Monday, March 22, 2010

The Proof is in the Pudding

There’s an old expression dating back to the 1600s, ‘The Proof of the Pudding is in the eating’ which was later shortened to ‘The Proof is in the Pudding’. In the ‘old days’, making pudding wasn’t like it is today where we just open a package and add milk. It was cooked slowly on top of the stove so the proper consistency and flavor were often difficult to attain. Only once it was eaten would it be put to the test. Over the years, this saying has come to mean that the results are what counts; that something can only be judged once it has been experienced.

With modern technology and scientific advancement, many people today are often skeptical of believing in anything intangible without proof. They want answers before they commit to taking on the yoke of Judaism and its regimented laws. Proof does exist, but it is most evident to those who have already devoted themselves to a life of spiritual pursuits. Like the pudding, until one tastes the sweetness of the Torah, one will not fully understand what they are missing nor can they evaluate it properly.

Too many of us have become accustomed to living our lives for our own pleasure. Our days revolve around trying to satisfy our thirst for happiness, a goal which continues to elude us. Until we internalize that this desire cannot be satiated simply through the physical world we will never attain the ultimate fulfillment. It is actually quite impudent to expect everything to be handed to us on a silver platter and give nothing in return. When G-d created the world, he also provided us with a clear set of instructions. If we think we can play by our own rules, we are cheating no one but ourselves.

A perfect example of proof anyone can observe is with us every day. Since we all eat fruits and vegetables, just stop for a moment and think about how each produce selection is in season at the precise time we need the specific nutrient. During the winter when our bodies require vitamin C to fight off cold-weather viruses and build resistance, oranges, grapefruits and other citrus fruits are bountiful. In the summer when we crave water to quench our thirst, watermelon, berries and plums are ripe for the picking. Carrots, loaded with Vitamin A and potatoes, rich in carbohydrates, Vitamin C and B6, are both important staples in our diet and are available all year round. The list goes on and on.

HaShem, in His Infinite Wisdom, designed the world and all its workings solely for our benefit. Like the song which took the words from Ecclesiastes (Kohellet) Chapter 3, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”. Not only are the necessities of our existence provided for us at the appropriate time, but everything has a specific and Divine function. It’s important to remind ourselves as we go about our daily mundane chores such cooking and eating, that it is all for the service of HaShem. The Holy One, Blessed be He, provides for all of our needs so we can fulfill His Will with a satisfied body and joyful soul.

Every task we perform can and should be done for the sake of Heaven. How we eat, what we read and the words we speak should all exude holiness. When we shop for food, have relations with our spouse, do the laundry or go to work, our fundamental objective is to enable us to perform our obligations to our Father in Heaven and to elevate those acts from the physical to a spiritual plane. By saying a bracha (blessing) on whatever we are going to eat, we not only benefit our own soul, but elevate the holy spark in the item we are eating by bringing the chicken, the apple or the cucumber to a higher level.

Realizing our potential carries a myriad of responsibilities. Aside from learning, praying and fulfilling the mitzvot (Commandments) pertaining to regular days, holidays (Yom Tovim) and Shabbat, we must always be mindful of the mitzvot of man to man; giving up a seat for the pregnant woman on the bus, giving charity to the poor, honoring your parents, giving the benefit of the doubt, to name a few.

Once the decision is made to strive for change and growth, don’t be discouraged by sporadic setbacks, nor should you expect a major transformation overnight. This can be illustrated by a comparison to making bread or challah for Shabbat. It is not enough to combine the flour, salt, yeast and eggs in the correct manner. We must wait patiently for it to rise and just when it seems ready, we punch it down and raise it again. Only then do we shape the dough and bake it into a beautiful and delicious Challah. If we try to hurry it along, it won’t turn out well. This process of punching down is necessary for its success. We too, in our quest for wisdom and truth occasionally get knocked down only to rise back up to a loftier level through repentance, thus becoming the beautiful creations HaShem wants us to be.

You may be familiar with the Glow Stick or Glow Necklace, a plastic tube which give off a glowing light. This glow-in-the-dark item is activated when two substances interact and cause a chemically activated illumination. Once the reaction has been triggered, the process can be repeated by putting it in the freezer and removing it whenever the light is desired. So too, with sincere commitment to Torah and Mitzvot, we connect with sparks of G-dliness which cause a calming light to illuminate in our souls. When we desire to bring more radiance into the world, we can simply intensify our glow by immersing ourselves in Kedusha (Holiness) and increase our efforts. Like the ballpark or concert hall filled with thousands of Glow Sticks glistening together, united as one, we have the capability of radiating the Heavenly Light down into our world in a chorus of brilliant splendor.

Once you embark on your spiritual journey, you will undoubtedly begin to witness wonders and miracles. G-d rewards his children with abundant blessings in return for their devotion to Him, for He delights in our happiness. “I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice, and to get pleasure as long as they live. But also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy pleasure, for all his labor is the gift of G-d.” Ecclesiastes (Kohellet) 3:12,13

So if you haven’t yet set the sacred wheels in motion, what are you waiting for? After all, the proof is in the pudding.

(First Published on