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Shabbat Parashat Eikev 5774

Ein Ayah: Avoiding Damaging, Exaggerated Spiritually

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 1:12)

Gemara: [After implying that the later one has his first full meal of the day, the more likely he is to be a cultured, responsible, and spiritual person, the gemara then discourages one from abstaining from eating too long.] After [the sixth hour (i.e., midday)], it is like throwing a rock into a flask. Abaye said: This was said only if he did not eat anything in the morning, but if he ate a little in the morning, it is not a problem.


Ein Ayah: Natural powers are very much in line with their ethical goals. Therefore, it is a mistake to overly limit one’s physical side in favor of his spiritual side. That is why divine wisdom created a natural punishment for one who waited too long in providing the necessities of his physical needs.

It is praiseworthy to wait to eat long enough to demonstrate sensitivity to culture, ethics, needs, hard work, and spirituality [explained in the previous piece, which we did not translate]. However, any further delay is a sign of bad and skewed hatred of life and impatience regarding the efforts one has to exert throughout his life. It will then not be easy to fix that which he ruined by not sustaining his body. There are natural powers that are set with a certain boundary, and when the boundary is even indirectly crossed, the type of damage that is hard to fix sets in.

Additional delay may not cause additional damage other than general weakness and can be fixed by eating at night, unless the body is afflicted by a special disease. However, that is true when the body is following a proper natural regimen. Indeed, when one eats something during the course of the morning, it shows that the delay in having a meal does not stem from a hatred of life but from various specific factors. Under those circumstances, the “natural punishment” preventing effective remedying of the situation by eating later does not apply.

Let us look at the natural side of this phenomenon. When food enters the body, it impacts the body by awakening the digestive system. The digestive system’s beginning to work is healthy for the body, as it turns food into usable sustenance for the body. If one waits too long, then neither the food nor the body will do its job properly. The food will be like a rock, which is not able to awaken the body or provide nourishment.  The digestive system will not be fit to do its job and will hold that which is put in statically like a flask, which does nothing to use the rock that is placed in it. This is as opposed to the natural state, in which food comes at the right time, when there is a harmonious interaction between the food and the body in which there is no need for external pressure to unite the two. When the body is already harmed by the delay, there is a need for something external to try to create the connection. This is hinted at by the gemara’s choice of the word “throwing” the rock into the flask. Natural interactions do not require harsh steps such as throwing, as “all the ways of Hashem are kindness and truth” (Tehillim 25:10).

All these problems come about when one holds back natural processes beyond that which is called for by nature and ethics. However, when one starts the process, by allowing food to begin the bodily functions, a subsequent modest delay is not problematic.

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