Articles by Janet Sunnes

Restoring Sanctity to Eating…and to the Rest of our Lives :It Ain’t Over until the Fat Lady … Bentches?


“It ain’t over until the fat lady sings” is a well-known expression. Every adult I asked had heard the expression, and I assumed that it had been around forever. However, according to Wikipedia, it was first coined in 1976 by Ralph Carpenter, the sports information director of Texas Tech, referring to a sports competition. The “fat lady” is thought to refer to the often overweight sopranos of the opera, particularly Richard Wagner’s operas, in which the soprano sings herself to death at the end of the opera.

In trying to rein in my eating, I have been thinking that more care with brachos acharonos (blessings after eating) should be a big help in curtailing or controlling compulsive overeating. How does one make brachos properly in a situation when one eats, tries (and intends) to stop but then continues? If you wait after eating something and don’t say a bracha acharona, you are implying that you are not done eating yet, that you anticipate that you will eat more. If you make a perfunctory bracha acharona, not meaning it, and then resume eating, and continue to repeat this behavior, you could be making tens of brachos a night. (This is not a halachic discussion; consult your rabbi for his guidance.) But, if you could bring yourself to make the bracha acharona with kavana (intention, concentration), you are saying that you are determined to end your eating session. If this idea could be internalized, it is possible that, even if only for a short time, “It is over when the fat lady bentches.” We could work on keeping that commitment of ending a food session. Even if this “holds” for only a short time and then eating is resumed, at least some interruption in the compulsive eating has been effected.

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Venahafoch Hu: Tips for Eating from Megillas Esther: Restoring Sanctity to Eating … and to the Rest of our Lives


There are a number of lessons we can learn from Megillas Esther to help us with compulsive eating and, in general, with behaviors we would like to modify. Some of these have been discussed in previous articles in this series, which are available on the Where What When website.

Feel full and complete, not lacking: Haman had only one person (Mordechai) who did not bow down to him, and it was worth nothing to him that everyone else did bow down. He could not perceive himself as “full,” only as “lacking.” He inherited this bad trait from Adam’s eating of the Tree of Knowledge. Adam (Eve is included with Adam here) could eat from any tree in the garden but one. The serpent was able to convince Eve that she was lacking something, until she could not stand it and ate. This is one interpretation of the connection of Haman to the word “hamin” (both spelled H-M-N). Haman’s essence is included in Hashem’s question to Adam, “Hamin ha’etz… did you eat from the tree?”

Read More:Venahafoch Hu: Tips for Eating from Megillas Esther: Restoring Sanctity to Eating … and to the Rest of our Lives

Crackers: Restoring Sanctity to Eating … and to the Rest of Our Lives


There is a well-known story about Reb Yissachar and Reb Shmelke of Nikolsburg that is used to show the extent to which anger can be controlled. (Many versions of this story are in print; one is by Hanoch Teller, who heard it from the Bostoner Rebbe, zt”l.) After R’ Yissachar’s death, R’ Shmelke was asked to become the Rabbi of Nikolsberg. As he walked through R’ Yissachar’s empty house, which was to become his home, he smelled a beautiful fragrance. He knew that this heavenly smell meant that a wonderful good deed was performed there, and he asked around to find out what it was, but no one knew.

One day, an elderly gentile woman approached him on the street. She told him she heard he was searching for the remarkable event associated with the house, and she thought she knew what it was. When she was a young girl, she became a maid at R’ Yissachar’s house shortly before Pesach. One morning (erev Pesach), the parents and all the older children left the house, and she was alone with the younger children. The children began to cry because they were hungry. The maid looked all over the house but could not find any food for them. She finally found some crackers in a box in the closet, and fed these to the children.

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Splitting the Sea: Restoring Sanctity to Eating…and to the Rest of our Lives, part 33

splitting the sea

We are all familiar with the statement of Chazal that finding one’s shidduch is as difficult as splitting the Yam Suf (Red Sea) (Sanhedrin 22a). A similar statement is made about parnassa (livelihood) (Pesachim 118a). I recently heard an interesting explanation of this that has relevance for eating issues as well.

The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation distributes a set of CDs on emuna (faith) that have a collection of Rabbi David Ashear’s short talks on this topic. Rabbi Ashear attributes the following understanding to Rabbi Pesach Eliyahu Falk of Gateshead.

What is the difference between splitting the sea and splitting a thick wood board, for example? Once the board is split, it stays split and has no tendency to come back together. However, when water is split, as great as that miracle is, constant effort is required to keep the water split. There is a natural tendency for the water to recombine that has to be combated.

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Just You Wait : Restoring Sanctity to Eating…and to the Rest of our Lives, part 32


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.

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Creating a New Reality

big flight of stairs

More than 20 years ago, I made a resolution that I would try to walk up steps whenever possible, rather than taking the elevator. At that time, I worked on the sixth floor. I told my daughter, “Elevators don’t exist for me.” I have continued this practice. I now work on the fifth floor at GBMC, and have four flights to climb. GBMC, like Yerushalaim, lehavdil, has hills, and in my building, the main entrance is on the third floor, but I park on the side and enter the building from the first floor. My practice is to walk up and down the steps, unless I am carrying something heavy (over and above my laptop and my weighty pocketbook, which also needs a diet!) or there is a social reason – I ’m talking with someone, etc. – to take the elevator. (See below for a technique for walking steps without getting short of breath.)

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