Our Rabbi and Eating

Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook

Eating minimal amounts
In response to one Rabbi who said that Maran Ha-Rav Kook abstained from eating in an exaggerated manner, our Rabbi said: He did not abstain, but there are people who do not need a lot (see Even Shlomo chap. 2).

Our Rabbi was not interested in eating, and he only ate for health reasons. He ate foods which were praised in the Gemara such as olives, eggs, or honey, and no other food besides these entered his mouth. When the doctors instructed him to eat particular foods, he strictly fulfilled their instructions. In connection to this, he related the words of a doctor in Europe, who said that among hundreds of ill people whom they treated, only one precisely followed his instructions: Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, and it appeared that he was the only one who truly wanted to be cured. An example of our Rabbi's disinterest in eating: Our Rabbi once separated the tag with the name of the bakery from the bread in order to throw it out, but he put it in his mouth. When a student pointed this out, he removed it from his mouth and said in seriousness: "This is what happens when we do not pay attention, we need to pay attention when we eat." He then praised one Rabbi who was surprised one day why the sugar cube which he would suck while drinking tea during his learning was not melting like usual. When they checked, they found that he was sucking a button that fell off his clothing without his noticing. (Ha-Rav Yosef Kelner. See Sefer Chasidim 569 and Makor Chesed ibid., Magid Meisharim p. 50 and Even Shlomo, p. 32)

It once happened that a student came to take counsel with our Rabbi who was sitting in the library after morning prayers. Our Rabbi said to him: "You already ate morning bread?" The student responded: "I’ll eat afterwards." Our Rabbi said: "No, morning bread comes first, as is written in the Gemara" (Baba Metzia 107b). The student asked: "And what about the honorable Rav himself?!" Our Rabbi responded: "Blessed is Hashem, I am not yet enslaved to the routine of eating."

Our Rabbi said: There are those who call "morning bread" (Pat Shacharit) - about which he was very particular – "Aruchat Ha-Boker" (breakfast), and it is possible that the word "Aruchah" (meal) derived from the word "Orchim" (guests), to teach you that in relation to food we should be guests and not permanent residents. (Kinyan torah of Rav Yosef Elnakveh vol. 2, p. 74)

When he was informed that one student was eating extremely minimal amounts, he said to him: "Every person must eat in a normal manner in the amount which he requires."

Our Rabbi would sometimes eat breakfast in the afternoon. Sometimes after Yom Kippur he would only drink a little and delay a long time until eating. If it were not for the students who worried about his meals, our Rabbi would hardly eat anything. They would bring him breakfast but he would not always eat it, even though he was particular about safeguarding the body. His mother, Ha-Rabbanit, would sometimes point out to him during the late hours of the night that he should eat something.

Our Rabbi had the custom to fast on his father's yahrtzeit. After one yahrtzeit, the students arrived for a class a few hours after dark and our Rabbi still had not davened ma'ariv since he was waiting for a minyan and he had not eaten. They davened and they suggested to our Rabbi that he eat before the class since he had not eaten anything all day. Our Rabbi rejected the idea: I am not enslaved to food. They said: Then only a cup of tea? He again completely rejected the idea: I am not enslaved to food! None of the pleas helped, and the class went on as usual into the night.