Monday, February 16, 2009
Going to War With Your Food - Not Eating From Those Bad Eyed Folks
The Meor Einayim on Parshas Beshalach, in a piece pointed out to me by A Simple Jew, talks about the war that takes place when one engages in achila, eating. He quotes the pasuk in Mishlei 23:6 which says "אַל-תִּלְחַם--אֶת-לֶחֶם, רַע עָיִן." "Do not eat the bread of someone with an evil eye."
He points out that the root source of all food comes from a very high place, from the Divine Presence itself. But it constricts its holiness to allow itself to be enclothed in our physical food. He also points out that Chazal say in the Zohar (272a) that "שעת אכילה שעת מלחמה," eating is a time of war with with the yetzer hara, the evil inclination. It is a time to fight against the yetzer hara in order to eat out of necessity or to try to collect the sparks of holiness from within the food one is eating, rather than because of a pure desire for the physical pleasure of eating.
The pasuk is Mishlei is teaching that one shouldn't eat food prepared by a "רַע עָיִן," one with an evil eye, because, he says, this will make the war one is engaged in while eating almost impossible to win because food prepared by such a person is already in the camp of the yetzer hara, and thus any war fought with the yetzer hara prepared by a "רַע עָיִן" will be on the yetzer hara's turf. I saw this teaching erev Shabbos parshas Beshalach. In Shul I saw Rav Ozer Bergman who was in town visiting his mother zol zein gezunt. I took the opportunity after davening Friday night to ask him what exactly it means for someone to be "רַע עָיִן."
He answered me, first of all, that it means someone who gives begrudgingly, and not with a full heart. But he also told me a story told over by Rebbe Nachman about his grandfather, R' Nachum Horidenker from Sichos Haran. He said that R' Nachum Horadenker traveled by ship back and forth with Eretz Yisroel. On one occasion, he hadn't had any food to eat for days when he got off the boat. The only one willing to help him out on that occasion was an Arab who brought him home and offered him some bread. Right before he was about to eat it, he remembered this teaching from Mishlei that one shouldn't eat the bread of a "רַע עָיִן." So he thought that perhaps he shouldn't eat it at all.
Then he remembered the pasuk by Eliyahu Hanavi in I Melachim 17:4. "וְאֶת-הָעֹרְבִים צִוִּיתִי, לְכַלְכֶּלְךָ." When Eliyahu went into exile in the desert, Hashem told him that he would command the ravens to feed him by bringing him bread and meat [cooked by the wicked Jewish king]. As footnote 33 in Sichos Haran points out here, the word for ravens, "הָעֹרְבִים" is the same letters as the word "aravim," Arabs. This indicated to Reb Nachum that just as Hashem sent the ravens to sustain Eliyahu Hanavi so that he wouldn't starve in the desert, so too Hashem was planting this thought in his mind to indicate to him that he too should allow himself to be supported through this Arab, notwithstanding the "לֶחֶם רַע עָיִן" issue.
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