Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Ellul 5761 - August 29, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Shulchon Oruch

by L. Jungerman

"This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, [he] does not listen to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother; he is a glutton and a drunkard" (21:20).

The Torah points a finger at the characteristics of the rebellious son who is eventually condemned to death. The distinguishing signs: he is disobedient and refuses to submit to what is expected of him but only submits to his own desires and drives. He disregards his parents who are charged with his education. They may know what he is supposed to do, but they cannot understand what it is he really wants to do. In this area, he reigns supreme, and this is expressed in his lifestyle. He does not eat -- he gluts himself full. He does not drink -- he guzzles. His entire life revolves around the axis of satisfying his lusts in the quickest and fullest way possible.

This week's portion teaches us that from a person such as this, one cannot expect anything good in the future. Better that he die in his prime, rather than reach his anticipated bitter end. The Torah takes it for granted that such an end is inevitable.

In other words, we can state that there is a manner of eating that is a very symptom of a perversion of everything he is expected to believe in, a major flaw in his very emunah. This is eating that is not designed to strengthen the body for the sake of the soul, but is merely eating for the sake of eating.

The mussar works, Menoras Hamaor and Orchos Tzaddikim extract from this portion some basic rules establishing a proper attitude towards eating and drinking which constitutes an inseparable part of our lifestyle. They determine the demarcation line between eating and gluttony, between drinking and guzzling, in short: between what is holy and what is profane.

Every person is tested and sized up according to his deeds, writes the Orchos Tzaddikim, Shaar Loshon Hora. How? If you see a man who is wont to extol good food and wine and who despises plain nourishing food, know that he is a glutton. By what yardstick can we truly gauge him? By the way he relates to food -- if he doesn't make an issue of it.

One whose conversation revolves around food shows that eating carries a great deal of weight with him; it is important above and beyond what is normal and natural. Food, apparently, serves him as a means of satisfying his lusts and not merely as fuel to keep his body going. And this is precisely the definition of the Biblical glutton, the zollel vesovei, one who is perennially involved in satisfying his desires.

Menoras Hamaor expands on this in Chapter Two of the second volume: "`A tzaddik eats to satisfy his soul.' This means that the righteous and intelligent man eats just enough to sustain his soul so as to enable him to serve his Creator. The sinner and fool is different. He eats for enjoyment; he fills his belly with food, for in his inanity, he thinks that the world was created for his pleasure, and he owes it to himself to eat and drink his fill. Those who are addicted, that is, held in the thrall of their drives and pursue them constantly, will satisfy them today from what is permissible -- and tomorrow from what is forbidden. For when they cannot fulfill their desires through the means at their disposal, they will blithely go and steal from others. The Torah had the foresight to command that a father kill such a son if he sees that he has already begun guzzling food and drink."

The idea captured in these words is that when one develops the proper attitude towards eating, the attitude of making oneself suitable and qualified for the sake of a mitzva [in the ultimate definition of `kasher'], for the sake of sanctity, his table will resemble an altar and the physical act of eating upon it will not detract from his spiritual level whatsoever. On the contrary, it will increase his piety. But a person who gorges himself to satisfy his lust for food, is treading the path chosen by the glutton and will soon deserve that negative epithet.

Kol Mevasser brings that when the Gerrer Rebbe, the Beis Yisroel zt'l visited Maran the Chazon Ish zt'l in 5710 (1950), he mentioned the question asked by Meshech Chochmah on the Tosefta in Negoim that states that the laws of the profligate son do not apply in Jerusalem. Why precisely there? Said the Beis Yisroel along the lines of chassidic approach: Chiddushei HoRim says in the name of R' Bunim of Pshischa that the very act of eating the ma'aser sheini developed a great measure of G-d-fear in a person. He derived it directly from the Torah that states: "And you shall eat before Hashem your G-d, a tithe of your grain and grape harvest and olive harvest in order that you learn to fear Hashem your G-d." This is a proof that the very act of eating ma'aser sheini, eating in sanctity, developed piety in a person. This is why the law of the profligate son did not apply in Jerusalem, for there was a plethora of ma'aser sheini produce which was eaten there. Surely, the potential sorer umoreh must have had the opportunity to eat of this holy produce and would, thus, be cured of his evil tendencies so that he would never reach that bitter end. Rather, the holy food which he ingested would generate holiness and piety within him!

The eating of ma'aser sheini can serve as an example and review of the real purpose of any such consumption, for it is not only the tithe that one ate from a `high table.' Rather, any, or every, table should be `high,' elevated, exalted indeed, through the act of eating properly, for the right reason, purpose and end -- to sustain the body for its role of serving Hashem.

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