how not to mindlessly eat before Pesach

Last week a reader asked:

“Do you have any insights to share about how not to mindlessly eat next week when there is no real food around next week? I should be organized and double things I make this week (which I thought I did, but people here inhaled 1.5 kilo of meatballs yesterday so there’s nothing left), but that isn’t me.”

Dear Reader,

Oh, I can so relate to what you wrote! I try to make double of foods so I have more for later, yet that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes it’s because of the same reason you are dealing with, that the food gets eaten before it ends up in the freezer for “next time”.

While trying to navigate these days leading up to Pesach, I used to think the way to do it was to be super organized. Prepare meals in advance, freeze them, and pull them out as needed.

That works for some, I guess. 🙂

For those of us for whom it doesn’t work to be so organized I’d like to offer an alternative strategy.

I call it: “Plan what you can, and get through the rest with Menuchas Hanefesh.”

Here’s how it works:

1) You cook a bunch of food in advance to have around while you’re in that in between stage of kashering.

2) You eat the food you’ve prepared. You take exquisite care of yourself by sleeping enough and eating adequately (this will definitely help with the mindless eating).

3) You rest assured that no one will go starving. You’ve done your part. We live in first-world countries, with food available in abundance just a few minutes from our homes.

Think about it like this:

Any time we face food deprivation — real or perceived — we go overboard with our eating in anticipation of not being able to eat the foods we want. It’s simply biology.

On Pesach, when we’re not allowed to eat chametz, it’s no different.

When it is all said and done, we’re going to miss our chametz for 7 days. (8 days for many of you.)

And those feelings are real.

So many of us spend these days leading up to Pesach trying to “get it all in” before it’s too late.

Here’s where Menuchas Hanefesh comes into the picture.

Menuchas Hanefesh gives us the opportunity to overcome our natural instincts.

The Sifsei Chaim uses the mashal of a cup of wine with some sediment at the bottom.

So long as you don’t stir the cup of wine, the sediment stays at the bottom, and the wine is perfectly drinkable.

As soon as you agitate the cup, all the wine is undrinkable.

The nimshal here is that we have our natural instincts for how we react to situations. We get angry, frustrated, overwhelmed. We can work long and hard on these reactions, and make a bit of progress, a little bit at a time. But when the glass gets agitated, all our work is for naught.

If we can have menuchas hanefesh, retaining that calm, even when the going gets tough, our natural reactions stay settled and we can make huge strides forward.

So, that’s my plan, and what I encourage you to try.

We’re doing our best during these transition days to feed our families, clean our homes, and keep our sanity and middos intact.

Here are some ways to cultivate Menuchas Hanefesh and have it be our driving force these days:

1) By recognizing that we can only do our part — and leave the rest up to Hashem.

2) By grounding ourselves with deep breathing, recognizing that with each breath we take, we are being renewed by Hashem.

3) By reminding ourselves that the situation we’re in can change in an instant.

4) By recognizing that this whole transition period isn’t just “the hard stuff til Pesach comes” — but that this process in itself is an opportunity to appreciate the blessings in our lives, and to daven for help with the more difficult parts of life.

So, dear reader, by finding Menuchas Hanefesh, we will beH be able to curb those feelings of restriction that lead to overeating before Pesach. We’ll find our groove during this period and stay calm and inspired, eating mindfully. And rest assured, that if we do run out of food, we can always find a way to feed ourselves.

Chag Kasher, Calm, v’Sameach.


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