Why Should Food Taste Good?
By: Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber
In this week’s Torah reading we have the story of the blessings. Isaac asks
his son Esau to hunt some game and prepare him a delicious meal, in order for him to bless Esau. When Rebecca caught wind of this, she told her son Jacob that she will prepare the delectable food, and he should bring it to Isaac, posing as Esau, so that he should receive the blessings. The plan worked, and Jacob received the special blessings. Anyone reading this story can’t help but be bothered with a puzzling question. What is all this food business? Why in the world does Isaac request a meal, not just any meal, but specifically a scrumptious one? And what does all of this have to do with giving a blessing?
Rabbi Avigdor Miller illuminates this incident with an astounding insight:
Food brings closeness of the minds. No matter how great a person might be, God instilled in the creation of humanity that a person should be drawn and influenced by the means of food. In fact, this concept is mentioned explicitly in the Talmud (Chulin 4b), as the Talmud says that real persuasion is accomplished though eating and drinking, not words. The pleasure a person experiences from someone else providing him with appetizing nutrition draws him closer to the one who provided it for him. This is a reality ingrained in the nature of mankind, and Isaac was well aware it. Therefore, in order to give the blessings with utmost fervor, he requested of his son to prepare for him a delightful spread.
This example is good advice for us to apply when we want to get close to a person or win someone over. But there is much more to it, as Rabbi Miller takes it to the next level: Ultimately, all of our sustenance comes from God. The power of food was not merely given to us as a tool for one person to draw another closer. The One to whom we should really be drawn to through our food is our Creator. This is in fact why God made food so enjoyable. Moreover, God arranged the world in such a way that we are constantly busy with attaining food, one way or another. We eat multiple meals every single day, and then some. If we are not involved directly in food production, most of us are either busy with earning the money to buy it or preparing it. Every single time we sit down to enjoy our food we have an opportunity to feel the love of God who provided it to us, and God wants us to experience this constantly.
One of Rabbi Miller’s grandsons once observed a scene of his grandfather
eating an apple, at a time when his presence was unnoticed. Rabbi Miller took the apple and said, “Father in Heaven, You took the trouble to create this wonderful fruit! It has a beautiful red color, and you gave it a tempting and delicious smell. You did this all just for me… You did this all with kindness because You love me, and I love You so much. How can I begin to thank You?” After making a blessing and taking a bite Rabbi Miller remarked, “Ah, Father in Heaven, it’s truly a delicious gift, just as we have discussed.” Most of us have a long way to go before we ourselves would have such a “discussion” with God when sitting down to eat a piece of fruit. But there’s no reason why we can’t start taking small steps in this direction. The first step is to acknowledge that the good tasting food which we eat is intentionally provided to us by God. Once we incorporate this realization into our minds, we can take it a little further. After a good and satisfying meal, at a time when we are relaxed and not in a rush, we can whisper quietly, “That was really enjoyable! You are really good to me God, thank you so much.” Just a little thought and a few words can turn a lowly lust for food into a holy force, propelling a deeper connection between one and his Father in Heaven.