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Mishlei 13-25 


Key Concepts

As an essential condition of life, Hashem has given all creatures an appetite for food. The act of satisfying that appetite gives each creature a sense of pleasure. However, animals instinctively limit the amount of food they eat because the purpose of consuming food is self-preservation, not pleasure. Thus, the drive of appetite naturally diminishes as they become sated.

Human beings have been given the opportunity to develop a more noble attitude towards food. A tzadik (righteous person) is consciously aware that food is necessary for him to fulfill his spiritual mission in life. Therefore, his motivation to eat is not controlled by his appetite. On the contrary, the tzadik is motivated by the knowledge that his purpose in eating is primarily to satisfy the needs of his soul. Nevertheless, he may consciously appreciate the pleasure that comes with eating, seeing it as a kindness of Hashem.

A rasha (wicked person) is not interested in his spiritual life. His existence is dominated by the pleasures afforded by food and by other physical cravings. Thus, he continues to eat, hoping to recapture the pleasurable experience even when it eludes him.  His concern with the pleasure of eating is so intense that he fails to sense when his hunger eases, and so he is driven to an endless cycle of self-satisfaction and overeating. Thus, he never really gets the satisfaction which he craves.

Exploring Mishlei

 כה = צַדִּיק אֹכֵל לְשֹׂבַע נַפְשׁוֹ וּבֶטֶן רְשָׁעִים תֶּחְסָר

(25) A tzadik eats primarily to satisfy his soul
but the stomach of the rasha will be wanting.

This proverb contrasts the attitude of the tzadik and the rasha to the food they eat. The tzadik sees the act of eating from the point of view of his soul, which is concerned with his spiritual life. The soul is satisfied when a lack of food does not
interfere with his ability to serve Hashem.  The rasha sees the act of eating from the point of view of his body. Since physical cravings are never satisfied, the stomach always feels it could do with more.

Learning Mishlei

(25) A tzadik eats צַדִּיק אֹכֵל
primarily to satisfy his soul לְשֹׂבַע נַפְשׁוֹ
rather than his body because his motivation to eat is not the
pleasure he gets from food. His soul is satisfied if he is able
to serve Hashem.
But, the stomach of the rasha’im וּבֶטֶן רְשָׁעִים
will always be wantingתֶּחְסָר
because there is no limit to sensual cravings.

Additional Insights

(1) When the tzadik sits down to eat he thinks of himself as satisfied because satisfaction for him is defined by the serenity of his soul.   But when the rasha sits down to eat, he thinks of himself as so hungry that he will never be satisfied no matter how much he consumes. (רש”י, שבט מיהודה)

(2) The appetite of the rasha is never satisfied because he always hopes that the next mouthful will give him pleasure. In contrast, worldly pleasure means nothing to to the tzadik. For him true pleasure is spiritual. (מלבי”ם)

(3) The tzadik views the earning of his livelihood within the framework of doing mitzvos. Thus, he always does it prudently and in a fitting manner. In contrast, the rasha’s actions are unconstrained by the rules of appropriate behavior and so he always feels he could do more. A sensual person knows neither limit nor satiety in the gratification of his senses. (רלב”ג, רשר”ה)

(4) The stomach of the rasha is too small to contain all the food he would like to eat. Therefore, he is never able to consume as much as his appetite calls for and his stomach is always lacking. (הגר”א)

(5) When a rasha learns Torah, his motivation is to impress other people and gain recognition. Therefore, his pride drives him on an on. He doesn’t know when to stop. In contrast, the tzadik is motivated by the need to understand the particular topic. When he has achieved an appropriate level of knowledge he is satisfied. He is not concerned with how long this takes. (הגר”א)

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