Joining the Marine [Park] Core!
“Tuv ta’am voda’as lamdeini” (Tehillim 119:66): Or, Why does my nice morning cup of coffee taste like warm, sweet, liquid plastic?
Rabbi Hillel L. Yarmove
OK, so this will be the most tasteless article you’ll ever read! Do you know why?
Because a few weeks ago I contracted COVID-19, became delirious, and ended up spending two nights in Jersey Shore University Hospital in Neptune, NJ.
But what I shall remember the most about my bout with the virus is not my high fever, the riveting body pains, or the seemingly perpetual fatigue that I experienced at the time. Indeed, upon returning home from the hospital, I was cheered to discover that I seemed to have bounced back from what was clearly a life-or-death crisis.
That is, until I sampled my usual cup of coffee just before I commenced davening Shacharis the morning after I returned home. Ugh!
I instantly contacted one of my sons who is in medicine and told him, “I have completely lost my senses of taste and smell: my morning coffee just tastes warm.”
Still, what a learning experience!
What! A learning experience? Had I become delirious again? How could anosmia (losing one’s sense of smell) and ageusia (losing one’s sense of taste) dictate the parameters of such a paranormal, unsettling personal event?
With a jolt I realized that I had always taken my ability to taste food as a G-d-given right. I had never even imagined what would happen to me if my sense of smell — which also miraculously plays a major role in how I perceive minute gradations in the flavors of food that I consume — were to disappear. OK, so my tongue retained its ability to distinguish between sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami (Japanese for “savory”: think of the effect on food rendered by the use [or misuse] of MSG). But the olfactory (smelling) sense and the astonishing interplay of our various other Heavenly-crafted tasting mechanisms are beyond our flawed ability to comprehend.
That is, until we lose these wonderful abilities. Consequently, we lose our appetite, our will to eat, and our motivation to live like menschen.
It is true that COVID-19 forced me to lose a good deal of weight!! But far more importantly, this plague reminded me that I had never really properly thanked the Basheffer of the universe for the marvels of that intricate system which He has installed in each one of us by which our food and drink have become more than palatable: They actually induce us to flourish and grow!
So thank you, Hashem, once again — for that cup of coffee which I have begun to be able to savor anew — indeed for the flavors of all the comestibles which I ingest on a daily basis. What a fantastic gift — yet all along I behaved as though es kommt mir. What seeming arrogance on my part!
“Tuv ta’am voda’as lamdeini”—now and forevermore.
Questions or comments: I may be reached at hillyarm@yeshivanet com. Bon appétit, dear readers!