Man in general, and bnai Yisrael in particular, have a difficult time waiting for things. Our Sages tell us that had Adam, in the Garden of Eden, held off and not eaten from the Tree of Knowledge until Shabbos, the seventh day, the ban on eating from the tree would have been rescinded, and Adam could have lived in Paradise forever.
Bnai Yisrael were supposed to wait until Moshe came down from Mount Sinai. They did wait, for 40 days according to their flawed count, but had they waited a few more hours, Moshe would have come down, and there would have been no Golden Calf.
And the great King Saul was to have waited in Gilgal for seven days, until Samuel came and brought offerings. But the Philistines were massing to fight against bnai Yisrael, so Saul brought the offering himself, only to have Samuel arrive a short time later and tell him that his kingdom would not endure because of this sin.
Waiting is an important part of managing our food intake. We have all been told that it takes 20 minutes for a person to feel full after he eats a meal. Yet there is this little (sometimes big) nudging voice that says, “I want more, and I want it now.” It is not driven by hunger but simply by a desire to eat. As readers of this series know, my biggest obstacle to keeping weight off and not gaining more is an insatiable desire to eat at night. I am getting somewhat better at refraining, but it is still very difficult. If I can hold out until the deadline (when I go to sleep), I am okay, and I can truthfully tell myself that I will be able to eat again when I awaken. So we’re not talking about waiting an eternity to eat, just a short time. Yet it is still very difficult.
Interestingly, when we know that delaying eating is a commandment from Hashem, as on a fast day, we don’t have trouble holding out. Or if we are at a gathering at which there is no kosher food, we can wait until after the party to eat. So we do have the strength within us. When it’s an absolute requirement, like a mitzva, not to eat, we are able to muster the extra resolve to avoid eating. But if it’s just a fight between my lust for food and my good sense, the outcome is often negative. And the result is waking up with the sinking feeling that “I did it again,” unraveling all our subsequent daytime efforts to control our eating.
How can we deal with this difficulty of delaying our gratification? One way is to make our plan for eating more absolute: I resolve not to eat after supper, period, come what may! Another, discussed in a previous article (http://www.wherewhatwhen.com/article/night-and-day-restoring-sanctity-to-eating-and-to-the-rest-of-our-lives-part-6), is to redefine the beginning of the dieting day. If it starts at night, so that food is allowed, the sense of “forbidden waters are sweeter” (Proverbs) does not get invoked by wanting to eat after you’ve finished everything you were allotted for that day. Or you could go upstairs or any room that is not the kitchen after supper, and not enter the enticing areas of your house until the morning. Or, you could just go to sleep earlier.
We can remember, too, that Hashem gives us experiences to strengthen us. I tried to think about the value of experiencing such an insatiable longing for food (even though, logically, it is ridiculous), and then it hit me: As bad as the Jewish people are at waiting for things, we are commanded to wait for the coming of Mashiach. We may say or sing about this longing, but most of us don’t live with this feeling at each moment. Imagine if we could yearn for Mashiach in the same way we yearn for food! We would not take no for an answer, and we would do everything we could to bring him sooner. This would create a different world, a different existence. So, try to imagine marshalling your desires in this direction. It may keep you from eating, if only for a night.
Janet Sunness is medical director of the Richard E. Hoover Low Vision Rehabilitation Services at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her Sunday 8 p.m. class at Shomrei Emunah for women on the Teachings of Rav Schwab will resume in the fall. © Janet Sunness 2016