Categorized | For You, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur

What a Jewish Wife/Mother learned from Eat, Pray, Love

Posted on 29 August 2010

Out of curiosity did I go to see Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
movie starring Julia Roberts. I wanted to see how the movie would show the struggle, travels, and eventual lessons learnt by Liz, the main character, in her efforts to find balance and meaning in her life. If you don’t watch movies, it’s not worth the trouble to go, keep reading though because there are some interesting lessons to be learned!

(If you’re interested in reading the book, I recommend you get it on a Kindle)

I have to say the movie was a bit lengthy and perhaps confusing (because of the character’s tendency to jump from one man to the next) in exactly what the producers wanted the viewers to walk away with, and there were a few quick glimpses (in my opinion, under-emphasized) into the true take home lessons.

Let’s start with Liz’s travels to Italy.

After waking up one night realizing she did not want to be married, Liz jumps out of her marriage into the arms of a 28 year old Yoga/Actor only to discover that their relationship was difficult and full of argument and discord. She leaves everyone behind to go to Italy, to “wake up her passions” after expressing that her life felt empty and numb. There she makes a bunch of wonderful friends and learns the art of “doing nothing”. She reviles in the sheer pleasure of comforts such as food and wine and friends. There she begins to learn to leave guilt behind, seeing how much guilt can impact the wonderful feelings of being in the moment-seen from when she eats all of the delicious Italian foods, needing to purchase “big-lady” pants because of her weight gain!

Unfortunately, many Jews grew up thinking that Guilt is a real part of the Jewish religion. I don’t know if that comes from all of the Jewish jokes about Jewish mothers and the guilt they so cleverly impose on their children, but in fact, guilt is so crippling that it can actually lead to more sin. “If I’m so bad, then I might as well continue to be bad and do x,y, and z.”

Let’s differentiate Guilt from Regret. On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we Return-“shuv” hence the word Teshuva. The High Holidays are days not of Guilt but of Regret and Resolution, and then of Connection. The opportunity to come closer to G-d is unparalleled, since G-d is giving us a clean slate. We face our sins with regret and then resolve to act differently this year, understanding exactly what our sins were and coming up with an action plan for how we will not put ourselves into the same bad situations again. Can you sense the difference? Guilt lives more in the Self-Loathing realm and is an unproductive state, whereas Regret, along with its action plan of change and resolution, is more productive.

G-d wants us to experience many pleasures. After all, He could have given us food in the form of a pill, without the luxury of experiencing all of the tastes that exist! It is our job, as Jews, to enjoy His pleasures and elevate them by eating Kosher and making blessings over the food.

Next, we travel to India.

India seemed to be a bit more of a struggle for Liz because of the impression she seemed to have at first that religion and oneness with G-d would come from giving up parts of herself. She finally learned that spirituality and closeness with G-d would come from actually being herself, with all of her quirks and what she saw to be personality flaws. When she realized this, her stay in India seemed to go a bit better for her.

The Torah shows us that G-d could have created Angels instead of people and yet, He decided to create people. People with free will, choices, and all of the personality “flaws” and “quirks” that come along with them. He wanted to give us the opportunity to grow and choose and make life choices that would promote our own sense of well-being as well as the well-being of those around us.

Bali comes last.

It is perhaps in Bali that the largest lessons are learned. After meeting with her spiritual healer, Liz is encouraged to combine both the pleasure she experienced in Italy along with the serious meditation she learned to perform in India. She still struggled in Bali with the concept of “balance”, this concept of “balance” being the driving force that propelled her to initially leave her marriage. The threads of the “Big B” in balance started to unravel as she performed acts of kindness for the people of Bali that she met that needed assistance from her. The climax of the movie was when Liz stubbornly refused to travel on a short boat ride with the man she fell in love with because it seemed as if his demands were overtaking hers, and once again the big “B” in balance was threatened and shaken to the core.

Liz ran off again, about to fly back to America, when she met with her medicine man who said what I thought to be the most meaningful part of this movie. He said something like, “Oh Liz, don’t you understand that it is okay to be out of balance for love?” The music changed, she ran back to her man, and all was good.

As a Jewish wife and mother watching Eat, Pray, Love
and observing this character’s fear of commitment and fear of losing herself, I realized that the constant effort to keep life in and out of balance is very much a Torah concept. As a wife and mother, to this character Liz, my everyday acts would be considered completely out of balance, as most of what I do revolves around my husband and my children. That however, does not mean I’ve lost myself.

The Torah teaches us that “To Love” means “To Give”. We all, including the main character from Eat, Pray, Love have experienced the amazing feeling that comes from giving to another. That is Love. And sometimes, giving means we step out of balance for another person. Hello all of you Mothers out there!

Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you lose yourself in order to be the support system your family needs. You must set standards so boundaries and limits still exist of course! If you keep giving and giving and never taking anything for yourself, you will only “burn-out”. A Healthy wife and mother would be someone that makes sure she has “me-time” and it stands to benefit her husband and children to understand this and respect it.

The daily responsibilities and mundane tasks we perform for our family and our spouse? That is love. And if that seems “out of balance”, perhaps it is misunderstood, as it was by Liz in Eat, Pray, Love.

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