- Rabbi Ben Tzion Spitz
Holy Eating (Noah)
We are digging our graves with our teeth. -Thomas Moffett
It seems that literally, since the beginning of time, man has had a struggle with food. The first and only command God gives Adam in the Garden of Eden is as follows:
"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you are free to eat; but as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die.”
God gives man a very simple command, a very simple diet – don’t eat from this one single tree out of the entire garden. However, man is often weak and foolish. He eats from the very tree he was commanded not to eat from. The consequences of his foolishness are so severe that he dooms himself and all of humanity to a mortal existence filled with anguish and tribulations that extend to our very day.
The Berdichever on Genesis 6:21 (Noah) notes that when God commands Noah to construct his famous ark and gather the animal kingdom into it, he also directs him to “take for yourself of all food that will be fed.”
Besides being the permission for humanity to discontinue their previously vegetarian diet, allowing man to eat animals as well, there is a deeper meaning that hints at how mankind can repair the enormous spiritual damage Adam caused by violating God’s initial, single stated prohibition. The way to repair the original food sin is an extensive, detailed, comprehensive and highly regulated biblical and rabbinic approach to food.
The Bible has literally dozens of commandments that are concerned with food. What to eat, what not to eat, when and where to eat it. The Rabbis conveyed more details, explanations and safeguards as to what we put in our mouth, how an animal must be slaughtered, what the health of the carcass needs to be, how to prepare the food, what tithes and gifts must be separated from the food, what blessings need to be said both before and after eating, what can and can’t be eaten together, how much time to wait between consuming meat and dairy products and much more.
The Berdichever explains that with every single food-related commandment we perform, every single food-related prohibition we abide by, we are correcting Adam’s sin. The deep, world-affecting damage which Adam caused is rectified by our blessing God for our food, by ensuring that the food we eat is prepared according to the Torah’s standards, of eating the right food in the right way at the right time.
Food is a tremendous gift from God. When we partake of it properly, in a holy fashion, we elevate the food, we elevate the process and we elevate ourselves.
To one of my favorite Torah books: “To Your Health, The Torah Way to a Healthy Life in Modern Times,” by Yechezkel Ishayek