DOUGHNUTS OF THE BRAIN
by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
I was troubled by the mass consumption of doughnuts during Chanukah. I know it is one of the traditional foods, but honestly they are so bad for you. Do the schools need to give out so many doughnuts and strengthen the obesity epidemic? Do they really need to distribute free doughnuts at every event? I don't want to spoil the festival tradition but I was really troubled by the volume of sugar and oil my children were consuming. Do you have any thoughts?
I am pleased that you are worried about your wellbeing and that of your children. Protecting our health is a mitzvah. The tradition does not require large quantities to be eaten and doughnut consumption in moderation is in order.
But being that you're someone who is concerned, let me alert you to what I believe is a far greater problem threatening the wellbeing and healthy development of our young ones. I often observe children as young as two or three spending hours in front of a screen -TV, iPhone, iPad, videos or movies. The temptation to use these devices of technology as babysitters is incredibly enticing. We often rationalise this experiencing by convincing ourselves that the content they are engaging in is nonviolent, 'kosher' entertainment.
Yet at the back of our mind we know that we are causing harm and sometimes irreparable damage to the minds and emotional development of our children. Families no longer eat meals together with fun or loving interaction. More and more of our young ones are retreating into the passive world of technology, damaging their ability to communicate properly, to interact verbally with their peers, to spend time outdoors learning to be creative and enjoying nature. It is now scientifically documented that excessive exposure to television and other 'screen watching' hampers academic success. There are studies linking excessive television watching to violence, antisocial behaviour and even obesity.
So here is my advice. Chanukah is now over. Doughnuts are out of style until next year. If your child has eaten two or three too many, the effects are reversible, with a bit of exercise and careful dieting over the next couple of weeks. Now it's time to focus your attention on the 'unhealthy doughnuts of the brain'. Bad food is detrimental to the body, but an overdose of 'screen' exposure is disastrous for the soul, brain and personality. Make sure your child is really healthy. Limit the amount of time he/she spends in front of any screen. Encourage him/her to play with other people and to go outside and engage in creative activity and social activities.
An emotionally healthy child who has a couple of extra doughnuts is still ahead of a physically healthy body with a dysfunctional personality. Keep your child's body healthy but make sure that his/her brain and soul is even healthier.