“…man does not live by bread alone, but rather by whatever comes forth from the mouth of the L-rd…” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 8:3)
This week’s Torah portion gives us food for thought. The first part of this verse is well known, but it is the second part that provides its meaning. Technically, people can survive on bread and water, just as certain animals survive solely on grass. However, human bodies demand variety in the diet. The world accommodates us with gourmet meals, sweet treats and convenience food. But why is man unable to live by bread alone? And why do so many people eat more “bread” than their bodies need?
Writes Rabbi Stephen Baars on aish.com: “Human beings, unlike animals, need ‘meaning’ in life…This drives us to want more than just bread. Even though it is a poor substitute for real fulfillment and meaning, food is often the focus of our quest for meaning…Unfortunately, we are sometimes so badly focused that we will look to fulfill it [our quest for meaning] in the most unlikely and sometimes counter-productive places.”
Rabbi Baars explains that since people cannot live on bread alone, we will either fill ourselves with substantial and real meaning – a relationship with G-d – or we will seek unsatisfying substitutes for meaning, such as food.
Rambam includes a section on proper diet in his Yad Chazaka. He advises not to eat solely to satisfy the palate, but in order to keep the body healthy so it is able to serve G-d. Further, he counsels to eat only when hungry, and to stop eating before becoming completely full or overfilled.
As parents, we must teach our children mindful eating. They must learn to ask themselves if they are truly hungry and in need of refueling their bodies, or just bored and in a down mood, looking for stimulation in the wrong place.