י״ג בטבת ה׳תשע״ז (January 11, 2017)

Bava Metzia 107a-b: The Most Important Meal of the Day

Your mother always told you not to skip breakfast. What do the Rabbinic Sages have to say on the matter?

Our Gemara quotes Rava as asking Rabba bar Mari for the source for the Rabbinic dictum that you should make sure to eat early in the morning – in the summer because of the heat and in the winter because of the cold. Furthermore the Rabbis taught that sixty men cannot catch the individual who made sure to eat in the morning.

Rabba bar Mari responded with a passage from Sefer Yeshayahu (49:10) which indicates that eating in the morning will protect a person from heat and cold. Rava suggested a pasuk from the Torah. The passage in Sefer Shemot (23:25) teaches:

  1. va-avadetem et ha-Shem Elokekhem – that first one must serve God – understood by Rava as morning prayers, then
  2. u-berakh et lahmekhah ve-et me-mekhah– your bread and water are blessed, and finally
  3. va-hasiroti mahala mi-kirbekhah – illnesses are removed from you.

This approach matches current medical thinking that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. After hours of sleep, during which time a person does not eat or enjoy any sustenance, the body needs a certain amount of liquid and nutrition in order to meet the individual’s immediate needs. Although healthy people have stored energy reserves in their bodies that allow a person to function even without a morning meal, nevertheless, a regular breakfast allows for normal activity throughout the day.

The passage quoted by Rava teaches that mahala is removed. The Gemara identifies mahala specifically with marah – diseases of the gall bladder. While this organ certainly can become diseased, it is odd to find an emphasis on these diseases specifically. While the Gemara may be referring to the gall bladder as representative of digestive diseases generally, some suggest that this is a reference to the basic belief of Greek medicine (one that was popular until recent times) that the body was composed of four humours – arba marot – and that a lack of balance between these humours could lead to both physical and spiritual diseases.

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