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The Guilt-Free Jelly Donut

The Guilt-Free Jelly Donut

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I just enjoyed a beautiful Chanukah—lighting the menorah with the children, giving (and getting!) Chanukah gelt and, of course, all of the wonderful Chanukah foods. But I can't help feeling that if there is one more Chanukah miracle on the way, if G‑d by any chance feels the need for a bit of supernatural holiday déjà vu, perhaps He should consider creating a guilt-free jelly doughnut.

I am ashamed to say that a good part of my attraction to this Holiday of Lights is that plate of perfectly sugar-dusted, golden brown, fresh jelly doughnuts. And ever since Jiminy Cricket took up health and fitness as a full time job, I can't seem to fully enjoy my favorite treat. The doughnut could be fresh and warm, the jelly sweet and oozing, but in the back of my head that little umbrella-toting cricket is holding a small chart listing all the arteries that I am currently clogging. He's shaking his head and saying, "A fine conscience I turned out to be..."

That little cricket is holding a small chart listing all the arteries that I am currently cloggingBut honestly, why is the guilt-free jelly doughnut so elusive? Why is it that science can land a camera on Mars and make a heart valve out of crude oil, but is somehow stumped when it comes to creating delicious food that is also healthy enough to become a sixth food group?

Let's try to use Kabbalah to answer the question with an eye on the big picture.

The Hebrew word for world is "olam," which has the same etymological roots as the Hebrew word helem, "concealment." Kabbalah explains that this is a very accurate description for the world, from the dust behind our couches to the raison d'etre of the world as a whole.

The world, olam, by definition, is G‑d hiding.

The world in its entirety, the galaxies, the continents, New York and Tokyo – even the very words you are reading – are a direct result of G‑d hiding Himself—hiding the fact that in truth, there is nothing at all beside G‑d.

As G‑d hides this truth, an image of a world appears. As the concealment grows, so does the perception of the existence of a world around us. Eventually the result is me sitting at the table with my jelly doughnut.

Why? Why does G‑d need to go through this charade just for me to be sitting here with a silly jelly doughnut?

G‑d is playing hide and seek.

The rules of the game are simple. Everything around me can be used for one of two things: it can be used by me for a selfish purpose (I can't see beyond my grumbling stomach, didn't see G‑d, lose two points), or it can be used for the end for which it was created—to make the world a better place. This can be through me eating to have strength to carry the proverbial old lady's bags across the street or to have a great time with my kids. (Passed on myself, recognized G‑d, collect $200.)

Interestingly, using this "game" to delineate the parameters of right and wrong, good and bad, results in a lifestyle that directly parallels the do's and don'ts of the Torah.

The usual moral guidelines put feeding cold, hungry orphans on one side, and mercilessly harming them on the other. This makes sense, it feels good, but where does that leave Yom Kippur? True, the modern moralist will teach that faith and ritual can make one a better person and/or they make you feel good, but is that sufficient reason not to pitch the defining game of the World Series on Yom Kippur?

"Love your neighbor as yourself" is not only designed to ensure that I don't bother you and you don't bother meFollowing the hide and seek game plan, however, which puts all self-centered acts at the bottom of the totem pole and all G‑d-centered acts at the top, explains it all. It still leaves the usual suspects such as theft and murder (what's more selfish than enhancing your life by ending someone else's?) as the ignominious cellar dwellers of morality. And helping, saving, and building all fit nicely at the top.

But now Yom Kippur – no leather shoes, food or drink, and all-day relationship talks with G‑d – is understandably at the top. Many other Jewish rituals and practices now also make perfect sense: Kosher—with each bite and with every choice I show that even when I am ostensibly looking out for me I am looking out for Him; tefillina daily reminder of G‑d's omnipotence bound to our heart and mind.

This also puts a powerful spin on the golden rule of conventional right and wrong: love your neighbor as yourself. This is not only designed to ensure that I don't bother you and you don't bother me. Being conscious of your neighbor is one of the most constant (and often the most difficult) way of living with the motto, "it's not about me." By looking past ourselves we not only become a mentch, we are staring straight in G‑d's direction. And finding the one who is hiding is the whole objective of hide and seek.

So where does that put our jelly doughnut?

Now we understand why Jiminy won't be going anywhere soon. Selfishness is the blinder that blocks G‑d out, so no self-serving choice will ever be truly guilt-free. When we indulge our selfish desires, our soul, which is never truly severed from G‑d, suffers from separation anxiety—and we feel the pain.

To truly enjoy a meal we need to eat with our heads, not with our stomachs. An eye on the end result of the food we are eating will keep our eating habits healthy and productive and will keep us feeling accomplished and energized.

So is there such a thing as a guilt-free jelly doughnut?

Of course. Put it on a plate, cover it with a napkin and give it to a friend. It will not only be guilt-free, it will actually peel away a tiny bit of the masquerade that G‑d is temporarily wearing. It will bring closer the day when G‑d will be completely revealed— the Messianic Era.

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