Healthy Eating

These are the first chapters of Mevaser Tov: The Table of Kings, which describes the necessity of developing proper eating habits, in order to subdue our selfish desires, and thus be able to serve Hashem properly.  (Translated from the Hebrew: Shulchan shel Adam Michaper). The work is currently under production and is scheduled for printing by Rosh Hashanan 5753.  The extensive footnotes were lost when the word document was transferred to a blog page, but they are available upon request at mevasertovweekly[at]gmail[dot]com

Chapter 1


The Mouth that Speaks to the Shechinah

Yeshurun Waxed Fat

The Desirable Fruit

"Your Torah is in my Stomach"

When Meals are Holier than Prayer

Man's Table Atones for his Sins

The War of Bread

The Balance of Creation

Chapter 2
Correcting Adam's Sin

The Burden of Wealth

The Dangers of Sudden Change

Golus America

The Teshuvah of Character Perfection

Selfless Allegiance to Hashem's Will

The World Perfected in its Eating Habits

Chapter 3
 The Gluttony of the Rebellious Son

The Predatory Bird

The Influence of an Eating Companion

Twisting the Torah to Justify our Desires

Every Jew Yearns to be Good

Chapter 1

Our service of the Creator can be divided into two categories: the spiritual and the physical. Spirituality includes Torah study, prayer and mitzvah observance, while physicality includes eating, sleeping and all our bodily needs. Many religious people feel that their service of the Creator is limited to the realm of the spiritual. They daven and learn as they should, but treat eating as a mundane, worldly function which has no relation to the service of Hashem.

We hear stories about how the great Tzaddikim serve Hashem through eating, at the Shabbos table for example, or by dispensing "shirayim" among their Chassidim, but many believe that this is something reserved for exceptionally holy people, with no relevance to the ordinary person. They feel that at their level, if they just refrain from eating forbidden foods, they need not think twice about how they eat.

The truth, however, is that the obligation to eat properly is incumbent on every single Jew, regardless of his spiritual level. Our Torah study, mitzvos and character improvement all depend on proper eating habits.

Gluttonous eating drags a person's mind into the realm of physicality, making him numb to any sense of holiness. Only by eating properly can we observe the Torah as Hashem intended. Then, our Torah and prayer can ascend unhindered to Heaven.

The Mouth that Speaks to the Shechinah

When Basya first adopted baby Moshe, she searched for a nursemaid to feed him, but he refused to nurse from any Egyptian woman. "Could the mouth destined to speak with the Shechinah suck from something impure?" the Gemara explains.

We all speak to Hashem in our own way, through our prayers and Torah study. We also fulfill many other mitzvos of speech. When a person defiles his mouth by constantly eating with selfish greed, meal after meal, year after year, he becomes unable to speak to Hashem in a way that is fitting and presentable.

The mouth, by its nature, hungers for pleasurable tastes. If a person gives free reign to this hunger, and indulges himself in the senseless pursuit of pleasure, his mouth becomes disdainful. He is then unable to speak words of holiness that will influence and improve the world.

Rebbe Moshe of Savaran explained the verse, "With rich food my soul will be satisfied, and with joyous song my mouth will praise" to mean that the way a person prays parallels the way he eats. This refers not only to the three obligatory prayers that we pray each day, but also to the spontaneous, personal prayers that we pray from time to time, to ask for Hashem's help in some specific matter. The power of these prayers depends on the manner in which we eat.

Yeshurun Waxed Fat

Improper eating habits can lead a person to become so self-centered that he rebels against Hashem, as the Midrash states:
You shall eat and be satisfied, but guard yourselves lest your hearts be misled." Moshe warned Bnei Yisrael not to rebel against HaKadosh Baruch Hu, since man rebels only from a full stomach.
Similarly, the verse states, "Yeshurun waxed fat and disdainful … and deserted Hashem. "

The Shulchan Aruch rules that one may eat an animal that ate forbidden food, since the forbidden food has already been converted into permitted meat. However, if an animal has been raised for its entire life on forbidden foods, it may not be eaten.

Even an animal is transformed into that which it eats. If it has eaten nothing but forbidden foods throughout its life, it too becomes forbidden. The same is true of a person who has eaten nothing throughout his life but that which his gluttonous heart desires. He is transformed into a living embodiment of gluttony.

Such a person is easily prone to rebel against Hashem. If his very essence is the indulgence of desire, he will resent Hashem for not allowing him to fill his desires to their limit, or for not filling his every wish.

The Gemara states:
Rebbe Yannai said, “A lion does not roar when its trough is filled with bran, but when its trough is filled with meat.”

Rebbe Oshaya said, “This is comparable to a person who had a weak and scrawny cow. He fed it succulent grains and it began to kick him. He said, ‘What caused you to kick me if not the grain that I fed you?’”

Rebbe Chiya said in the name of Rebbe Yochanan, “This is comparable to a person who bathed his son, anointed him in oil, fed him and gave him drink. Then he hung a purse filled with money around his son's neck and placed him in front of a house of ill repute. What could the poor boy do but sin?”

Rav Acha son of Rav Huna said in the name of Rav Sheishes: "This is as people say, 'A full stomach is a bad illness', as it is written, 'When you pastured and were well satisfied, your hearts grew proud and you forgot Me.' "

In Rebbe Yochanan's parable, the father's first mistake was in raising his child to indulge his desires with gluttonous food and drink. The purse of coins was what gave him the ability to sin, but the food and drink were what cultivated a personality inclined to sin.

What then is left for us to say in these sad, benighted times? Our entire generation stands at the proverbial entrance of the house of ill repute. Sordid temptations are waved before us wherever we go. The only way we can uphold our moral ideals is if we train ourselves to restrain our desires through the proper eating habits that the Torah proscribes.

Our times have seen an endless array of new kinds of junk food, whose only purpose is to lure us into the habit of ta'avas achilah (eating for selfish pleasure). A person who resists this lure, and does not surrender to his desires, will receive great reward. By eating healthily and properly, as the Torah proscribes, he effects great spiritual rectifications upon his soul and upon the entire world, though he may be completely unaware of it. These points will be further elucidated in the chapters to come.

The Desirable Fruit

Adam's sin, which was the source and precursor of all the sins of mankind, was a sin of eating. Hashem had given him only one command, specifically warning him not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Nevertheless, the desirous appearance of the fruit enabled the snake to tempt Chava into eating it, as the verse states, "The woman saw that the tree was good to eat from, desirous (ta'avah) to the eyes and pleasant to consider. She took and ate from its fruit, and gave to her husband to eat with her."

This was a sign for all generations to come, not to let ourselves be swayed by the pleasing appearance of the ta'avos of the world, which lead us on the road towards the worst of sins.

"Your Torah is in my Stomach"

As Rebbe Yehudah HaNassi lay on his deathbed, he raised his hands to Heaven and said, "Master of the Universe! It is known and revealed before You, that I toiled in Torah with all ten fingers, and did not enjoy the pleasures of this world even as much as my smallest finger. Let it be Your will that I may have peace in my resting place." Tosefos cites a Midrash, which states that before a person prays that Torah may seep into his body, let him pray that delicacies do not enter his stomach.

Prayers for proper eating come first, since a person who indulges in gluttonous eating habits cannot benefit from the corrective influence of Torah. Sometimes, the Torah can even harm such a person, as we shall see in the chapters to come.

The Arizal interpreted the verse, "To do Your will, O G d, is my desire; and your Torah is in my stomach", to mean that the path towards success in Torah study begins with proper eating habits. The Ohr HaChaim writes:

A person can undergo a sudden deterioration of character and not understand why this has happened to him, or from where the sudden change began.

The Arizal explained that sometimes this occurs when a person eats a food that contains a portion of evil, or has been inhabited by an evil spirit as part of its cycle of reincarnation. When that evil spirit or evil portion enters his body, it can sway him from good to evil, awakening his latent tendencies towards sin.

For this reason, a person who is careful only to eat proper foods will feel an increase in his desire for spiritual advancement. Of this it is written, "To do Your will, O G d, is my desire; and your Torah is in my stomach."

When a person eats with selfish gluttony, the evil sparks that are sometimes dormant in food can harm him, but if he eats with pure motivation, as a part of his service of Hashem, the evil in the food is unable to harm him, since it is rectified by the mitzvah of eating properly.

When Meals are Holier than Prayer

When Rebbe Hirshel of Ziditchov zt"l was young, he would try to make his meals as holy as his prayers. In his old age he reached the conclusion that, to the contrary, he should try to make his prayers as holy as his meals. Through proper eating, a Jew can bring about miraculous salvations that he could never have enacted through his prayers.

The Noam Elimelech explains:

When the Tzaddik prays, he reaches a profound level of attachment to Hashem, with holy and pure thoughts. However, as he descends to the physical realm to eat, he is gripped with fear, lest the physicality of eating detach him from the realm of holiness. Therefore, he applies himself with even greater force, to sanctify himself as he eats, and bind himself to Hashem with the greatest possible attachment. Thus, as the Tzaddik eats, he sanctifies himself on a level even higher than that with which he prays.

The Tzaddikim perform Heavenly unifications and rectifications as they eat. Even during the week their meals are holy experiences, which only on Shabbos we can begin to understand.

Man's Table Atones for his Sins

The Gemara states, in the name of R' Yochanan and R' Elazar, that while the Beis HaMikdash stood, the Mizbei'ach (Altar) atoned for our sins. Now that the Beis HaMikdash lies in ruins and there is no more Mizbei'ach, the table upon which we eat atones for us instead.

The Mizbei'ach did more than just atone for our sins. It shielded us from harsh decrees, brought blessing to our livelihood and endeared us to our Creator. The same is true of the table upon which we eat. By eating in the proper manner, with the proper intention, we are shielded from harsh decrees, blessed in our livelihood and endeared to our Creator. In these hard times, how sorely are we in need of all these things.

A person who is endeared unto his friend finds it much easier to make requests from him. The friend is glad to fulfill those requests to the best of his ability, as a token of the love that exists between them. His friend seeks his benefit, and tries to improve his situation in any way possible. How much more so is this true when a person is endeared to his Creator. Hashem answers his prayers in generous measure, granting all his spiritual and physical needs. This too is the power of the table on which we eat, which now takes the place of the Mizbei'ach, to endear us to Hashem.

The War of Bread

Rebbe Naftali of Ropshitz noted that the Hebrew word for bread, lechem, is used throughout Tanach as a general expression for meals. He adds that lechem refers not only to all kinds of physical sustenance, but to spiritual sustenance as well. For this reason, the gematria of lechem (78) equals three times the gematria of Hashem's Name יקוק. Furthermore, the letters of lechem can be rearranged to form the word machal, which means forgive, signifying the atonement that can be achieved through proper eating.

The word lechem, when punctuated differently, reads lacham, which means battle. Every meal is a battle in which we must fight against the yetzer hara for selfish gluttony. When we overcome this temptation, and eat with intention to be healthy and strong in Hashem's service, we defeat our yetzer hara and merit blessing, atonement and endearment to Hashem, just as if we had offered sacrifices on the Mizbei'ach.

Finally, R' Naftali notes that the letters of lechem also spell chalam, which means recovery, signifying how eating with the proper intention can heal us of our physical and spiritual maladies.

The Balance of Creation

Hashem created a balance in the world, between the forces of good and evil. The meal is the pivot point between these forces. The way that we eat can tilt our lives towards good or towards evil.

When a person eats properly, with the proper intention, he can reach levels even higher than those reached through prayer. The Accuser does not try to interfere, as it interferes with our prayers and Torah study, since for all appearances we seem to be involved in a purely mundane bodily function. Only in the depth of a person's heart can it be seen that by eating with pure motives, he is actually offering sacrifices on the Mizbei'ach. The great spiritual heights achieved by our forefathers came as a result of their eating with a sense of holiness.

However, the corresponding danger of the meal, is that eating with selfish gluttony can drag a person into a lifestyle of indulgence which can damage his soul even more than sin.

Therefore, it is so important for us to sanctify our meals, and make eating into a part of our religious devotion, no less than Torah study or prayer.

Chapter 2

Correcting Adam's Sin

Adam's soul contained the roots of all the souls that would ever be born from him. Thus, on a spiritual level, we were all present when he ate from the Tree of Knowledge. We all took part in his sin, and are all responsible to correct our portion in it. Through our Torah and mitzvos we slowly correct the world and correct the collective soul of mankind, a process that has lasted throughout history and will continue until the ultimate rectification is completed with the coming of Moshiach.

Since Adam's sin involved eating (as we discussed in the previous chapter) a key element in the correction of his sin is the correction of our eating habits, by eating in a way that contributes to our service of Hashem, as opposed to gluttonous eating, which detracts from it.

Before his sin, Adam lived in a world free from worries, as the Gemara states, "Adam reclined in Gan Eden, while the angels roasted meat and chilled wine for him. " The physical ease in which Adam lived paralleled the ease of his spiritual devotion. Only after his sin was he cursed with hard labor; "By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread." It was easy for him to acquire the material objects he needed to serve Hashem, and it was also easy for him to use those objects in the correct way. His eating, for example, was akin to that of the angels who ate at Avraham's table – a purely spiritual experience.

After his sin, he was charged with duty of repairing the damage he had done. "By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread," means not only that it would be difficult for him and his descendants to acquire their bread, but also that it would also be difficult to eat bread in the proper spiritual way, in order to rectify the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Only by struggling to conquer the inclination to eat with ta'avah (impure desire), could he rectify the sin that began with ta'avah: "She saw that the tree was … desirous (ta'avah) to the eyes."

The Burden of Wealth

"Avraham was heavily loaded with livestock, silver and gold." The Noam Elimelech explained the expression "heavily loaded" to mean that Avraham viewed his wealth as a cumbersome burden.

After growing wealthy during his travels in Golus, Avraham was faced with a new duty to serve Hashem with his material possessions. He found this more difficult than his previous duties of serving Hashem on a purely spiritual level.

Wealth is an especially difficult test when it comes suddenly upon a person, as it came upon Avraham. Often we hear stories of paupers who are suddenly catapulted into great wealth and are utterly ruined by it, either financially, spiritually or both.

Yitzchak was particularly fortunate that his wealth did not come suddenly, but in gradual ascent, as the verse states: "The man grew and continued to grow until he became very great indeed." He was thereby given the opportunity to slowly adjust to his new state of being, without undergoing any sudden changes.

The Dangers of Sudden Change

The same may be said of the dangers of spiritual growth. The best and safest path is that of a slow, steady climb. A person needs time to adapt to his new lifestyle and become firmly established on each rung before he proceeds to the next. When a person charges in a headlong assault against his yetzer hara, and makes drastic, sudden changes in his life, he stands in terrible danger of falling from his newfound height and crashing down into emotional and spiritual ruin.

Therefore, our quest to serve Hashem through physicality, by improving our eating habits, must involve a safe and gradual ascent, rather than sudden, dangerous leaps. Nonetheless, there are certain basic principles which are absolutely essential as the foundation for our spiritual growth. These principles must be adapted immediately, to prevent our descent into the abyss of ta'avos. This will be explained in further detail in the chapters to come.

Golus America

The Toldos Adam writes:

"May Hashem bless you and guard you." The Midrash comments: "May He bless you – with wealth, and guard you – from the mazikin (destructive forces)."
Our Sages warn that the test of wealth can be harder than the test of poverty, since wealth leads to arrogance, as it is written: "[Guard yourselves, when] your silver and gold increase and all your possessions prosper, lest your hearts become exalted and you forget Hashem your G d."

Therefore, together with the blessing for prosperity, we are given another blessing that Hashem may guard us from the destructive effects of wealth.
The Divrei Chaim of Tzanz foresaw that the last stage of Golus before the coming of Moshiach would be Golus America, wherein Bnei Yisrael would enjoy liberty and prosperity the likes of which we have never before known in Golus. However, the danger inherent in these seeming blessings, is that people are led to believe that they are free to act as they please and shamelessly follow their every desire. Millions of Jews have fallen prey to this ideology, which has claimed more Jewish souls than the Holocaust. The Midrash states:

R' Shimon [bar Yochai] taught that causing another person to sin is worse than murder, since a murderer claims his victim's life in this temporary world, but leaves him his portion in the eternal World to Come. One who causes another person to sin kills him both in this world and the next.

Golus America represents the final test of opulence and ta'avos, in which we must stand on guard lest our ascent into prosperity destroy us.

The Teshuvah of Character Perfection

The Rambam writes:

Let none say that teshuvah is necessary only for evil deeds such as illicit relations and theft. Just as a person must be repent of these, he must also examine his bad character traits and repent of his anger, belligerence, jealousy, mockery; his pursuit of wealth, honor or gluttonous eating; and so on. From all these things one must return in teshuvah. Character flaws are more destructive than wicked deeds, since once a person is accustomed to them, they are most difficult to correct. Of this it is written, "Let the wicked abandon his path."
We thus have an explicit halachic ruling from the Rambam obligating us to do teshuvah from our gluttonous eating habits. By citing the verse, "Let the wicked abandon his path," he implies that gluttonous eating is among the marks of wickedness.

As we cited in the previous chapter from the Shulchan Aruch, a kosher animal that is fed forbidden foods throughout its life becomes forbidden. It is transformed into that which it eats. So too, a person who eats gluttonously throughout his life becomes a living embodiment of gluttony. Such a person will undoubtedly lack the will-power to resist the urge for forbidden pleasures. It is thus well understood why the Rambam brands him as wicked, since his tendency towards unbridled self-gratification will eventually lead him down the path of sin.

When a person is wicked in any facet of his behavior, his entire framework of religious devotion is faulty. He might still perform certain mitzvos or study Torah, but they will hardly find favor in Heaven, as the Meor V'Shemesh writes:
Among the foundations of our service of Hashem is to contemplate thoughts of teshuvah before studying Torah or fulfilling mitzvos. The holy luminary, Rebbe Yitzchak Yaakov (the Chozeh) of Lublin, warned that if a person does not do teshuvah before he studies Torah, of him it is written, "G d says to the wicked, 'What business do you have in speaking of My statutes?'"  However, just by resolving to do teshuvah, one is transformed from wicked to righteous … and is thereby permitted to study the holy Torah.

By resolving to control our ta'avos for food or other desires, we do teshuvah from the "wicked" character traits described by the Rambam, and thereby make ourselves worthy to study Hashem's Torah and fulfill His commandments.

Selfless Allegiance to Hashem's Will

When a truly wicked person studies Torah, with no thought of bettering himself, the Torah itself can become a deadly poison, as the Gemara warns:

Rebbe Yehoshua ben Levi taught: What is the meaning of the verse, "This is the Torah that Moshe placed (sam) before Bnei Yisrael?" If a Jew is worthy, the Torah he studies becomes a life giving potion (sam hachaim). If not, it becomes a deadly poison (sam hamah'ves).
The basic premise of the Torah is "na'aseh v'nishmah" (we will obey and we will hear). With this expression, our forefathers committed themselves to obeying the entire Torah, without first waiting to hear the terms of their commitment. They agreed to serve Hashem in whatever way He might ask, regardless of whether or not it would be pleasant or convenient for them. This is the very antithesis of the selfless gluttony which the Rambam writes against, in which a person thinks first and foremost of his own pleasures.

The World Perfected in its Eating Habits

The Rambam writes concerning the era of Moshiach:

Let no one think that in the days of the Moshiach any of the rules of nature will be altered, or that the basic framework of Creation will be changed. The world will continue to function as it has in the past.

Yeshayahu's prophecy, "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the tiger will lie with the kidgoat," was meant only as a parable to describe the world-peace that will then exist. Israel will dwell securely among the wicked nations, who are compared to wolves and tigers… The entire world will then return to the true religion. They will cease to steal or destroy, but will instead tranquilly eat only that which is permitted, as it is [figuratively] written, "The lion shhall eat chaff with the ox."

From here we see that the very symbol of the peace and perfection that will reign over all mankind with the coming of Moshiach, is the perfection of eating habits, as all the nations together will "tranquilly eat only that which is permitted."

Chapter 3

The Gluttony of the Rebellious Son

We find in Parshas Ki Seitzei the mitzvah of ben soreir u'moreh (the rebellious son):

If a man has a rebellious son who does not heed the voice of his father and mother, and they chastise him but he still does not listen, his father and mother must seize him and bring him to the elders of his city and to the gate of his place. They shall tell the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is rebellious. He does not heed our voice. He is a glutton and a drunkard.’ All the men of his city shall stone him and he shall die, and you shall rid the evil from your midst.

Although the rebellious son has not yet done anything to make him liable for execution, he is killed nonetheless, since the Torah sees the path of evil upon which he is bent. "Let him die now in innocence, and not later die in guilt. For his own benefit, and for the benefit of the world, he must die now."

The Gemara states that he is not liable for death unless he has eaten a certain amount of meat and drunken a certain amount of wine, under a specific set of circumstances. Regarding this, the Rambam writes:
The Torah always provides an additional verse warning against a sin, besides the verse that describes the sin's punishment. Where then is the warning for the ben soreir u'moreh? "Do not eat upon blood" - do not eat in a way that leads to bloodshed. This refers to the ben soreir u'moreh, who is killed for eating in an ugly way, as it is written, "He is a glutton and a drunkard."
Since the ben soreir u'moreh cannot control his desire for food, there is no reason to presume that he will control any other desire. He will balk at nothing, even murder, to achieve his goals. Therefore, the Torah warns him, "Do not eat upon blood." He must learn to control his desires, lest they lead to the most terrible results.

The Rambam furthermore writes in his Guide for the Perplexed:

Among the purposes of the perfect Torah is to distance us from selfish pleasures (ta'avos), and teach us to disdain and limit them as much as possible, that we should not partake of more (physical pleasure) than is necessary.

As you know, the goal of the masses is usually no more than to overindulge in food, drink or relations. Overindulgence detracts from the perfection of man and harms the general welfare of the country and the upkeep of the home.

When a person is drawn after nothing but his physical desires, as many fools are, he loses interest in engaging his mind, damages his health, cuts short the natural span of his life, and gives rise to troubles and worries. Jealousy, hatred and conflict abound, as people try to grab one another's possessions. The cause of all this is the foolish perception of physical pleasure as the purpose of life.

G d made precautions against this, by giving us mitzvos that draw us away from this goal and prevent us from constantly thinking about our physical desires. He prevented us from indulging in that which leads to excessive ta'avah and physical pleasure. This is an important tenet of the entire Torah.

See how the Torah commands us to deal with the ben soreir u'moreh, who overindulges in eating or drinking. We must execute him by stoning, to swiftly rid the world of him before his passions grow and in his lust he kills many and destroys that which good people have made.

Thus, unbridled physical desire can be the cause of early demise, the destruction of society, untold hardship and woe, and can even lead to murder. It can bring upon a person the spiritual death of which our Sages warn, "The wicked, even in their lifetimes, are considered as dead" , since they are dead to any sense of spiritual value.

The Predatory Bird

The ben soreir u'moreh serves as a lesson for us not to overindulge in our physical pleasures, lest they lead to the calamities described above. The Torah singled out the pleasures of eating, "gluttony and drunkenness," as the precursors of this fate, as opposed to other physical pleasures in which people might overindulge, and might also lead to similar fate. Apparently, the desire for food is in a class unto itself.

The Ramban explains why the Torah forbade eating certain kinds of animals:

It is forbidden to eat any kind of predatory bird. The Torah distances us from them, since their blood would boil within us, engendering traits of black cruelty and coarseness.

The food we eat enters our body and merges to become one with us. Furthermore, since eating sustains our life, the manner in which we eat determines the course of our lives. By ingesting the meat of cruel predatory birds, cruelty becomes a part of us.

So too, by eating in a way that is selfish and gluttonous, the ben soreir u'moreh becomes a living embodiment of selfishness and gluttony. He is not killed for the sins he has yet to commit (since Hashem judges people based on their virtue at that particular moment, not on their future sins). Rather, he is killed for the evil nature that has already merged with his soul, as a result of his gluttonous eating habits.

The Influence of an Eating Companion

The Ramchal writes as follows:

Death was decreed upon mankind as a result of Adam's sin, which caused the filth of the Primordial Snake to be absorbed into his body. This filth entered as a result of Adam having eaten [together with the Snake].

The verse states, "Your Torah is in my stomach." As we have discussed elsewhere, 611 of man's major bodily organs are matched by corresponding parts of the digestive system. The nutritious elements of his food are thus divided and distributed among all his organs [with each part of the digestive system sustaining the corresponding organ]. The last two organs are the mouth and the throat, through which food enters the body. These organs correspond to the first of the Ten Commandments, "I am Hashem your G d," and "You shall have no other god", which we heard directly from the Almighty G d. Afterwards, the rest of the digestive process is completed by the internal organs.

The downfall of mankind was caused by Adam's having eaten together with the Snake. Thereby, the filth of the Snake, representing the essence of evil, was able to enter man's body, pass through his digestive system, and corrupt his 613 organs and the parallel 613 spiritual capacities.

From here we see how important it is to carefully choose our eating companions, and not to eat with those whose coarse or lowly traits might corrupt us. To the contrary, we should eat together with those whose company will improve us.

For this reason, the Baal Shem Tov and the Chassidic leaders who followed him placed such great emphasis on communal meals. They encouraged their followers to eat together with the Tzaddikim, and with other good Jews whose friendship brings spiritual benefit. By eating together, good Jews wield a positive influence upon one another, as we share our positive qualities.

The Noam Elimelech taught that just being together with other good Jews can afford a level of purity similar to that of immersing in a mikvah. Chassidic leaders whose failing health made them unable to immerse in a mikvah purified themselves instead by immersing in gatherings of friendship among other Jews. Of this the Gemara states:
Fortunate are you, O Israel. Before Whom do you purify yourselves, and Who purifies you? Your Father in Heaven, as it is written… "Mikvah Yisrael Hashem." Just as a mikvah purifies the impure, so does HaKadosh Baruch Hu purify Bnei Yisrael.

The united community becomes like a mikvah, to purify its members as they join to eat and conduct their lives together in friendship.

Twisting the Torah to Justify our Desires

The Torah explicitly states that a sheretz (dead rodent) is impure. Nonetheless, in the Talmudic academy of Yavneh there was a scholar who could bring one hundred and fifty logical proofs that it is pure. From her we see that the human mind is agile enough to prove any conclusion it wants, even if those conclusions are obviously wrong.

So too, if a person is intent on indulging his desires, he will be able to justify himself, and even bring proofs from the Torah that doing so is a mitzvah. He will misinterpret the Torah in any way necessary, in order to justify his selfish pleasures.

The Gemara states, regarding the laws of Shabbos, that a shocheit (slaughterer) is liable for transgressing the melachah of tzovei'ah (coloring). The Yehudi HaKodesh explained this as a parable for the yetzer hara, the proverbial "Slaughterer of the World." It is destined to be destroyed, not for enticing man to sin, which is indeed its mission. Rather, it will be destroyed for tricking people into thinking that sins are mitzvos and mitzvos are sins. It "colors" the truth, rendering us unable to discern right from wrong.

Even permitted pleasures are wrong when they are abused, as the Ramban writes:

"Be holy" – by distancing yourself from forbidden relations and others sins. Holiness exists wherever safeguards are established to protect us from sin…

The Torah forbids certain relations and certain kinds of food, but permits man to be with his wife, or to eat and drink kosher meat and wine. Therefore, a person disposed towards selfish pleasures (ba'al ta'avah) can find license to constantly be with his wife, or with his many wives; to overindulge in meat and wine; to speak profanely as his heart desires; and to partake of every crude indulgence that the Torah does not expressly forbid. He will thus become a lecher by the Torah's license.

Therefore, after the Torah lists that which is totally forbidden, it adds a general commandment to be holy by abstaining from excessive indulgence of permitted pleasures.

A person who has indulged his desire for pleasure to the point of becoming a "naval b'reshus HaTorah - lecher by the Torah's license", is almost certain to distort the truth, and convince himself that even forbidden pleasures are really permitted. The Gemara warns of this:
Rebbe Yehoshua ben Levi taught: What is the meaning of the verse, "This is the Torah that Moshe placed (sam) before Bnei Yisrael?" If a Jew is worthy, the Torah he studies becomes a life giving potion (sam hachaim). If not, it becomes a deadly poison (sam hamah'ves).

The Torah itself becomes a deadly poison, when it is perverted to bring proofs to permit our selfish behavior.

Every Jew Yearns to be Good

The Kozhnitzer Maggid writes:

Every Jew wants to fulfill the will of his Creator in Torah study and prayer, but the yetzer hara and the desires of his stomach distract by enticing him into the ta'avos of eating and drinking, [of which it is written] "Yeshurun waxed fat and rebelled." This is especially true of those who have eaten forbidden foods, and are thus sustained by that which is forbidden.

The path of the righteous, upon which light shines, is to break their ta'avos and refrain from filling their stomachs. Therefore, the desires of their hearts are in their control, to serve Hashem with Torah and good deeds.

This is as David HaMelech said, "To do Your will, my G d, has been my desire," which is undoubtedly true of every Jew. However, David added, "Your Torah is in my stomach," which is the decisive factor, not to allow the desires of the stomach prevent us from walking on the true path.

Every Jew is good at heart. We all want to fulfill Hashem's will. However, gluttonous eating can prevent a person from walking on the path of truth. He will fool himself into believing that the indulgence of his physical desires is actually a mitzvah of some sort. In his blind yearning to indulge his desires, he will be unable to distinguish right from wrong.