Hadassah wrote a good piece about Rabbis dealing with eating disorders. At about the same time my learning brought me to a section of the Siddur that I hadn’t previously really learned. Some background. The Rabbis of Yeshivat Beit El have long enjoyed a reputation of being holy pious men and scholars of some repute, both the Ben Ish Hai and the Chazon Ish were impressed with what they found there. This comes from being single mindedly focused on doing everything for the sake of heaven, and for the learning of Torah. What does this have to do with eating disorders? Well personally I believe that one of the things that leads to certain eating disorders is an improper attitude towards food. Such attitudes are nothing new.
Recently Rav Shalom Mordekhai Heddayya ZTz”L set about publishing manuscripts that previously were only seen by the inner most circle of the Beit El Kabbalists. One such thing is an original manuscript of the Siddur HaRaShaSh. It has numerous notable additions not found in the standard print siddurim. One of those things is eating advice. Without further ado I give you my translation(my remarks will be in italics).
Admonitions concerning eating
- Be careful to esteem your soul more highly than your body. And to give the first to your soul, that you should do your utmost in diligence and alertness for the sake of your soul more than your body. Before you eat learn a little first and in the merit of this you will be successful in your study and in your work.
- A person who wishes to be a Hasid needs to uphold all of the matters concerning blessings. You should learn to bless upon everything its proper blessings, because if Has V’Hallila you only exempt yourself with the blessing SheHaKol such a one is called a boor that is cursed by Hazal
- Accustom yourself to whole wheat bread and soft boiled eggs without salt, and also accustom yourself to eating olive oil which is good for the memory.
- Every morning eat a plant that is called in Arabic “Lashan El Tor” and “Laninga di boi”, and they strengthen the memory(this one took some research but it turns out that it is Jerusalem Artichoke also known as sunchoke and Celery root. They are seasonal so you get one during the winter and one during the summer).
- For the person who is not fasting, it is preferrable that he sets his night time meal in the evening while it is still day in order that their will be time to digest his food, and so his sleep will not be troubled and he will be able to arise at midnight. This is especially so in the summer when the nights are shorter, and so is our minhag.
- An important rule for attainment and for holiness, is to separate yourself from worldliness and to concentrate upon the blessings and upon eating because in this manner you will sanctify yourself with the highest spirituality and cause the klipot to be removed from you. We are very stringent in this.
- In the days that you are eating, eat at the proper time, do not wait until you are very hungry and you begin to feel weak as this will bring you into illness HV”Sh as it is written “be noble at the time when you eat”. And it is good to accustom yourself to eating bread in the morning because our Rabbis praised it very much ther person who is careful with it.
- One should eat until he is 2/3 full as Hazal stated “A meal from which you are filled remove your hand.”(The essential point here is that one should not eat more than his legitimate caloric needs, as over eating is a much a disorder troubling our generation as under-eating).
- Make your daytime meal lighter(meaning fewer calories) than your evening meal and make your intention to be for health only(meaning that the food choice should be made for health reason and not other considerations).
- The Ravaad writes that a pleasant fragrance and washing in hot water is better for the soul than any food. And he writes further that that which you eat should be spiced and prepared nicely in order that it will be pleasant to you and your soul will be able to receive it and be restored by it. You should not eat anything that causes you to have bad breath, and if you do you must try your best to be healed of it.
- If you are weakened on account of eating too little, it would be good if you ate twice during the day a little each time, just do not fill your belly on each time.(Many Kabbalists only eat two meals a day, one during the day and one in the evening. However not everyone is able to do thus, and so those who are not, should eat two small meals during the day, with neither being completely filling).
- The person who desires to rise should establish his primary meal in the morning, and his evening meal should consist primarily of fruits and not coarser foods.
- The Ravaad writes in his sefer Baalei Nefesh that it will be with a man who is settled in his heart, and who studies Torah most of the night, that his suffering will be very little and his pleasure will be very little.
- I myself am careful that if I derive great pleasure from a certain food that I not become accustomed to eating it(there is some ambiguity in the language as to wheter he means ever eating it again or if he means eating it only very rarely), and this is regarding weekdays, however on Shabat it is a mitzvah to eat it, as the Shabbat is called pleasant, and so is the minhag of our Yeshiva.
- It is good to say viduy before you eat and this is called slaughtering your evil inclination. Because on account of this you will not add gluttony to your sins, and you will remember the grace of Hashem that is with you even though you do not deserve such, and we mention this in brief in the seder of tefillah before eating.
- It is necessary that you will properly set your table so that when a poor person comes to your door you can give him from your bread, and it is explained at length in the Zohar Parashat Terumah 154 the exaltedness of the person who shares his meal with the poor. And if you are in a place where there are not found there poor people estimate who has less and consider him to be poor, and give and separate that which is equal to the meal of the poor. There are also those who are accustomed to give tzedakah at every meal.