Sunday, January 25, 2009

Holy Eating

Once Rav Marei Ratzon ben Amram, zt"l, the Chief Rabbi of Shrav, noticed that one of the regular mispallelim had been absent for three days in a row. He figured that the man must be ill, and so he went to visit him. The Rav knocked on the door and was shown in by the man’s wife. The absentee was obviously not sick since he was eating his lunch with gusto.
The congregant saw the Rav and stood in his honor, and even after they sat down the baal habayis didn’t resume his meal out of respect for his distinguished visitor.
“Why don’t you continue eating?” asked the Rav. “How can you disregard the Shechinah for a mere mortal?”
“What does the Rav mean?” wondered the baal habayis.
“We learn this from a clear verse in the Torah: ‘And they saw G-d, and they ate and drank.’ (Shemos 24:11) This verse indicates that a person is able to recognize and contemplate the greatness of the Creator when he eats. As he contemplates that it is Hashem who sustains all living things, he can also use the opportunity to mediate on how needy and frail human beings are. He can feel both the kindness of the Creator and how small a person is. He can also consider the functions of digestion and elimination of waste, and he will find that it helps him appreciate his own human limitations. This will affect him positively, because it will inspire him to cleave to Hashem and use every bit of strength to pray and learn as much as possible.
The Rav then remarked pointedly, “While we are on the topic of praying, where have you been? Chazal say that Hashem asks after a regular mispallel who misses even one day!”
The man was abashed. “My tallis tore and I was too ashamed to come to shul.”
“That is a reason to make Hashem ask after you? I will arrange to have a new one sent to you. But don’t forget: if you think about the greatness of Hashem and the smallness of mankind while you eat, you will draw very close to Hashem!”

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