Sweet or Savory?

Thursday, 14 February, 2019 - 11:33 pm

Savory or Sweet? This is not just a question for people ordering a waffle. This is a real serious existential question. Which of the two is preferable? You might answer that it depends on your taste. Some prefer sweet over savory, and some prefer savory over sweet. That may very well be true; but it is a bit of a cop out.

Come on now… if you think about it honestly, how many people need to be trained to appreciate candy or ice cream. Show me a kid that doesn’t like sweet, and I will show you a kid who has brain freeze from too much ice cream. For that matter, show me an adult that doesn’t like some version of sweet, be it candy, chocolate, ice cream or cake. And now let’s think about savory honestly. Not everyone is born with a penchant for the piquant. Often it is an acquired taste for the palate that enjoys the tangy or tart flavors of savory cuisine.

So I pose the question again. Savory or Sweet? Shouldn’t the obvious conclusion be sweet? Or should it? Perhaps, once one develops the appreciation for the savory, there is no going back to sweet as the favorite?

At this point you may be wondering if you haven’t by accident made a wrong turn on the internet to a foodie blog…

On the verse in Genesis (27:4) where Isaac instructs his son, “Make for me delicacies, such as I like,” the Zohar comments, this is the voice of the Shechinah instructing the Jewish people to bring G-d nachas – pleasure through their service. In Tanya (Ch. 27) the Alter Rebbe explains, that there are two types of service represented by the use of the plural - delicacies. There is the service of a Tzadik, who is occupied solely with that sweetness of life, having conquered and eliminated the evil inclination within. This is a sweet and luscious delicacy for G-d.

Then there is the service of the regular Jew who struggles with the bitterness – the desire and inclination to do that which against G-d’s will. But when such a Jew manages to confront and subdue that evil thought or desire, this is akin to working the spicy and tangy flavors into a savory delicacy for G-d.

G-d certainly delights in the life of a Tzadik and the sweet pleasure this brings Him. One can argue, that the savory dish created by the toil of the “regular Jew” in subduing the natural desire for worldliness, and exchanging it with the service of G-d, is a pleasure in which G-d delights maybe just a bit more.

So I pose the question again. Savory or Sweet? Let’s leave that to G-d to decide. Or maybe we can just have a little bit of both.

Wishing you a sweet and savory Shabbos!
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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