Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Torah and Food/Food and Torah

Here is a ridiculus קל וחומר (a fortiori) argument:  I see a dentist twice a year, and he only cares for one part of my body; certainly I should see a personal at least twice a year because he cares for many parts of my body.  The קל וחומר is ridiculous because the sort of care I get from a dentist is completely different than the sort of care I get from a personal trainer.  In fact, the only connection between their concerns -- teeth and gums vs muscles and joints -- is that they both happen to be in my body, but they couldn't have less to do with each other.

Yet that seems to be the sort of קל וחומר that R' Yochanan is proposing: Food does not require a bracha before, but does require a bracha afterwards.  Therefore learning Torah, which does require a bracha before, all the more so must require a bracha afterwards!  What in the world does learning have to do with eating?  In fact, that is precisely how the gemara (TB Brachos 21a) refutes R' Yochanan's proof:  How can you compare the brachos on food and Torah?  The bracha on food is for the pleasure we experience.  The bracha on Torah is for the eternal life it gives us!  That seems so obvious that one might question what R' Yochanan was thinking in the first place.  Here's a rule: if you, a non expert in the field, see that something obvious is it being overlooked by an expert in the field who is quoted in a peer reviewed document, you are wrong.

In fact, the gemara itself when refuting R' Yochanan hedges: moreover, we have a mishna that says that bracha before food is only d'rabanan.  Here's another rule: when the gemara says "moreover", it means that something was lacking in the preceding.  Why the hedge?  Because, as you probably already know, we have the famous mishna in Pirkei Avos (3:21): If there is no food, there is no Torah; if there is no Torah, there is no food.  Here we are back at square one; this time a statement on which no one argues that links Torah and food.

While it it true that Torah is the source of eternal life, one cannot learn Torah nor perform mitzvos (which is essentially the most intensive learning possible) unless he is alive.  Food, therefore, is an absolutely necessary precondition to learning Torah.  Also, many, many mitzvos revolve around food.  Food, therefore, also give eternal life.  On the other hand, there is no reason for life unless it is utilized in the performance of Torah and mitzvos.  Without Torah and mitzvos, there would be no reason for life itself, certainly not food.

The point of disagreement, therefore is really: What is the intent of the bracha on food?  Is it for the enjoyment or for the health and life that it provides?  What is the intent of the bracha on Torah?  Is it for the eternal life it provides, or is it for the fact that a life of Torah and mitzvos enables one to have enjoyment in this world?  Not to say what is more important, just a technicality in hte construction of brachos.  On that, the gemara believes that the original intent for brachos on food is for the pleasure, while the bracha on Torah is for eternal life.  However, it has no real proof -- in fact, it "hears" R' Yochanan's opinion very well; the final decider, therefore, is the p'sak of the mishna.

Even better... this gemara introduced us to the fact that we need to be thankful for both.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…

Thought for the Day: Prayer II -- How?

Now that we know that the obligation to pray is nothing more (nor less!) than a divine decree, we are going to also need instructions from heaven on how to implement that decree.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have instruction from heaven how to implement heavenly decrees.  One only needs to look at the shambles that one modern ism has made of the very important Torah principle of תיקון עולם/improving and fixing the world.  They have taken words out of context and used them to support their own nefarious schemes.  (To the point that Google Translate actually translates -- not transliterates -- תיקון עולם as Tikkun Olam.  Amelia Bedelia would be proud; we are not amused.

The Torah teaches us how to pray in two complementary fashions.  One is the way in which the concept is presented as an obligation, the other is by giving us examples of how to practically implement those instructions.

The obligation is introduced in the second paragraph of "sh'ma" -- וּלְ…