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Insights—The Sefer (in English)
The Ramban tells us that
included in קדושים תהיו is רבוי האכילה הגסה, excessive eating, as that is sanctifying ourselves with that
which is permitted to us.
Excessive eating has Halachic
ramifications. In explaining why one should leave room in his stomach for the third
meal of Shabbos, the Mishna Brura
writes that if he doesn’t leave room for it and still eats this meal, it may be
אכילת גסה which is not considered eating. Indeed, the Avudraham
tells us that we have three meals on Shabbos because if we know there are three
meals, we won’t eat אכילת גסה, since one will eat at each meal what he
What about reciting a Bracha
when one is satiated? One who is satiated before he eats and yet eats (אכילת גסה), if he is disgusted by it and doesn’t get pleasure, shouldn’t
recite a Bracha before or after since it is not considered eating.
In addition to this we know
that overeating is physically dangerous. The Rambam writes אכילת גסה is a poison and is the cause of sickness.
Likewise, Rabbeinu Yonah
(1200-1263) warns us against אכילת גסה as it can cause great
also states the secret of continual good health is to avoid overeating which
causes great damage to the digestive system.
What if one is unsure if he
To see if one is full, he should wait 20 minutes because that is when the food
is partially digested.
We were told that the
Shulchan in the Mishkan was to have a זר זהב, gold crown.
This hints to our desire for eating as this is what the Shulchan represents.
Explains the Kli Yakar,
if we have control over our desire for food then it is a זר, crown as we are free and like a king with a crown. If our
desire controls us then it is זר, stranger, outsider.
The Gra writes if one merits he consumes his food. If not, the food consumes
him as he has great loss from it.
(1809-1879) remarks that a Tzadik eats what he needs for רוחניות, spirituality, just that which he needs to sustain himself.
This is what is meant in the Pasuk לשובע נפשו צדיק אוכל, a Tzadik eats to satisfy his soul meaning that which he needs
for spirituality. The wicked on the other hand eat to fill their stomachs. The
saying goes “some people eat to live whereas others live to eat.” The Pri
Tzadik notes Esav exclaims הלעיטני, pour into me some of that red stuff… as
it stemmed from his tremendous desire for food.
Some people may eat a food item because it is
starting to spoil. However, this is not
a reason to eat the food if you are not hungry. The son of the Divrei Chaim
(1793-1876) once ate the half of an apple his father left over because it was
beginning to rot. His father said ‘was the apple created to serve you or you to
serve the apple? If you need to eat an apple now then eat it. If you don’t need
to, then don’t. What difference does it make if the apple is about to rot?’
We must keep in mind בל תשחית דגופאי עדיף לי,בל
respect to my body is more important meaning one’s health comes first.
Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander
Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia
Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and
publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim
where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching
Jews of all levels of observance.
There was a study done in which formerly heavy men and women
were asked by researchers from the University of Florida if they would choose
to be obese again or be afflicted with another malady. Each one of them chose
another malady with 91 percent saying they would rather have a leg amputated
and 89 percent saying they would rather be blind. What is the reason for such
responses? The shame and lack of empathy heavy people endure as a result of
their appearance. As someone said, “When you’re blind, people want to help you.
No one wants to help you when you’re fat.”
ענין שלש סעודות של שבת , s.v. כתב. The Sefas Emes writes in
a letter that Kidush shouldn’t be lavish in order that you should have an
appetite for Seudas Shabbos (Nitei Gavriel, 3, Heara 15).
Mishna Brura 197:28. See
Mishna Brura 476:6, 612:15.
Hilchos Daos 4:15. When one
is sick he can’t serve Hashem properly. This is one reason one should be
careful to avoid overeating (See Hilchos Daos 4:1).
R’ Yonah, Avos 2:12, s.v. וכל. He was a first cousin to
the Ramban and was the Rebbe of the Rashba and the Ra'ah. In his youth he
traveled to France to learn under one of the Baalei Tosafos, R’ Shlomo Min
Hahar. R’ Yonah was a fierce opponent of the Rambam's philosophical views and
is considered to have been instrumental in having the Rambam's Moreh Nevuchim
burned by the non-Jewish authorities in Paris in 1233. The tragic burning of 24
wagon loads of Gemaros that were burned in the same square by the Church in
1242, sparked R’ Yonah to regret his past views and publicly admit his terrible
mistake regarding the Rambam. While he strongly desired to go to the Rambam's
grave in Eretz Yisroel to ask forgiveness, he never made it. Along the way he
was in Barcelona for 3 years as he was detained. There he gave a shiur quoting
the Rambam with awe. He then continued his journey and was detained in Toledo.
There, he died suddenly. He was considered from the greatest of his generation
and his death was mourned throughout the world. The Ramban wrote a moving קינה, lamentation about his
greatness upon his death. His Sefer Shaarei Teshuva is considered one of the
greatest Mussar works. R’ Chaim Volozhin once commented that each Mussar Sefer
is not appropriate for all people. While some may benefit from one, someone
else may only benefit from another. However, he said Shaarei Teshuva is
appropriate for every Jewish soul for all eras in all situations.
Of course one should enjoy
the food (There were however Tzadikim who would eat with minimizing their
pleasure in food, if not altogether avoiding the pleasure). It has been
recommended to be present when eating. Look at the food, touch it and taste it
with presence. See the colors of the food that make it appetizing. Feel the
texture. Realize the ambiance. Recognize the nuances of the eating experience.
Notice the people you are eating with. What is the conversation at the meal?
Absorb the nutrients of your meal. If you are thinking about the past or
future, let it go. If you are about to eat under stress or your mind is in high
gear, it has been suggested to sit in a comfortable position with your spine
straight, with your feet flat on the floor. Then deeply inhale to 2/3 capacity
of your lungs. Hold your breath for several seconds and exhale fully. Repeat
this 10 times.
In his medical writings, 1.
The Pele Yoatz (אכילה ושתיה, s.v. וכן) writes some of the evils
caused by overeating: it is בל תשחית since
it is a waste of food. Excess eating is a waste of time since it is
unnecessary. That is not even including the time he spends in the bathroom
because of it. Additionally, one may become ill due to overeating (see also
Sefer Charedim 66,94).
Besides that being overweight makes
such a person more susceptible to diabetes, heart disease and a host of other
serious medical problems it also can make him unhireable when he is looking for
a job. Also, many times, one earns more if he weighs less [There are diets
named after places where rich people live—for example, The Scarsdale Diet
(1978), The Beverly Hills Diet (1981) or The South Beach Diet
(2003)— since such people are considered to be slimmer than poor people.]. Various
studies have shown that overweight people are seen as less conscientious, less
agreeable, less emotionally stable, less productive, lazy, lacking in
self-discipline, and even dishonest, sloppy, ugly, socially unattractive and
the list goes on. The stereotypes run so deep that even obese people hold these
same discriminatory beliefs about other obese people.
The Rambam (Hilchos Daos
4:14) writes that undereating is one of the three ways that one avoids illness.
He also (Hilchos Daos 4:2) writes that you shouldn’t eat until your stomach is
full (see Shemos 16:8, Rashi) rather eat until you are about three-quarters
To protect one from
overeating one should be aware of the following. When eating, we should be seated
since when we walk around grabbing food, we eat more. This can be from tasting
food as we prepare meals, eating food out of packages and containers, taking
bites of food from another’s plate as we clear the table or nibbling on food
when we open the fridge or pantry. Usually the food we eat while standing was
not food we planned on eating as it is an impulsive eating. Always put the food
on a plate and don’t eat from a package or container. For example. if you are
eating nuts from a package you may eat a lot more than if you, for instance,
took out 14 nuts to eat.
The word זר means a crown as well as
Incidentally, לא תאכל הנפש עם הבשר (Devarim 12:23) can be interpreted to mean don’t eat your
Neshama while you are eating. That is, eat like one who is a civilized
Pri Tzadik, Chelek 2, Rosh
Chodesh Shevat, p. 53a. Breishis 25:30. Tzadikim eat their food and enjoy it for
the sake of Hashem. This is in contrast to the wicked who eat and enjoy the
food only for its own sake. This is shown to us by Esav where Targum Onkolos
states on הלעיטני, אטעמני, taste.
R’ Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg
was once asked if it is considered בל תשחית to leave over some food (and not eat everything just because it
is on one’s plate) to control one’s desire. He answered that just as it is
permitted to make a potato into a doll and it is not בל תשחית since you are using it
for a constructive purpose, likewise the same applies here since what can be
better than working on your Middos and controlling your desire for food.