Shulhan shel Arba: The Second Gate

Rabbenu Bahya ben Asher, Shulhan Shel Arba (late 13th-14th century Spain)

The Second Gate: An explanation of the nature of eating: What it is and how a person through it should prepare himself for the proper purpose in life required of him 

[p. 491] A person has a great obligation to reflect deeply upon the nature of eating and to reflect deeply into its appropriate end.  Namely, that the nature of eating is the annihilation (kilayon) of the thing that is eaten and made into waste.  Accordingly eating is called “akhilah,” from the expression kilayah – “annihilation” – of what is being consumed in the stomach.[1] And the three special organs that are the “kings” and heads of the rest of the body’s organs each take their share first.  They are the brain, heart, and liver, and their essence is circulated and distributed to the rest of the organs, which serve and are subordinate to them, just as servants are fed from the table of the king, and are blessed through his blessing.  Now see that they are three kings, and that they are singular; they were not created in pairs like the other organs.  For the work coming from two workers is heavier than the work coming from one worker.  Therefore, the Sage has said, “It is not good to have multiple leaders,”[2] and for that reason was the Cause of everything one, namely the Creator, May He be Blessed.

[p. 492] And thus the utensil, the knife, with which food is cut into pieces is called a ma’akhelet because it annihilates and destroys, as in the expression, “you shall consume (ve-‘akhalta) all the peoples.”[3] And the verse which uses va-yokhlu (“they ate”) to refer to what the ministering angels were doing teaches this,[4] as our sages z”l taught in a midrash about the three calves that Abraham brought to them.  “One after another each one went up and disappeared (kalah) off the table, and Abraham when he realized this, brought some more meat almost continually time after time, like a person who kept increasing the number of whole burnt offerings he sacrificed on the altar.”[5] And likewise about Adam it is written, “She also gave some to her husband, and he ate (va-yokhal).”[6] The word va-yokhal (“and he ate”) proclaims his sin both by his deed and by his thought. By his deed:  that is that he caused the tree to lose its fruit, and ate it despite his being warned not to: “for as soon as you eat of it, you will die.”[7] His thought: that is that he destroyed, cut off, and made like the branch of the tree was a thing in and of itself, and if so, everything suffers destruction and annihilation, in both physical and intellectual things.[8] And so when you are found saying the word va-yokhal, it includes the destruction (hashhatah) of both something below and the destruction of something above, as it is written, “your people have gone bad (shihet),”[9] and likewise Jeroboam was called a mashhit – “destroyer” – because he destroyed and cut short the shoots.[10]

And already you know that the soul is sustained in the body and its activities are manifest only if the body eats.  And from this understand the matter of the sacrifices, which are the hidden things of the Torah, about which it is written: ‘to My [offering by] fire, my pleasing odor’ [Nu 28:2].  The power of the higher soul increases and is added to by the fire offerings in the eating of the sacrifices, and so our rabbis said;[11] ‘My sacrifice, My bread, to My [offering by] fire.’  It could say just ‘My bread,’ but Scripture adds, ‘to My [offering by] fire;’ to My fire you give it.  This is because of the connection of the soul to its attributes.  The powers of the soul are connected to the powers of the body.   And understand the verse that ‘the favorite of the Strong One’ [Ps. 103:1, i.e., David] mentions: “My soul bless YHWH, all that is inside me [bless] His holy name.’  The invisible unites with the invisible, the visible with the visible.  And understand this, that the powers of the soul are not visible and are actualized only through the body.  If so, the body is a great necessity for the public revelation of the high degree of the soul and its perfection.

And it is necessary that you know that human eating is nothing but an illusion, that it is not a true thing or a real activity, that it is something deceptive, something that keeps changing as it goes through the internal organs in a sequence of causes and effects. But ideas refined through wisdom, and by the attachment of one’s thought to the light of the intellect to the Upper Wisdom is itself “real and lasting eating,” as in the way that our Sages of blessed memory interpreted the verse: “‘And they envisioned God, and they ate and drank.’[12] R. Yohanan says, ‘real eating,’ [akhilah vada’it], as it is said, ‘In the light of the face of the King – life!’[13] And it is necessary for you to think hard about this verse, why it was necessary to say, ‘they envisioned,’ and why wasn’t it written as it was just before, ‘they saw?[14] But rather because it specified ‘they saw’ so you would not understand [what happened next] as actual seeing with the sense of your eye, it follows that it was necessary to say ‘they envisioned’ immediately afterward to teach you that this wasn’t this prior kind of ‘seeing’ [re’iyah], but rather seeing by means of prophecy, and that is why it said, ‘And they envisioned [va-yehezu] God, and they ate and drank,’ from the term for prophetic “vision” [mahzeh].  And the explanation of the Scripture ‘And they envisioned God, and they ate and drank,’ is that the leaders merited to see with the prophecy of ‘a glass that does not reflect,’ without a barrier, [p. 493] while the rest of Israel had a barrier, and Moses really “saw” directly.[15] “And they ate and drank,” that is to say that their eating and drinking by this vision was indeed “real eating.”  And it is also possible to interpret “And they ate and drank” as that they saw by prophecy the very attribute from which they “ate and drank,” that is, from the very same attribute from which the manna came to them, which is the principle behind all their material support, about which matter it is written, “She rises while it is still night,”[16] and it is written “Here I am causing it to rain down.”[17] And you already knew that this was material support that occurred at night, for this is to what ‘She rises while is still night’ is referring. And thus the manna used to come down during the third watch of the night, when the Israelites were sleeping in their beds in the desert.   And on the next day they would get up early in the morning and find their sustenance ready for them.  This is the meaning of what is written: “So they gathered it every morning.”[18] And thus you will find in First Temple that the rains used to fall on Wednesday and Shabbat nights, and on the next day they would get up early in the morning to do their work, without wasting any time.  And so you also find with King Hezekiah, who said, “Master of the World, I myself don’t have the power in me to pursue enemies, or to sing a victory song, but I sleep on my bed, and you do it.”  And the Holy One Blessed be He replied to him, “You sleep in your bed while I do it,” as it is said, “That night, an angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 in the Assyrian camp.”[19] It was about him (or this) David spoke when he said, “In vain do you rise up early and stay up late…He provides as much for His loved ones while they sleep.”[20] The meaning of the Scripture is that what the other peoples achieve through hard work, by getting up early and staying up late to eat the bread for which they toil,[21]God provides to His loved ones while they sleep!  This is the thing the Holy One provides to the one He loves, at the hour when he’s asleep, with no need to bother about it at all.  And from now on any reference to “they ate and drank” means nothing other than a reference to “real eating,” or to eating the manna that was the offspring of the Upper Light – which is “real eating.”

Therefore the reverent person ought to have his intention connected to the higher things, and have his eating be to sustain his body alone and not to be drawn to physical pleasures, for being drawn to physical pleasures is the cause for the loss of both body and soul, and the cause for forgetting the point, for out of eating and drinking he will become full of himself [lit., lift up his heart] and stumble into great pitfalls and sins, and do things which should not be done. See how Joseph’s brothers sold him only in the middle of eating and drinking, as it is said, “They sat down to a meal, and looking up…”[22] And for this reason the Torah said not to eat on Yom Kippur, which is the day of judgment for criminal cases involving people, because one’s eating might cause his soul to sin.  And they even said in civil cases dealing with monetary compensation: “akhal ve-shatah al yorah” – “Don’t instruct right after eating and drinking!”[23] Why is this so?  From what is written, “Drink no wine or other intoxicant, you or your sons,”[24] and connected to it,  “to instruct [le-horot] the Israelites.”[25] When they were commanded to instruct [le-horot], they were warned to avoid wine, because wine confuses the mind, and it does not distinguish between the holy and the profane, which is why it is written “to distinguish.”[26] All this is proof that eating and drinking causes human beings to move themselves away off the track of Torah and worship, and to cast aside all the statutes of Ha-Shem, may He be Blessed.  All this is caused when one has eaten and is satisfied, and therefore the Torah commanded, “And you shall eat and be satisfied, and you shall bless” (Deut 8:10). [494] That is to say, after you will have eaten and have been satisfied, and you are close to throwing off the yoke of the commandments, “You shall bless YHWH your God” at the very moment you need to bless Him, so that you will take upon yourself the yoke of His rule and bless His name.  And this in my opinion is the meaning of the Scripture, “In all your ways, know Him;”[27] it means even at the time of eating when you are close to forgetting Him and to severing your reason from your mind, at that very moment, “know Him” and cleave to Him.  And if you do this, “He will straighten your paths,”[28] He will straighten your ways on the paths of life, namely, the soul’s successful attainment of the world to come. If so, then a person ought to eat only for the sustenance of his body alone, and it is forbidden for him to pursue any sort of pleasure unless it is to make his body healthy and make the eyes of his intellect clear-sighted.  In order for his body to be healthy and strong, he should pursue what pleases [his intellect] and his Creator, for his organs are combined and possess the capacity exactly in the measure that enables him to bear the yoke of the Torah and its commandments, which is the point of the verse written about the tribe of Issachar, “he bent his shoulder to bear the burden” (Gen 49:15), which is the same language used to refer to the giving of the Torah, “He [God] bent the sky and came down” (2 Sam 22:10). And anyone whose intention is this, is an angel of the Lord of Hosts, but whoever does not direct their intention to this end, is “likened to the beasts that perish.” (Ps 49:13,21).  “You can see for yourself”[29] Joseph the righteous, who was noted for his quality of reverence [yir’ah], from what is written, “I am a God-fearing man”[30] and “Am I a substitute for God?”[31] hinted at this point when he said, “take something for the hunger of your houses and be off.”[32] He comes to instruct and to teach people to know that they should only eat to break their hunger, not to fill their belly and be drawn by the taste, which is base and to be scorned, because that is a disgrace to us, utter waste, and a thing which has no point to it.  And do not say that this because it was a time of famine, because when Joseph was “a prince and commander of peoples,”[33]and the treasuries of the king were under his control, he had the power to supply bread and food to his father and brothers, as in the other the years of plenty.  However, instead he made it known to us that this is the way of Torah and fear of Ha-Shem (may He be blessed!), that a person should only eat, satisfy himself, and fill his belly to satisfy his soul.

And know indeed that what kind of person one is, is determined at the table, for there his qualities are revealed and made known.   And thus our rabbis z”l said, “By three things a person is known: through his purse, through his cup, and through his anger.”[34] For being drawn to wine and other pleasures – surely these are “the drippings of the honeycomb”[35] – is one drawn to the drug of death, and by his grasping this path he will die an everlasting death.  But whoever wants to live ought to keep far from this path; “he will eat and live forever.”[36] And thus our rabbis z”l said in tractate Gittin of the Talmud, “A meal for your own enjoyment – pull your hand away from it,”[37] and similarly said, “‘You shall be holy,’ that is, ‘you shall be abstemious (perushim),'”[38] and “Make yourself holy through what is appropriate for you.”[39] And the author of Ecclesiastes said, “I said to myself, ‘Come, I will treat you to merriment. Taste mirth!’  That too, I found was futile.”[40] And after that, he said, “I ventured to tempt [limshokh] my flesh with wine.”[41] And in tractate Sanhedrin of the Talmud:[42] “Thirteen woes are said about wine, and they are specified in Parshat Noah. It is written, ‘Noah, the tiller of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard,’[43] which means from the moment he began to plant, he made his holiness profane.  That is the point of the expression va-yahel – “he began”- which includes both the connotations of “beginning” (tehilah) and “profanation” (hillul).  And because of wine, one third of the world was cursed.[44] And they also taught in a midrash, “Don’t eye the wine, as it reddens…,”[45] that is, it yearns for blood.[46] And likewise Bathsheba [p. 495] warned King Solomon not to tempt his flesh with wine,[47] when she said to him, “Wine is not for kings, O Lemuel; not for kings to drink, nor any beer for princes.”[48] And so he said, “I ventured to tempt my flesh with wine,”[49] and “for who eats, and who feels the pleasures of the senses but me?”[50] and then remarks after that, “That too is futile.”[51] For it is well known that someone in whose heart reverence for HaShem and fear of Him is strong, will reject and separate himself from the pleasures of the world, and will scorn them to the utmost, for he knows and is familiar with their consequences, while others who are lesser or worthless will fill their bellies with what delights them, and their vessels will return empty; they’re empty because they lack sense “They neither know nor understand; they walk about in darkness.”[52] About this, Solomon said, “When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider well who is before you.”[53] He said, “If the wrath of the ruler rises up against you”[54] and you go out to eat “the king’s food or the wine he drank”[55] in the house of the king who rules the land, understand well and look at those who were before you who chose this way- “what they saw in that matter and what had befallen them.”[56] Doesn’t the high status and greatness of most of them end up in humiliation and submission, “wholly swept away by terrors”?[57] Just what is written right afterwards in Proverbs, “Thrust a knife in your gullet!”[58] And our rabbis z”l said, “Do not yearn for the tables of kings, for your table is greater than their table, your crown greater than their crown.”[59] Therefore, a person should not seek excessive gains and pursue them, for if he does, his days will be painful and he will never be satisfied, because there is no end to these gains, and whoever pursues things that have no end – is he not sick, blinded by his stupidity?  For “every fool is embroiled.”[60] It goes without saying that he has no share in the Torah, because if he were rich and used to eating and drinking with silver dishes, he would be liable to think little of them and become unsatisfied until he had utensils of “turquoise, sapphire, and diamond,”[61] and as soon as he obtained one of them, he’d want two or three, and this would go on without out end.  And therefore a person with good qualities must not in his heart crave for excessive gains, and should be satisfied with a little.

See how the Torah attests that Jacob our father (Peace be upon him) had the quality of contentment, and did not seek excessive gains, but rather only what was necessary, who, when it was said, “If God gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear,”[62] asked for what was necessary, what the Holy One Blessed be He provides for all His creatures, as it is said, “You give it openhandedly, etc.”[63] And our rabbis z”l taught in a midrash: “‘Bread to eat and clothing to wear:’ in all his days, this righteous man [Jacob] never grieved over his eating, but rather over ‘the inward and the outward.'”[64]

And know that the righteous person ought to direct his mind when he is eating only to the fact that the bodily meal by which he will sustain his body for the moment is so that his soul with it may show its powers and realize them in action, and by this prepare the eternal meal by which it will sustained forever.   And look at the holy status prevalent among the elite of the people of Israel, who used to eat and look with the heart itself.   This is what the Scripture means when it says, “They envisioned God and they ate and drank,”[65]that the organs of the body which are the vessel of the soul would receive power and strength in the banquet, and the soul would be roused with its powers in them and strengthen them in this thought, and make it possible for holy spirit to descend upon it [the body] at the time of eating, when he is lifted up in this thought, and his body is clothed in the thought of his soul, and the two of them as one good enough for the Divine Presence [Shekhinah] to descend among them.  This was the intent of Moses and the elders of Israel during Jethro’s banquet, and this is what the Scripture means when it says, “Aaron came and all the elders of Israel [to partake of the meal before God with Moses’ father-in-law],”[66] and likewise Isaac our father in the tasty foods for which he asked,[67] and in all the rest of the places that we find banquets [p.496] for righteous people – that was the end to which they were intended.
And it follows from the rule that a human being needs to direct his mind when eating (and this is of great benefit to the fulfillment of his intent), that he turn to “fine foods,” for by their fineness the intellect is refined and the heart made clear-sighted, as our sages said, “wine and fragrances made me clear-sighted,”[68] and it is necessary to direct one’s mind to them only to make the eyes of the intellect clear-sighted, as I mentioned above.  And one should beware of coarse foods, for the power of the intellect is clouded by them and its lucidity and refinement ruined. And already among our ancestors, so I have heard, that whoever did not eat beef because of its coarseness, but whose eating consisted mostly of small, delicate fowl, would raise them in their homes and feed them meals of ingredients known to them and which they themselves prepared for them, in order to refine their brains and make their organs right, which are the vessel of the soul, in order for the soul to be lifted up and develop the aptitude to receive the Torah and to understand the Holy One (may his name be blessed), for the intellect is sharpened and refined according to the fineness of the food and its purity.  And this is a tried and tested thing among cosmopolitan people, and some village people, for cosmopolitan people whose foods are delicacies and whose drinks are fine and refined – are they not intelligent in every area, and quick to understand science with ease and without much effort, much more so than village people who eat barley and onions, and the rest of the coarse foods.  Indeed the coarseness of their intellect follows the coarseness of their food.  And the choicest of enjoyments, the pleasures of food were created only for the sake of the Torah, and for this reason they said in the Chapters of the Fathers: “If there is no choice flour, there is no Torah, and if no Torah, no choice flour,”[69] that is to say, there would be no pleasures of food.

And it is necessary that you consider well that human beings’ food should have been only plants from the earth, such as grain produce and fruit, not animals. For animals have a soul of that gives them independent movement, which is similar in some of its activities to the soul of intellectual beings, and this is kinship which motivates us to keep away from what is harmful.  Accordingly, a soul that can move itself ought not to be a food for the human soul. Therefore, Adam was originally commanded that his food and sustenance be grain produce and fruits, the point of what was written: “Behold I have given to you every grass and seed-producing plant…”[70]

But at the time when all flesh went bad, and all animals deserved annihilation and would not have been saved were it not for the merit of Noah, it was permitted to eat them [the meat of animals], just as the greens and grasses had been before.  At that time the souls that could move themselves were permitted to wait upon the intellectual soul, who waited upon the Creator.  And if so, this is not to demean the soul that can move itself, but rather a mark of respect, status, and merit, and accordingly our sages taught,

It is forbidden for an am-ha-aretz to eat meat, as it is written, ‘This is the Torah of the beast and fowl.’[71] All who engage in Torah are permitted to eat the meat of beasts and fowl, and all who do not engage in Torah are forbidden to eat beast and fowl.

The explanation of this among the enlightened is – when we set aside a soul for a soul, this is nothing other than the soul that can move itself that we annihilate for the sake of intellectual soul.  But because one is an am ha-aretz and has no intellectual soul, you have it that he is forbidden to eat meat, since [in him] we have nothing to set aside and annihilate the soul that can move itself, since he is someone who has no intellectual soul, and understand this.

And thus it is necessary that when one eats, he turn his thought [mahshevato] and that it ramble about [meshotetet] the Holy One Blessed Be He over each and every bite – according to the matter of “They envisioned God and they ate and drank.”[72] This is like the way our sages interpreted “Let all that breathe [kol haneshamah] praise the Lord,” over each and every breath [kol neshimah ve-neshimah] give praise to Him. You could learn this from the generation in the desert, for when they ate the manna, their intention would ramble about the Shekhinah, and they would meditate about her in humility, why wisdom required that the quantity of their meal be an omer, which is one tenth of an ephah, that is to say, one tithe of an ephah, the reason for the commandment to tithe – for see, when a person would measure out nine measures and separate the tenth, it would get wise people [p.497] to meditate about the meaning of “the tenth,” which is the attribute[73] which gives food to Her house and supplies meals for every creature above and below.  And for this reason, [our sages] said, “nine [adults] and a minor can be combined with them,”[74] that is, combined to make a minyan of ten for birkat ha-mazon (grace after meals) in which one can include the words, “Let us bless our God,” the lord in charge of satisfying the every creature with meals, whose face every Israelite would come to see and to whom they would give thanks for the support with which He supports His world.  Therefore, they used to come to Him three times a year for the pilgrimage festivals: Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot – on the holiday of Passover because it is the month of Aviv, the time for the barley harvest; on the holiday of Shavuot because it is the time for the wheat harvest, and on the holiday of Sukkot because it is the time of gathering when all the fruits were gathered into the home.  And this is why it is written,  “[three time a year all your males shall see] the face of the lord YHWH, the God of Israel,”[75] and it is written, “none shall see My face,”[76] that is to say, without a sacrifice, because they would need to bring in any case the olah and shlemim offerings, and through this the world would be blessed with its meals and sustenance from the flow of blessing from the source to the well, and from the well to the garden, and from the garden to the four rivers of the garden of Eden of the lower world, whose inhabitants are blessed from there throughout the four corners of the world.

So you find yourself learning that when a person stands over his table and eats with this thought in mind, see!  This eating is indeed physical and a natural activity, but see! It also revolves into a higher, intellectual form of worship, and this is the reason why it is written, ‘In all your ways know Him,’[77] as I discussed above. And if so, you see how one’s eating is thought to be a perfect act of worship like one of the forms of divine service [i.e., the sacrifices], and the like quintessential commandment of all the commandments.  And this is the point of having the right intention at a meal at the table – that the body be nourished by it and take its bodily portion from the bodily eating, and the soul by this act of thought is filled, fed, and satisfied as if from the choicest parts of “real eating” of the ways of Ha-Shem and His pleasantness, and regarding this it is said, ‘Your table is laid out with rich food.’[78]


[1] R. Bahya midrashically associates the words akhilah and kilayah through “creative philology.”

[2] That is, Aristotle, as quoted in R. Bahya ibn Pakuda’s Duties of the Heart, Chapter 7 (Chavel, 491).

[3] Dt. 7:16: “You shall destroy all the peoples” (NJSB). Ma’akhelet is the term for the knife with which Abraham prepares to slaughter Isaac in Gen 22:10.

[4] Gen 18:8, in the story of the angels visiting Abraham at Mamre.

[5] Gen. R. 48:16.

[6] Gen 3:6

[7] Gen 2:17.

[8] R. Bahya alludes here to the kabbalistic idea that the sin of Adam also involved “the cutting of the shoots,” the intellectual error of mistaking the part for the whole of creation.  This had profound cosmic implications, since by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, Adam not only physically separated the fruit from the tree, he intellectually “separated” it from its heavenly image above, its source of power and energy.  This intellectual separation cuts the divine “pipeline” connecting the lower and upper worlds, effectively blocking the empowering flow of divine energy between the two worlds.  It is precisely this state of affairs, the consequence of Adam’s sin, that the table blessings R. Bahya discusses in the First Gate is intended to repair.

[9] Ex 32:7.  This is from the story of the Golden Calf. God is speaking to Moses, and instead of referring to the Israelites as “My people” as He usually does, God calls them “your – i.e., Moses’ – people,” much as parents often pass the buck to one another when their children have misbehaved (as does Moses, too, replying to God in Ex 32:11). I think R. Bahya’s point is that there is both a lower and upper “people “(“your [Moses’] people” vs. “My [God’s] people” that have “gone bad.”

[10] See note 8 above. R. Bahya alludes to the midrash in b. Berakhot 35b: “‘He is a companion to vandals (ish mashhit) (Prov. 28:24).’  This refers to Jeroboam the son of Nebat who ruined (she-hishhit) Israel for their Father in Heaven,” by building two golden calves and ordering the Israelites to worship them (I Kings 12:28-32).

[11]Song of Songs Zuta, though in R. Bahya’s own paraphrased version [as per Chavel’s note].

[12] Ex 24:11.

[13] Prov.16:15.

[14] Ex. 24:10.

[15] That is, the leaders’ prophetic vision was better than the Israelites’, but not as direct as Moses.’

[16] Prov. 31:15.

[17] Ex 16:4.

[18] Ex 16:21.

[19] 2 Kings 19:35. This story about Hezekiah is a midrash from Lam. R. 30.

[20] Ps 127:2.

[21] An allusion to Ps 127:2.  R. Bahya hints here that food “served” to Israelites without any toil, that is, good things God prepares for them while they are asleep, is angelic food.  As R. Bahya put in his preface, “Our food is not their food. Their [the angelic beings’] food is conceived in their mind, when they see the face of their Maker. Our food is meager bread, water, and tears, gotten by hard work and toil.” It is like the food Adam ate before the Fall.

[22] Gen 37:28.  While eating the brothers looked up and saw the Ishmaelites to who they sold Joseph.  R. Bahya expands upon this more fully in his commentary to the Torah on this verse.

[23] A rhyming proverb in the Hebrew. Yorah, which means to instruct or teach, is the same verb used in the Biblical passage from Lev. 10:11 that R. Bahya cites.  It is from the same Hebrew root as the word Torah. R. Bahya subtly makes another point here besides the obvious one that people are inclined to make bad judgments right after they’ve eaten and drunk. Namely, with this wordplay and the analogy to the Biblical priests, he’s reiterating his general contention that engaging in torah is a sacramental priest-like activity, even when done by non-priests – i.e., rabbinical torah scholars, or even ordinary Jews fasting on Yom Kippur.

[24] Lev 10:9, addressed to Aaron and his sons, that is, the priests.

[25] Ibid., 10:11.

[26] Ibid., 10:10.

[27] Prov 3:6.

[28] Prov 3:6.

[29] 1 Sam 24:12: Re-eh gam re-eh – “you can see for yourself” (JSB).

[30] Gen 42:18.

[31] Ibid. 50:19.

[32] Ibid. 42:33.

[33] Is 55:4.

[34] B. Erubin 68b.  The clever wordplay of be-kiso, be-koso, be-ka’aso of the saying is lost in the translation.

[35] Psalm 19:11, that is, the flowing “honey, the drippings of the honeycomb” than which the “fear of the Lord” and “judgments of the Lord” (19:10) “are sweeter.

[36] Gen 3:22, an allusion to the immortality that would have come from eating from the Tree of Life.  In other words, unlike the way Adam and Eve chose, there is another way one can and should eat to gain eternal life.

[37] B.Gittin 70a.

[38] Sifra on Lev. 19:2.

[39] B. Yebamot 20a: “Make yourself holy through what is permitted to you.”

[40] Eccl. 2:1.

[41] Ibid. 2:3.  Limshokh here is from the root of the same verb R. Bahya used above to refer to being drawn to wine, i.e., “being drawn [he-hamshekh] to wine and other pleasures…is one drawn [nemshakh] to the drug of death.” Thus, R. Bahya is using Eccl. 2:3 as a sort of prooftext for his point about wine.

[42] B.Sanhedrin 70a.

[43] Gen 9:20.

[44] That is, the descendents of Ham were condemned to serve the descendents of his brothers Shem and Japhet, because when Noah, after drinking his wine, fell asleep in a drunken stupor, Ham “saw his nakedness.” Normally this is a Biblical euphemism for having sexual relations, hence the severity of the curse. The curse was actually directed at Ham’s son Canaan, most likely to justify morally the Israelites’ subsequent subjugation of the Canaanites and their land.  However, the whole account is ambiguous and full of apparent non-sequiturs, prompting a quite a fruitful growth of midrashic attempts to explain the story. One unfortunate stream of interpretation, that Ham’s curse not only involved eternal servitude but also the blackening of his skin color, was later adopted in Christian and Muslim traditions, and used to justify the enslavement of Black Africans well into the 19th century – the so-called “Curse of Ham.”

[45] Prov. 23:31.

[46] B. Sanhedrin 70a.

[47] B. Sanhedrin 70b.

[48] Prov. 31:4. The midrash above identifies “Lemuel’s mother” (Prov. 31:1) with Bathsheba, the mother of King Solomon.

[49] Eccl. 2:3.

[50] Ibid., 2:25.

[51] Ibid., 2:26.

[52] Ps. 82:5.

[53] Prov. 23:1.

[54] Eccl. 10:4.

[55] Dan. 1:8.

[56] Esth. 9:26.

[57] Ps. 73:19.

[58] Prov. 23:2.

[59] M. Avot 6:5.

[60] Prov. 20:3.

[61] Ex 28:18.

[62] Gen 28:20.

[63] Ps. 148:16.

[64] Penimi ve-hitzon is an expression that refers to one’s personal integrity. The person who is inward is genuine; “their outside is like their inside.”  What you see is what you get.  One who is “outward” is a hypocrite; their outward behavior does not match their true inner feelings. The contrast between penimi and hitzon (“inward” vs. “outward”) has become a distinctive concept in modern Hasidic ethics.  In any case, the point of the midrash is that Jacob worried much more about his personal integrity than what he was going to eat.

[65] Ex 24:11.

[66] Ex 18:12.

[67] Gen 27:4.

[68] B. Yoma 76b.

[69] M. Avot 3:17.

[70] Gen 1:29.

[71] Lev. 11:46.

[72] Ex 24:11.

[73] Heb., midah, which means both “measure” and “attribute,” as in an attribute of God.

[74] B. Ber 47b.

[75] Ex 34:23.

[76] Ex 23:15.

[77] Prov 3:6.

[78] Job 36:16.

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