model. Jesus was all about doing the Father’s will, “My food is to do the will of the Father”. Even in His most trying hours the Lord said to the Father, “Not my will but Your will be done.”

Many of us forget that fulfillment only comes in realizing God’s will in our lives. In His will is our peace.

So, have you ever asked God what is His plan for your life?

Or are you too busy trying to control the universe to achieve yours?

About the Author

Daxx Bondoc has been serving the poor with the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa’s sister) since 2004. His works with the poor included Catechesis, Bible studies, organizing and giving retreats. He also helped the sisters with their medical and gift distributions to the poor. As well as accompanying the sisters visit the poor in their homes. He was also a part of founding a lay movement in the Diocese of Antipolo. He is currently working as a web designer/flash animator for an international company. Founder of Inspirationalblogs.com

Article Source: Who Do You Prefer, the Father of the “force”?


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How to Stop Being a Slave to Sin

By: Ric Bai

Many people don’t believe or don’t want to think about this word called sin. Sin is often associated with a spiritual or religious experience, but it’s not prejudice, it will attack anyone. Lets take a closer look at how it affects us daily.

Gravity

What does gravity have to so with sin? Well, just as an example. You can’t see or smell gravity, but try jumping off a building and you will soon find out how real it is. Sin works the same way, you can’t see or taste it, but consider where your thoughts come from.

Most times they are influenced by what you watch, see or hear, and at times they just come out of thin air, or do they.

Daily Worries

All of us has our own daily concerns. Common are finances, relationships and health. Would you ever think it’s a sin to be consumed with these thoughts? The key word here is consumed..worried.

These are tactics that sin uses to keep you occupied so that you never have a chance to discover the truth. You would never just let an invader enter your house and steal from you, right? Well, sin knows this and even though it’s stealing your life daily, sin does it undercover.

It throws economic worries at you, it creates situations of stress, it provides thoughts of infidelity, the list goes on and on. But, you get the point, things we deal with daily are though as just a part of life. Who would imagine that sin would be behind this.

Understanding Sin

To combat this you have to understand sin. The one thing you must know is sin can’t enslave us unless we allow it to. It can’t force you to hurt a loved one, it has no power to take your hand and hit someone. It’s only power over you is in your thoughts.

It’s only at this point that you can have a chance to overcome sin and break the chains of slavery. It’s hard for many to believe, but just like gravity, believe it or not, it still exists.

There are a few things you can start to do today to break out of sins slavery. But, it can only happen if you want to or your just sick and tired of the routine.

About the Author

Experience is the best teacher they say and each day we learn more.

We pass some of this on at Search With Roy, the hub of our sites. Subjects covered are diabetes, debt, divorce, to name a few. Information and answers, isn’t that what you want? This is what we love to do on the Internet, take a look.

Article Source: How to Stop Being a Slave to Sin

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Spider Medicine (Arachnid Arcanum)

Originally posted on Shamagaia:

 Spider_web_Luc_ViatourImage source: Wikimedia Commons

Awkward Beginnings

Meeting a new animal spirit guide is always a deeply cathartic experience, and my recent introduction to a spider spirit guide was no exception. Relationships with animal spirits are in some regards like the ones we have with people. Trust takes time to develop in both parties. There may be reluctance at first, and this was the case with my spider spirit guide and I.

I met her peripherally at first, within my psychic safe space, which consists of a lush Australian bush grove with a stream fed by a waterfall. I journey here and ground myself upon a rock in the middle of the stream to meditate and clear my mind as I await interactions with various inter-dimensional beings.

However, on this particular occasion, I felt compelled to retreat back into the dark rocky recess behind the waterfall, which serves as my…

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Animal Totems

A coyote in Yosemite National Park, California...

A coyote in Yosemite National Park, California, USA. Suomi: Kojootti Yosemiten kansallispuistossa Kaliforniassa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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I have a very strong belief that animal totems not only exist but help teach us and guide us as we go through life. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the country or maybe it’s because of my Cherokee heritage. It doesn’t really matter how I came to believe these things. I know that I do and I know that animals do teach me quite a bit. When I was young, I would spend vast amounts of time in the woods alone. I would sit quietly and still and watch what the animals were doing. I would learn from them by watching their movements, behaviors and patterns. I would watch them play and fight. I had some contact with animals that no one else has that I know personally. For example, when I was around 10 years old, I came face to face with a mountain lion. I had an instinctual feeling that she was guarding babies. She was crouched in ready to spring mode. We locked eyes and I felt a curiosity from her. She did not spring on and maul me, obviously. Then when I was 11 years old, I was bitten on the leg by a copperhead snake. I wasn’t watching where I was going and the snake bit my leg. Momma rushed me to the hospital after sucking the poison out herself. You can’t even see the scar any more. When I was in my 20s and on a sport dive, I came face to face with a tiger shark. I’m not sure which one of us was more afraid. We both went in opposite directions. Those are just a few examples of the experiences I’ve had with animals. I have always felt a kinship with the animal totems in my world. Two mornings ago, I was opening the curtains on the back windows of my bedroom and standing about 5 feet from the house and moving closer was a very large coyote. His nose was in the air and he was smelling the feral cats that live outside of my house. It was dawn and he was in full hunt mode. I threw open the window and yelled, “Go Coyote….GO!”. I scared him and he stopped dead and stared at me. I yelled at him again to go and he ran almost to the wood line behind the house. I yelled one more time and he disappeared into the woods. He was very big. I was very shaken. I do not like predators hunting the cats. I also do not like predators of that size being that close to my house. I know there are coyotes close to the house most of the time. I can hear them calling to each other through the woods. Knowing they are out there and seeing them 5 feet from the house are two completely different things. After I had some time to process seeing that coyote that close, I started to think about what coyotes as animal totems mean to me. I was thinking how that applies to my life now and what wisdom I can glean from that encounter. The lessons that they teach us are as follows:

  • Understanding that all things are sacred–yet nothing is sacred
  • Teaching that only when all masks have fallen will we connect with the Source
  • Intelligence
  • Singing humans into being
  • Childhood trust in truth
  • Teaching us how to rear our young
  • Brings rain
  • Ability to laugh at one’s own mistakes
  • Placing the North Star
  • Shape-shifting
  • Teaching balance between risk and safety
  • Illumination
  • Stealth

I am still processing what the main lesson was for me. I have an idea. I may share when I know for sure. Do you see the same animal around you all the time? Do you have encounters with animals that you normally would not encounter? Have you considered that you may be coming into contact with animal totems to teach you?

About the Author

My name is Elizabeth Glass. I enjoy sharing my life experiences, my spiritual experiences and just writing in general. I have been writing…


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Liminal and Liminoid

English: Rock concert at The Hexagon The band ...

Rock concert at The Hexagon The band are Jethro Tull, performing an acoustic number. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Expert from my blog… read more here

Browsing through my library, I recently found some interesting material on the idea of liminality. You’d think I’d know all about this concept; it’s right up my alley. But as things go, I’ve only made note of it until now.

Some quick research on Wiki produced these two links. I highly recommend them to anyone interested in religion and the related idea of numinosity. Of particular interest is the distinction anthropologist Victor Turner makes between the liminal and the liminoid. The one is structured and expected by society, and more like work (e.g. going to Church); the other is free and playful (e.g. going to a rock concert). But both apparently have similar effects. They transport you somewhere out of the ordinary.

This second link is an interview with Talal Asad. I was pleasantly surprised to discover his views on postmodernism and religion. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. And it’s always great to find an “established” thinker who’s saying things that you’ve already thought about. It gives you a sense of reinforcement and encouragement. After all, a single innovative thinker is often ignored or marginalized (as has been my experience). More than one, however, and people begin to take notice.

Apart from my personal story, I really believe that humanity would benefit from using all of the intellectual tools we have at our disposal… especially with regard to religion and society.

—MC


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“To Tirzah” by William Blake

Originally posted on Stuff Jeff Reads:

ToTirzah

Whate’er is Born of Mortal Birth
Must be consumed with the Earth
To rise from Generation free:
Then what have I to do with thee?

The Sexes sprung from Shame & Pride,
Blow’d in the morn, in evening died;
But Mercy chang’d Death into Sleep;
The Sexes rose to work & weep.

Thou, Mother of my Mortal part,
With cruelty didst mould my Heart,
And with false self-deceiving tears
Didst bind my Nostrils, Eyes, & Ears:

Didst close my Tongue in senseless clay,
And me to Mortal Life betray.
The Death of Jesus set me free:
Then what have I to do with thee?

In order to fully grasp this poem, there are a couple religious references which should be explained. First, the name Tirzah “is derived from The Song of Solomon vi.4, and signifies physical beauty, that is, sex.” (Geoffrey Keynes) Also, the words on the robe of the…

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