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Monday, 13 July 2015

What's worse, eating with your fingers or double-dipping?

Daf Yomi Nedarim 49


Over the years, the number of rabbis in Edmonton has grown significantly.  Today, we have a bustling kollel and school, and a number of other rabbis in the community.  Some suggest that we now have the most rabbis per capita in the world! 

But there was a time when there weren’t a lot of people around who could teach Torah.  Back in those days, I once suggested to Phil that he should start a shiur (class) downtown over the lunch hour.
‘Rabbi, I appreciate your confidence in me, but I really don’t think I’m the right guy for the task.  You know, I keep the basics, but you could hardly call me a G-d fearing, farfrumte Yid (super-religious Jew).  I’m far from perfect!’

Rabbi Yossi and Rabbi Yehuda were eating porridge from the same bowl.  One was eating with his fingers and the other was using a wooden spoon.
The spoon eater said to the finger eater, “How long will you continue feeding me the dirt from your fingers?”
The finger eater replied, “How long will you continue to double dip and feed me your saliva?”

Our job in this world is to elevate the mundane, to take the physical and make it spiritual.  When you make a bracha (blessing) over food and then you eat it for the sake of gaining strength to serve Heaven, you elevate the food from the physical plane to the spiritual realm.

The debate here between Rabbi Yossi and Rabbi Yehuda is not about whose eating habits generated more germs.  They are debating the point at which one should go out and spread the light of Torah and mitzvos to the world.   When are you ready to elevate the porridge?

According to the first rabbi, as long as you still have dirty hands, you shouldn’t be attempting to spread the light of Torah.  First you need to work on cleansing yourself spiritually.  Only once you are clean of all the shmutz (dirt) of this world, once you have perfected your own spirituality, then you are able to put your hands in the porridge.  Then you are able to elevate this physical world.

The second rabbi demurs.  In his opinion, if you were to wait until you were completely clean, you’d be waiting forever.  While it’s true that we become sullied by this world and we need to work on cleansing ourselves of the coarseness of the physical world, you can never rid yourself of internal dirt.  You will always have saliva.  You will always occupy a physical body.   That’s exactly how G-d wants you to operate – within a physical body within a physical world. 

There’s no escaping your physicality.  And so it’s time to stop putting off making this world a more spiritual place while you work on your personal spiritual cleansing.  You will always be physical and the world needs you now!  Get out and start spreading the light of Torah and mitzvos!


We are not angels.  We were placed into physical bodies to elevate this physical world and transform the world and ourselves into spiritual beings.  May you merit a life filled with transformation from the personal to the global!