Everything is Parve
What is Parve? In Judaism, we have a prohibition of mixing milk and meat together, because the energy that these two foods have shouldn’t be combined. However, there is a kind of food that is neither milk nor meat, and we call this kind of food “parve”. Parve is most simply defined as “neutral”. A food that is parve can be eaten with either milk or meat, or on its own. (There are infinite layers of depth to this mitzvah that I haven’t even touched on in this little introduction. I just want to explain “parve” as simply as possible…)
Judaism is a religion of doing. We know that we are in this world, right now, with a specific purpose. We see ourselves as being partners with the divine, spending our lives connecting the infinite with the finite… making the world a better and more connected place. We do not spend all our time meditating and basking in the presence of the infinite, nor do we believe that pleasures such as food, sex, love, alcohol, and money should be abstained from. We do meditate often (at least 3 times a day), but we do this in order to go out and bring the holiness and positivity of our meditation into the real world. This meditation serves a purpose, and the purpose is to put us into a state of mind that allows us to do good things. The same thing goes for the pleasures of this world. We do not believe that one should abstain from pleasure. On the contrary, we believe that our lives here should be filled with as much pleasure and joy as possible! For example, just look at how many days a year we fast compared to how many days we are told to connect through feasting. (Six days of fasting every year, compared to once a week feasting for Shabbat, as well as numerous holidays and celebrations!)
So what do I mean when I say that everything is parve? (Or more correctly, spiritually parve?)
Everything in this world is neutral until we make use of it. This includes all objects and all situations. Every object, when unused, is brimming with potential. The same goes for every life situation that you encounter. All of these “things” are here for us to use… they are all here for a reason. When we come across an object or situation, we have the choice between using it for connection, or using it for disconnection. Or more simply put, we can use anything in this world for good or evil… life or death. Everything has the potential to become both, and the choice is ours. This is what free will is!
That old woman struggling with her packages is parve. Do you choose to help her and make the world a friendlier place, or do you rush past her, increasing her struggle and feelings of loneliness? That bad test grade you received is parve. Do you use it to curse the teacher or use it as a chance to grow and learn more about yourself? The death of a loved one is parve. Do you use it to spiral into depression and spread anger and hate? Or do you use it as a chance to grow, and do everything you can to elevate your loved one’s spirit? That rude bus driver is parve. Are you rude in response, or do you realize that he is there to help you practice patience?
Objects are parve as well. Do you take that apple and share it with others? Do you gaze at it and marvel at the miracle of its creation, and use it to fuel you to do good things? Or do you wolf it down greedily and use the energy it gives you to spread negativity in this world? A belt is parve. Do you use it to hold up your clothes and help you remain comfortable while spreading love? Or do you use it as a form of ego gratification? Or Gd forbid, to abuse your family? Your bed is parve. Do you use it to be lazy? Or do you use it to give you the energy to give to others? The paycheque you just received is parve. There is so much potential in money. What are you going to use it for? Who are you going to give to? What businesses or merchants are you going to support? How you spend money says so much about who you are as a person.
Everything in this world has potential within it. The greater the potential, the more harm or good it can do. The choice is ours. Alcohol and sex are examples of two things that have huge potential. Alcohol can be used to cause extreme damage to others and ourselves, but it can also be used to bring joy into the world, and can allow us connect to each other and our creator through its effects. Sex has the most potential of any act in this world. This is why we are obsessed with it… because we all know the great potential that lies within this driving force. When used for evil, sex can destroy bodies and souls. Through objectification, slavery, rape and abuse, sex can be used for some of the most awful things imaginable. On its flip side, sex is the holiest thing that one can do. When used properly, it brings soulmates together physically and spiritually, and it is the greatest act of giving. Through the love that we create, we are even able to create miracles and bring new souls into this world.
Everything in this world is here for a reason. Every feeling and urge that we have is also here for a reason. Until we encounter these objects and urges, they lay dormant. They are parve. When we encounter them, the choice is ours. We have the potential to use these feelings and objects to bring joy, love and connection into this world. We also have the ability to do the opposite. Let’s all vow to start noticing the possibilities that lie within everything that we encounter, and always strive to fulfill its potential for goodness and connection.
The holiday of Purim is nearly upon us. On this day, Jews have a mitzvah to drink alcohol to the point of drunkenness. Please remember that if you know that alcohol brings destructive things from you, you should not drink. It is not a mitzvah to drink when this is the case. The point of drinking is to bring joy to each other, and allow us to see that the divine is everywhere, even in places that seem evil and dark. To all those that are celebrating, I wish you a Purim Sameach! (A Purim full of happiness!)
(Picture from our Tu B’shvat seder, in which we eat many different kinds of fruit and lots of wine.)