One of the places Chabad brought me to was a Jewish old-age home in Morocco. It didn't smell pleasant. Not by old-age-home standards, not by third-world standards. Some of the residents were neither senile nor blind, and were able to acknowledge our presence when we came to light the Chanukah menorah.

A tiny old lady came over and introduced herself in English as Madame Leiberman. I was shocked. She had a hard-to-place accent. I asked her where she was from.

"Guess!" she answered mischievously, happy to be a schoolgirl for a moment. I gave up, and she told me: Vienna.

"Ahh, so you speak Yiddish," I offered, imagining a comeback in a German-accented Yiddish.

"Zicher, alle Poilishe Yidden hobben geredt Yiddish." All Polish Jews spoke Yiddish.

"So, you're a Polish Jew?" I asked.

"I'm neither Polish nor a Jew. Ich bin a krist: I'm a Christian," she answered in flawless Mama Loshon.

This all in a sparse room inside a whitewashed courtyard, under the turquoise sky of a purely Arabic country. I wasn't sure what was getting to me.

She had her audience; now she told her story.

Her husband was a Jew. Vienna was a very liberal city where Jew and Christian commingled and shared each other's cultures, and many young people intermarried. "Ahh, but I see you're not impressed; du hust dach a bord (you have a beard)!" She was delighted with herself.

Her group would protest noisily in front of the Nazi Party headquarters. When Hitler rolled in, they were sent to prison. I lost the historical flow from that point, but they were transferred later to prison in Vichy, France, and from there to the French colony of Morocco, to a concentration camp. "But not a real concentration camp," she assured me, "our concentration camp was so luxurious we even made a hunger strike!"

She went on with some remarkable insights, but my meeting her and that last line of hers came back to me as I read this week's Torah portion.

Forget now concentration camp standards. Think us, think America, think 21st century. Think things that we have in the house: bathroom scale, food scale, fridge magnets with "warning-contents-may-be dangerous-to your-health," mugs declaring chocolate the fifth food group. Think diets: Weight Watchers, diet pills, antacids, laxatives, stomach staples, tummy tucks. Think conditions: heart disease, gout - the rest I don't want to mention.

Measures we have taken to combat excess: not excess of bad things, excess of good things, like food. We have too much good in this world. More people are suffering from overeating than undereating. Yes, yes, you can't leave something on your plate without thinking of the starving children in India, but... isn't much (if not most) of that politically induced?

I feel queasy bringing this up on the tail of a tale retelling an unspeakable time. But she was on the periphery of it all, her story even more so.

How much is spent on (not waste, not this or that being thrown out, but how much is spent on) safeguarding us from not digging in? When do we stop bellying up to the smorgasbord and just say, "Thanks: it's good to be provided for."

For G‑d your G‑d will bless you. Torah parshah after Torah parshah the words are kept simple; when you'll be full and satisfied, you should thank He who provides. Thus the tradition that extols grace after meals above grace before meals.

But in this Torah portion He alludes quite strongly to more. "When the place (and "the place" in Torah refers always to the Temple Mount [which really isn't a Jewish place according to, oh, I apologize and digress] when ascending to Jerusalem) is far from you, and it is difficult to carry your homage, because G‑d has blessed you."

Now we're talking something heavier; not only does having too much make you sick, it makes you identify more with the body than with the soul. Notice how cows' heads are so close to the ground?

The cure for the body does not necessarily cure the soul; diet and fitness can indicate narcissism. Nor does sensitivity to matters beyond the Viennese table lead unswervingly to good health. But excess leads to poor health of body and soul. And declining a second helping and helping a second can converge for good health of body and soul.

Some other time we'll get to Madame Leibermann's other wisdom. For now I'll bask in the land of plenty, the land of opportunity, plenty of opportunity to choose what I won't eat.