2 Kislev 5778 / Monday, November 20, 2017 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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The Cheeseburger Sacrifice    

The Cheeseburger Sacrifice

He loved Judaism but he couldn't give up the cheeseburgers. Why were the Torah and the rabbis so radically fanatic to deny him the one pleasure that he craved? That's it, no more…


My friend loves cheeseburgers. All his life he would go to the local fast food place, order a cheeseburger deluxe with fries and a coke, and drive off to partake of his delicacy. On some days, he would get creative and even put a few strips of bacon on it.


Then he found Torah. He loved it. Very quickly the man who was into cheeseburgers and techno found Klezmer and Kreplach.


Sort of.


For a long time, he agonized about his choices. He loves Shabbat. He loves the community. He loves learning Torah. What he had the most trouble with no longer being able to eat a cheeseburger. He tried everything. He tried fakin' bacon, made from burnt tofu. He tried pareve cheese. He tried cooked onions, and every other way to prepare a burger.


Nothing worked.


He even asked his Rabbi about it. Was there some way he could have a cheeseburger and still be observant? The answer was obvious: Tofu burger with cheese.


It helped, but all it did was remind him of what he was missing by taking on Torah. We all feel that at one point or another. The demands of a Torah lifestyle break into the lives we know and love, and start to take away things we don't want to give up.


Our instinct is to blame religion. "The Haredim are so strict." "The Rabbis demand too much." "Am I supposed to be a fanatic?" Even if we have been observant for a long time, there are always areas of our life we haven't yet elevated. When we hear of a Torah Sage laying down the law under no uncertain terms, it feels like a lot.


For some people, it's sexual morality and the lengths we have to go in order to protect ourselves – especially during the summer. Others can't give up their cigarettes on Shabbat. Still others can't resist the juicy gossip, the loshon hara, and what we must give up to uphold the mitzvah. For my friend, it was cheeseburgers. His first instinct was to ignore the instructions of the "fanatical Rabbis" for asking him to do something that, according to his lifestyle, was a radical change.


It was a tough battle. He loves Torah and didn't want to get in the habit of a Jewish lifestyle making him feel bad. He reasoned that if he made too many sacrifices, he could resent religion, and leave it altogether.


So, he took off his kippa, tucked in his tzitzit, went to his favorite restaurant and ordered the biggest, juiciest, creamiest cheeseburger on the menu.


I tried to talk him out of it, but there was nothing more I could do. He decided that the only way to save his observance of the mitzvot was to indulge in this one thing he couldn't bear to give up. He walked out the door filled with both excitement and dread.


When he came back, he was all smiles. The look of pure satisfaction on his face told the story. I didn't understand why he felt so elevated over a piece of treif.


"Look at you. I didn't realize one cheeseburger meant that much to you."


"It did. This was one of the most meaningful moments of my life. It was a great meal."


"Is this going to become a habit?"


"G-d Willing."


"Are you sure?"


"Sure as sure can be. I ordered my meal and the waitress came with my jumbo. The smells were so intoxicating. I wanted to inhale that baby right then and there. The problem was that I just couldn't move my arms. I didn't have the strength to lift up my burger. I sat there, for 10 minutes, just looking. Then it hit me."


"The steak sauce?"


"Dov, this is the greatest gift I can give Hashem. It may be the only gift I can give Him. What does He need from me? Does He personally benefit from my mitzvot? Does He gain from my Torah learning? If I didn't do any of it, I would pay, but He wouldn't. The one thing I can give G-d is my desires. I can give Him my love of cheeseburgers. In the Shema it says, Love G-d with all your heart. That means to love Hashem with your good inclination and your evil inclination. Whenever I want a cheeseburger, by not having it I am saying to Hashem that I desire You. You can have my lusts. For every unkosher desire, I can tell Hashem that it's His."


He took his tzitzit out and put the kippa back on his head.



* * *

Dovber Halevi develops the website www.proudlycandid.com where you can find 1,001 Reasons to Love Israel.


Dovber Halevi runs the website http://www.proudlycandid.com/. On it you can find 1,001 Reasons to Love Israel.

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