A vision of my childhood. Some smoked meat courtesy of Schwartz’ Delicatessen in Montreal. (Creative Commons)

Column: Food is a bridge

There is a talmudic story I know. It’s about how food can heal us. Mend the wounds we all carry inside. Bridge the distance between self and other.

I mean, think about it: where are some of your best memories? Likely, sitting around a dinner table, or out at a restaurant.

Perhaps you were with a relative, or a loved one. Maybe you were alone. But there was something about the experience of nourishing yourself that made you pause and be. There. Here. And now.

It might seem silly, but this weekend, watching people gather at a Carousel of Nations and share food, I was reminded of that Talmudic story, and the sages who shared their wisdom some millennia ago, so that I may one day read and reflect.

It made me think a great deal about what it means to be a Jew in the world. Something I think is lost on most folks.

Being Jewish is like carrying a 6,000-year old-weight. It is the resolve of an ideal. A aspiration. A purpose.

To be a Jew in the world, the sages have said, is to participate in its healing.

According to Kabbalistic thought, the creation of the universe itself consisted of the destruction of the body of god, which given what is a pantheistic and asexual notion of other, is the universe itself.

So when each of us (and not just Jews) participate in acts of compassion, empathy, mindfulness, or ritual, (what are called in hebrew, mitzvot) the idea is that we are actively participate in putting back together the universe, and participating in its healing.

But what does it mean to connect self to other?

The value of a humanistic education, I was once told is that it reminds us of the patterns at play in the workings of the universe that most of us don’t want to look at. But if we want to bridge those cultural and emotional gaps: the differences in the ways each of us think about, know about, and be in the world. Then we need to talk to one another.

As a great rabbi once said to me: “If we want to work together, we must first understand one another. And if we want to understand one another, we have to talk to one another.”

Food can help each of us talk to ourselves, and to each other. It is a bridge, and though it might seem trivial, it can help to save and transform the world, one bite at a time.


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