Searching for G-d in the Garbage by Bracha Goetz

Searching for G-d in the Garbage by Bracha Goetz

The newly-released Searching for God in the Garbage is an extremely candid memoir of how Bracha Goetz became an observant Jew and overcame anorexia. It is told through her actual diary entries and letters, spanning through the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

In the book, Bracha asks the question: Is it possible to recover from food addictions joyfully and savor life’s greatest pleasures? YES: by filling our souls! Here’s a short excerpt I loved from Searching for G-d in the Garbage.

June 24, 1978

I went looking for Aish HaTorah yeshiva today, the place where Mark studies. Mark told me there would be a class at his yeshiva today on the basics of Judaism for men and women. When I got to the address I’d written down for the school, I stopped dead in my tracks. Staring me in the face was a poster, taped on the entrance, with a huge blown-up photo of, of all things, a delicious looking bagel, stuffed with cream cheese and lox. And the caption below it read, “Is this the culmination of our 3,000-year-old heritage?” I then knew I had found the right place, before I even opened the door.

A big, jovial white-bearded man with black suit and a black hat, Rabbi Noach Weinberg, was giving a class in a long, mostly empty room. I liked that hearty, chuckling rabbi right away.

He was asking a question to his small audience, “Are you eating to live or living to eat?” And his words went piercing through me. That was no simple question for me to answer. He better not call on me for the answer, I was thinking. He’s got no idea what kind of nut he’s got sitting in on his class.

But then a guy from the back row called out the expected answer, “I’m eating to live!” I was breathing again, and hoping the rabbi would now get off the uncomfortable subject of eating.

“O.K. then, my friend,” said Rabbi Weinberg, “So what are you living for? Hold on there, Mike, I don’t mean to put you on the spot. Anybody have an answer?”

It was such a basic question, but not one person there felt ready to give an answer. Rabbi Weinberg broke the slightly too long silence with a chuckle. “People go to school for years to learn how to make a living,” he said. “How many years do people spend learning how to live?”

This was the class I had envisioned existing somewhere. Maybe I should have come here after elementary school! Now I am finally at a school that can give me some wisdom about life. My pen couldn’t move fast enough to get down all the ideas he presented, but I really worked at it.

“What’s the opposite of pleasure?” Rabbi Weinberg asked. And he answered what was probably in all of our minds this time, “Most people answer: pain. Well, in Judaism, we say that the opposite of pleasure is comfort – not pain. The soul wants pleasure. The body wants comfort. The soul wants meaning, wisdom, truth, to love. The body wants things like food and luxuries.

Comfort doesn’t last it’s momentary. Soul pleasures are lasting. Comfort even distracts a person from seeking pleasure. And as you get more and more comfort, like with food for example, if you eat more and more, it stops being enjoyable and actually starts to get even nauseating. But with soul pleasures, the enjoyment only increases.

And what about pain? You can think of pain as an effort. Making an effort is painful, right? Well, if you go over your own lives, you’ll see how pleasure only comes through a lot of effort. Effort is the means to pleasure. And just like it requires effort to remove the peel from an orange to get at the fruit underneath, it also requires effort to remove the peels, the outer coverings present in life. In order to eat from the ultimate sweetness and extract the lasting pleasures of life. And wow, what a juice is concealed inside!

Our body has desires. It tells us, `If I don’t get that strawberry shortcake, I’m going to die!’ And that distracting voice, that encourages you to damage yourself, doesn’t openly tell you to eat the whole cake, either. It tells you to eat just one more piece. It requires a tremendous amount of effort to ask yourself honestly, `What do I bow down to – God, prestige, money, or an ice-cream sundae?’”

I was starting to wonder if maybe he did know who was in his class. How else could he understand me so deeply? But he was talking to everyone – wasn’t he? And I thought this class was supposed to be about the basics of Judaism. This is Judaism?

The Rabbi was saying, “If you don’t know what you’re living for, you’re a zombie. Why run so fast, if you don’t know where you’re going?”

Yippee! That’s my question!

“This world was created to give us pleasure.”

That’s the answer?

“Our natural state of being is joy. If we don’t have that feeling, something is off.”

You’re telling me! But I thought Orthodox Jews were into being so stiff and serious – all those dark black suits and everything.

“Everyone wants to be good. And everyone thinks he is a good person, even the mass murderer. So what is a good man? Well, some people answer, `Just do the “natural” thing.’ In Judaism, we say a person has to develop himself, sensitize himself to his inner core – and the Torah explains how to go about this.”

That inner me – that real Joanne! Have you been in there waiting all this time?

“The first time you do something wrong – like stealing, for example – you feel so guilty and anxiety-stricken. Second time, it’s not so bad. After the third time, it becomes the right thing to do. A person will sometimes go through any amount of effort to avoid thinking. Thinking is uncomfortable. But the pleasure you get from the wisdom you bring out is great – and it endures. Judaism teaches us how to use and trust our minds to determine what is good and which pleasures are real ones.”

Boy, am I ready to use my atrophied mind!

“The blessing and the curse of being a Jew is that Jews are thirsty for God, for the absolute. All our Jewish souls were present at Mount Sinai. We all witnessed God’s Presence. So we’ve experienced the ultimate. And that’s why we Jews are especially never satisfied. We’re never satisfied with less than the ultimate.

Nothing else can satisfy a Jew and give him peace. Whatever he does, he’ll be the best at it, and that’s whether it’s being a radical or being a criminal too. Everyone is looking for the ultimate experience. It’s all misplaced searching for God. And that’s also why Jews make up such a large part of new religious cults like TM, Moonies, Jews for J.C., and so on.”

But I had to search elsewhere. The Judaism I was handed was only an “ultimate experience” gastronomically. The Jewish food was great – but that’s about it.

“Do you believe you have a soul? What is the source of your soul? What do you do with your soul? Do you just ignore it?”

Soul, if you’re still there, I don’t have to ignore you anymore.


This is an excerpt from Bracha Goetz’s new memoir: Searching for God in the Garbage

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8 comments

  1. Wow Bracha! That’s some great wisdom! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Bonnie Levy

    Bracha- welcome to my world! hahaha..I cannot wait to get this book and keep reading!!!!!

    So nice to see we have something else in common. WAY2GO!

  3. Mindy Elias

    Thank you for sharing a bit of insight into your experience.
    I am still working on greater ensoulment, increased presence and awareness!

  4. Eve Poupko

    Fascinating insights and so brave of you to share with us.

  5. Beautiful!!!!

    Incredible!!!

    I can’t wait to read it!!!

    I think we have a lot in common!!!

    Bracha you are amazing!!!!

  6. Bracha
    You have demonstrated that a tragic condition which can be deadly for some, can be controlled when you create meaning and strength to give up unhealthy perceptions and replace them with meaningful , life producing ways if being and ideas. Self esteem and a living support system can also provide the inspiration too. You have created an extra ordinary life with a loving family and Torah and articulately share your journey to inspire others

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