28 Av 5781 / Friday, August 06, 2021 | Torah Reading: Re'eh
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Trimming the Fat    

Trimming the Fat

A simple change can alter our eternal trajectory. We can accomplish what we want in life and make the repentance necessary to live a life worth living.


“Not again.” My wife sighed.  


“This time it’s real.” I rebutted. 


“It was real last year with the three-hour walks. Then with the no-sugar campaign. It was a ‘now or never’ moment when you insisted on eating only after 10AM.” 


“Sorry.” I muttered as I chewed on a tofu dog with no bread 


You hear about all those people who take off 10% off their body weight in 30 days. Then you see those before and after photos, as if they went into room A overweight then stepped into room B a minute later thin.  


Nobody ever tried to sell me a diet where, with lots of hard work, I could lose, maybe a pound a week, and perhaps reach my target next year.  


It’s so much easier putting it on. All I need to do is eat a chocolate bar each night and within a month Im obese. 


You would think that dieting and exercising would burn it off as quickly as we put it on. It doesn’t. 


Gaining weight is like putting thousands of dollars on your credit card to spend a few days at a five-star hotel in Paris.  


Losing weight is the process of paying it off, in monthly installments, of the $100 per month you set aside for fun. 


Hashem gives us these bodies. Every day we recite asher yatzar, the blessing after using the bathroom, acknowledging that everything about the human body is His  wondrous  creation and not taking for granted that it works perfectly 


There must be a reason that losing weight is a much more arduous task than gaining it.   


Is This What Teshuva Is? 

Sinning is easy. In 60 minutes we can eat a non-kosher meal. In half that time we can destroy our soul by committing an act of adultery, or what could be worse. In a fraction of that time we can embarrass someone by misusing our words.  


Fixing any of these transgressions is a lot harder than committing them.  


Even once we stop doing wrong, we still have to face the consequences of doing it up to this point.  


I stopped eating chocolate bars. Now I have to lose the 20 pounds I already put on. My friends quit drinking, stopped smoking, and vowed never to misuse their bodies or those of the opposite sex.  


They are all lumbering up strenuous uphill journeys.  


The Zohar tells us that the punishment for overindulging in something, even if it is permitted, is to suffer a desire for it while we abstain.  


That’s Hashem’s ATFAT principle, which Rabbi Arush explains, in action: A Turn  For  A  Turn. 


We weren’t supposed to build up a lust for these things. At point zero, we didn’t want them. We had it so many times, all we can do is dream about them. Now, to fix things, we have to do the reverse: We have to go without them while resisting a strong desire for it.  


We have to endure withdrawal.  


Rebuilding things inside ourselves that we broke is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes a lot of time to piece back together the vase that took two seconds to shatter.  


Like the vase, every step is incremental and barely visible. We fix half the jug and it still looks broken. We lose 10 pounds and still feel fat. We go 20 years without a drop, and still go berserk inside when we pass a pub, believing we haven’t accomplished a thing.  


It’s hard work.  


Baruch Hashem it is G-d, and not us, Who is keeping score.  



So how do we do it? How to we take anything counterproductive in our life, say,  not  concentrating  properly while praying, and fix it? 


  1. Slowly. Resolve to recite a single prayer, or part of a prayer with focused intention. Read the English first if you have to. Read a line in English then the Hebrew counterpart to understand what you are saying.  

  1. Gradually. Once you can pray for 60 seconds with complete intent, aim for 90 seconds. Once you have that, try 120 seconds. It might take years to reach your goal. That’s fine. It’s the slow and steady improvements that stick.  

  1. Bumpy. Nobody takes an elevator to heaven. We don’t even take an escalator. It’s all hills, valleys, and jagged rocks. We will go backwards. We will stop. We will hold in one place before moving forward again.  
    We embarked on 42 journeys between leaving Egypt and arriving in the Holy Land. In the first year after the Exodus, we covered more than 11 steps in 12 months! Years later, we went in reverse seven steps. At one point, we stayed in a single location for 19 years  but every morning we checked to see if today, we were leaving.  
    Even if you focused your intention to Hashem for 90 seconds for six months, that’s 90 seconds more that you did half a year ago.  

  1. Urgently. At 45, being obese puts you in a severe danger zone. The highest cause of chronic illness is obesity, and at that age it could happen at any time. This time it’s different because there is no tomorrow.  
    The same with teshuva. We don’t have all our lives to make bold decisions.  
    At any time we can be taken from this earth and our once in an eternity chance to better our lot in Heaven forever will vanish. For those times we want to lapse, this truth is our drill sergeant screaming in our ear every time we start to slow down.  

  1. Patiently. Once we get started, we know not to do anything rash. It’s exciting to be on our way and see progress and it’s a temptation to take on too much, only to fall short one day and then throw in the towel altogether.  
    As long as we do a little bit our goals can be reached and our dreams can materialize. We can accomplish what we want in life. We can make the repentance necessary to live a life worth living.  


Hashem rewards our effort. He rewards us when we start. He rewards us when we finish. He waits patiently when we fall, and He rewards us to no end when we get back up, dust ourselves off, and keep going.  


He rewards us when we move an inch with 100 tons on our shoulders, or when we resist the urge to go in reverse, no matter how much our body is screaming out for that seven-layer cake.  


A day is a small unit in time. A handful of them form a week. A bundle makes up a month. Several bundles form a year 


Our days define the direction of our life’s journey. A simple change can alter our eternal trajectory.  



David Ben Horin lives in Afula with his wife and children. Since moving to Israel in 2002, David has discovered Torah, writing hi-tech, hiking, coding ReactJS Apps, and hearing stories about the Land of Israel from anyone excited to tell them. Check him out on Highway 60 or email him your favorite Israel story at:  david.ben.horin@spreadyourenthusiasm.com. 

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