Monday, September 22, 2014

Judaism's Top 40: Elul 28 Histapkut - Restraint and Simplicity

Tuesday – Histapkut – Restraint and Simplicity

Defined as temperance, histapkut is often seen as embracing simplicity, being content with less. Not focusing on trying to fulfill never-ending needs and desires frees us to be fully present to the moment and available to the others in our lives. Histapkut is first of all distribution with regard to what goes into our mouth. If the act of eating is considered in the context not only of self, but also of other, then when we eat we are by definition distributing food to another. With every meal we are challenged to consider before our own need or desire for food and the need and desire for food of another.

Secondly, histapkut means to provide for oneself. The reality and importance of our own needs for survival and satisfaction beyond survival can never be erased by theoretical constructions. We are not only commanded to live, but to enjoy life and to enjoy in gratitude the abundance of resources provided by the world of God’s creation. To sacrifice ourselves for the other is not permitted. The road to kedusha requires that we put the needs of the other before our own, but it neither requires nor permits us to ignore our own legitimate needs.

Histapkut prompts us to ask, before consuming, “Is this food necessary for me?” “Would this food better serve another?” “Should I be first distributing food, at this very moment, to another before feeding myself?” “How can I legitimately balance my needs and the needs of others?” The act is dependent on the questions. This value helps us to cultivate the uncertainty that destabilizes our self-absorption.

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