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Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand explores the experience of hunger and the satisfaction of feeling truly sated.

Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand explores the experience of hunger and the satisfaction of feeling truly sated.

Shoshana explains that, in the Jewish tradition, a blessing is said before eating to thank God for the gift of nourishment. Another blessing is said after eating, expressing gratitude for the sensation of feeling satisfied. While the feeling of being full is a powerful source of motivation, many people of faith believe there is much to be learned from the sensation of hunger.

The notion of self-induced hunger might seem strange to a non-believer, but Shoshana explains that many religious traditions involve fasting with different reasons for fasting or depriving oneself of food. The Christian tradition of Lent seeks to re-enact Jesus’ sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days; the Islamic tradition of fasting during Ramadan is meant to increase self-control in all-areas; and the Jewish tradition of fasting on Yom Kippur helps to express repentance leading to forgiveness.

Shoshana draws upon the poetry of the 13th century Persian poet, Rumi, who describes a kind of "exquisite sweetness" that comes from depriving oneself of food. But being hungry doesn't always feel as ecstatic as Rumi makes it out to be. Shoshana reveals "the truth is that following an entire day and night of fasting, I don’t feel terribly angelic. Instead, I’m feeling all too human - my stomach growls, my head aches, and my mouth feels parched and in desperate need of some toothpaste and a swish of water."

Nonetheless, she argues, this process is a valuable reminder of just how much her physical hunger is part of her existence.

Producer: Max O'Brien
Presenter: Shoshana Boyd Gelfand
A TBI production for BBC Radio 4

28 minutes

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