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MODERATION

March 30, 2016

moderation-quoteIn Harold Mitchell’ weekly tongue and cheek column over the Easter Weekend on the comparison between diet, exercise and the upcoming election circus he says “moderation in all things – including chocolate”

Parsha (Torah Portion) Shemini in a nutshell from www.chabad.org

On the eighth day, following the seven days of their inauguration, Aaron and his sons begin to officiate as kohanim (priests); a fire issues forth from G‑d to consume the offerings on the altar, and the divine presence comes to dwell in the Sanctuary.

 Aaron’s two elder sons, Nadav and Avihu, offer a “strange fire before G‑d, which He commanded them not” and die before G‑d. Aaron is silent in face of his tragedy. Moses and Aaron subsequently disagree as to a point of law regarding the offerings, but Moses concedes to Aaron that Aaron is in the right.

G‑d commands the kosher laws, identifying the animal species permissible and forbidden for consumption. Land animals may be eaten only if they have split hooves and also chew their cud; fish must have fins and scales; a list of non-kosher birds is given, and a list of kosher insects (four types of locusts).

Also in Shemini are some of the laws of ritual purity, including the purifying power of the mikvah (a pool of water meeting specified qualifications) and the wellspring. Thus the people of Israel are enjoined to “differentiate between the impure and the pure.”

On Monday I decided to join my #cyclegroup for a few hours of climbing in the Dandenong’s. I was unsure if I should join after a tough day of running the day before and the need to focus on on my running rather than tough long rides in the hills, but thought – WHY NOT, I had not been for a while, I love the beauty of the climbs in the Dandenongs and it is always good to ride with friends (and then get punished!). Post ride some of my mates commented:

40km run + swim + today’s ride! Super strong!”-  Anton (Demon) Dembo and

No words, perhaps one…..LUNATIC! Albert darn impressive.” – Aubrey Levy

During the ride, Brad Karp said “Can you do a blog on this ride?” and then a few days later after I had completed another long run and ride, he commented on Strava “Could this week’s Blog be – How to get fit in 4 Days – The Ian Way.” I will call the Blog MODERATION and try do something….

Am I crazy, do I understand moderation and is this exercise (or some may think it is over-exercise) healthy?

There are many Jewish commentators who speak about the virtue of moderation and the Torah’s emphasis on moderation. In Maimonides Mishne Torah – his code of Torah law – Maimonides discusses the importance of moderation. Providing numerous examples, Maimonides urges that we exercise moderation in all of our activities and attitudes.

There are many lessons on moderation in this weeks Parsha. I will focus on these.

Our Parsha describes the death of Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu. Their deaths occurred on the eighth day of the dedication of the Mishcan (the Tabernacle). On the previous days of the dedication on, the service in the Mishcan was performed by Moshe. On this day, Aharon and his sons assumed the responsibility of performing the service. In response to Aharon’s service a flame descended from the heavens and devoured the sacrifices that he had placed upon the altar. His sons, Nadav and Avihu, reacted to these events by presenting an offering of their own design. They were punished for introducing an unwarranted change to the service. A flame from heaven consumed them.

Like so many of us would, Nadav and Avihu may have thought that if some sacrifice was good, more must be better. They misjudged the moment and overestimated their abilities to accomplish what they had set out to do. Rabbi Winston says that there are really two messages here, First, it is really important to know one’s ability and place, and not to exceed one’s limitations. This is not so easy to do, since we constantly struggle to find the balance between underachieving and overachieving. People tend to gravitate to one of two extremes, and finding balance is a life-long project. Second, we should never lose sight of the spiritual and physical context within which we live or operate at any moment. We need to judge: “No, now is not the time,” or, “If not now, when?”

“Studies have linked moderate drinkers with lower risks of heart disease and longer life spans than non-drinkers[i].” – Cleveland Clinic

In the shadow of Nadav and Avihu’s tragic death, G-d turns to their father, Aharon, and commands: “Do not drink wine or intoxicating beverage, you and your sons with you, when you come into the Tent of Meeting, and you will not die…”;

I read a beautiful thought on this –  Wine did, and still does, wine occupy a particular place in religious ritual, especially in Judaism. “Had the Torah’s only concern been for potential error on the part of the Kohanim, all intoxicating beverages would have been treated equally. By singling wine out for special attention, however, the Torah communicates that there is more to this prohibition than meets the eye. Wine used properly and in moderation, the Torah teaches, like all of G-d’s physical creations, enhances our appreciation of the Divine.”

In the latter part of our Torah reading we are instructed concerning the dietary laws, the laws of Kashrut. Many of our sages believe that we are granted the ability to eat meat, something not granted to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, only as we agree to eat it in moderation and follow laws which curtail some of our base attitudes and appetites for it. Therefore, according to this view, Kashrut serves as a way to ennoble our eating habits, to show that we should not live simply to eat, but eat in order to live.

In a recent blog I mentioned the #loveyourheart campaign and the importance of exercise. It was noted that moderate Intensity exercise was needed. “What exactly is “moderate intensity exercise[ii] [iii]”? #LoveYourHeart” – Cleveland Clinic. The article talked about the levels that you should increase you heart rate by, but I think as the article concludes, the important thing is to just get moving and exercise moderation, don’t go overboard and don’t do nothing.

“No genuine religion ever needed violence to prove its beauty, or terror to establish its truth. This is not faith but sacrilege”- Rabbi Jonathan Sacks[iv]

I have generally never really spoken about politics, but with the recent attacks in Belgium, stabbings in Israel …. Extremists are destroying the world, our lifestyles and attitudes to other religions and people! But what is the solution? Rabbi Sacks believes that it has to come from within the extremist groups, but how and do they want to change?

“This [extremism] can’t be defeated by military means alone. The world needs to hear another voice from within Islam.” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks[v]

I previously mentioned that I am reading Killian Jornets inspirational Memoir “Run or Die: The Inspirational Memoir of the World’s Greatest Ultra-Runner” and I noticed the following quote that sums up my attitude to moderation while I am training for an ultra-marathon “…The road to Tor starts to our right with a steep uphill bend. As I run uphill, my body, accustomed to protecting itself from physiological or muscular excess or the dangers of nature, slows the pace, reduces the length of each stride, and my breathing and my pulse flatten out. I accelerate, fighting against all this moderation. I’m fed up with so much restraint….”

GENERALLY I do understand moderation – I am the one bagel man, I rarely drink more than 1 coffee or beer in a day and both religiously and politically I do not see myself as an extremist. I do think that we all need to understand what moderation is and how it impacts our lives in this world of wanting more and “going overboard”. We are not a society of moderation. We believe that if some is good, more must be better. It is up to us to resist the societal forces pushing us to want more, and more, and more, to always feel that whatever we eat, drink, or own is not enough.

To end some great quotes:

There are two ways to deal with pain during an ultra. One is to put your head down and grunt through it. I don’t know the other way. #badwater #deathvalley #running #ultrarunning@thenorthface “
 – ultramarathon – Dean Karnazes Crazy runner dude

Everything in moderation, including moderation.” ~ Oscar Wilde

[i] https://t.co/GQJijwb6Qf

[ii] https://t.co/WK9fLwQY1G

[iii] https://t.co/bp7KyInta7

[iv] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/12205979/We-are-facing-an-unprecedented-age-of-terror.html

[v] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/12205979/We-are-facing-an-unprecedented-age-of-terror.html

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