Eat but Don’t Overeat

Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow

The topic of overeating is discussed in the daf this week (Gittin 70a). The Gemara quotes a beraisa that states, “One who fills his belly with anything will become sick.” Rashi explains that eating as much as one desires causes sickness. Rav Papa commented that this beraisa is referring even to healthy food. The Gemara further recounts Eliyahu HaNavi’s advice to Rebbe Nosson that a person should stop eating when he is two-thirds full. Lastly, Rebbe Chiya quotes a beraisa stating that one who wishes to avoid stomach ailments should stop eating before he is full. And the Kisei Rachamim writes that overeating causes one to spend an excessive amount of time in the bathroom, wasting precious moments of life. The Rambam writes in Hilchos Dei’os that most sickness comes as a result of overeating. The Seder Mishneh explains that the Rambam’s source is the aforementioned Gemara. The Raavad writes that besides curtailing one’s food intake for health reasons, there is an element of avodas Hashem involved. One can work on curbing his desires by ending his meal before he is full. In fact, the Raavad says that if one specifically intends to curtail his eating l’shem Shamayim, such an act is greater than a fast. A fast doesn’t occur every day, but the avodah of limiting one’s food consumption can take place at every meal. Shabbos meals can become the bane of every Jewish dieter. After all, the Ben Ish Chai writes that one who eats delicious food on Shabbos—even with the intention of gaining personal pleasure— fulfills a mitzvah min ha’muvchar, a mitzvah in the choicest manner. Are the Rabbanan advising one to curtail his eating even on Shabbos? The Kaf HaChaim says that is most certainly the case! One should not eat his fill, even on Shabbos. Although afflicting oneself on Shabbos is forbidden, refraining from gorging is not an affliction. One can consume and try delicious foods without overeating. The Reishis Chochmah quotes the opinion of Rabbeinu Moshe Kohen, who suggests, perhaps counterintuitively, that the mitzvah of eating three seudos on Shabbos was instituted to curtail eating. One who knows that he has to eat three seudos on Shabbos will pace himself and not overeat, especially when the days are short. One who is zealous to fulfill the mitzvah of seudas shlishis will be careful not to eat too much at the shul kiddush and at his second meal, knowing that in a few short hours he will have to eat again.

The Reishis Chochmah writes that if one trains himself to curtail his eating on Shabbos, then he will certainly be successful at dieting during the week. Rav Yosef Karo writes in the Shulchan Aruch (291:1): “You should be very careful to fulfill the mitzvah of the third Shabbos meal. And even if one is full, he can fulfill the mitzvah with an egg-sized piece of bread. If it is impossible for him to eat, one is not obligated to pain himself and force himself to eat. One who is wise will not fill his stomach at the second meal and will leave room for the third meal.” The Shulchan Aruch offers an interesting option for how to fulfill the third Shabbos meal. If the second meal extended past midday, he can bentch, walk around, wash again, recite HaMotzi, and continue eating. (But if he just sits at the table, it would be considered one long meal.) This plan would seem to violate the dictum that one should not utter unnecessary blessings. After all, he will need to recite another HaMotzi and Birkas HaMazon, which would not have been needed had he continued his meal uninterrupted. Nevertheless, the Shulchan Aruch rules that since it is after midday, and one is thereby fulfilling the mitzvah of the third meal, this option can be employed. However, the Rema concludes that if one can eat the minimum shiur of bread (an egg-sized piece) to fulfill the third meal after Mincha, he should do so instead. There are two reasons this is preferable to dividing one’s second seudah: (1) it avoids the entire question of making unnecessary blessings; and (2) the Rema holds that it is preferable to eat the third meal after Mincha. If one pauses his second seudah in order to bentch and go to shul to daven Mincha early, perhaps he will have solved both of the Rema’s concerns. Obviously, he has solved the Mincha issue. Further, it is preferable to bentch before leaving one’s place and going outside. He therefore bentches before leaving his house and is thus forced to divide his meal into two parts.   

Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow is a rebbe at Yeshiva Ateres Shimon in Far Rockaway. In addition, Rabbi Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead, NY. He can be contacted at

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