Pirkei Avot, “Ethics of the Fathers,” states in chapter 6:6: “The Torah is acquired in 48 ways.” This week: Way #16b, “Portion Control”
“Portion control.” Already centuries ago, Maimonides noted the diseases caused by overeating. This is not rocket science. Simply put, it is hard to acquire the Torah if one is always focused on the next meal, or always snacking or seriously overweight. Constant focus on food usually facilitates ill health, which attenuates mental acuity.
One’s relationship with food determines, to a great extent, one’s relationship with life. If goals in life transcend cravings for food, then both the goals and some cravings can be satisfied. A student of Torah who deeply desires to penetrate its secrets, learn its way of life and take joy in its texts will limit eating and drinking.
Of diets, there is no end. But one diet that always works is self-discipline, and self-discipline rarely works if it hurts. It succeeds when it doesn’t hurt, that is, when the great goals of life loom larger than food. They, not food, dominate one’s consciousness.
Even dieting that is successful can be obsessive, diverting one from life’s goals, such as acquiring the Torah. Pirkei Avot means here that limiting eating and drinking shifts one’s focus from food. That is how one acquires the Torah, and enjoys one’s food, to boot.
The alternative, 16th way to acquire the Torah: Limited Eating and Drinking.
Way #1, Study; Way #2, Listen; Way #3, Articulate Speech; Way #4, Understanding of the Heart; Way #5, An Intelligent Heart; Way #6, Awe; Way #7, Fear; Way #8, Humility; Way #9a, Joy; Way #9b, Purity; Way #10, Serving the Sages; Way #11, Interaction with colleagues; Way #12, Exchanges with students; Way #13, Deliberation; Way #14, Scripture; Way #15a, Mishnah; Way #15b, Limited Business Activity; Way #16a, Limited Marital Relations
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