An Israeli rabbi has banned throwing candy to celebrate a simcha. Rabbi Efrayim Zalmanovich, of Mazkeret Batya, claims the common practice of showering the bat mitzvah boy, groom, or new father with candy must be stopped due to the alarming increase in diabetes cases found throughout Israel, especially in the Haredi community.
Each year, 300,000 people in Israel are diagnosed with diabetes resulting in 7 deaths each day due to diabetes-related complications. While the number of diagnoses increasing 5 percent each year throughout Israel, Israel’s Haredi community is one of the hardest hit, with an estimated 16 percent of Haredim facing diabetes in their lifetime.
To combat these daunting statistics, Rabbi Zalmanovich, a prominent Orthodox rabbi who recently caused waves by declaring medical marijuana use kosher, issued a halachic decision calling for the end of encouraging the excessive consumption of candy. According to the rabbi, gorging on candy during life cycle events is an unhealthy practice that may lead to diabetes later in life.
In a written decision published in HaYom–The Israeli Forum for a Healthy Lifestyle and timed to coincide with international Diabetes Awareness Month, Rabbi Zalmanovich called for the end of candy throwing in respect of the mitzvah of guarding your souls found in Deuteronomy 2:4.
In his decision, Rabbi Zalmanovich does not ban the custom of throwing of treats in honor of festive occasions altogether, but rather points out that in the support found in the Talmud for the practice, women threw healthy nuts, not sugary treats, to celebrate festive events.
In order to prevent excessive candy consumption, Rabbi Zalmanovich recommends a switch to sugar-free candy or other less sugary snacks to uphold the tradition while discouraging children from loading up on junk food before the Shabbat meal. He hopes his ruling will ultimately encourage a move to healthier practices and reduce instances of late-onset diabetes in Israel.