Bread, Meat and Wine

Rav Aharon Rakeffet recently noted a contrast in wording between the Rambam and the Rama, and mentioned that someone might find “a whole pilpul” in the difference. (Listen to the shiur on YUTorah.org: Responsa Literature #14 – “Rav Baruch Ber Leibowitz” 12-30-13, the observation starts at 8:24, in the opening review of the prior shiur.) Here’s my attempt.

Rambam, Hilkhos Yesorei haTorah 4:13:

… וַאֲנִי אוֹמֵר שְׁאֵין רָאוּי לְהִטַּיַּל בַּפַּרְדֵּס, אֵלָא מִי שֶׁנִּתְמַלָּא כְּרֵסוֹ לֶחֶם וּבָשָׂר; וְלֶחֶם וּבָשָׂר זֶה, הוּא לֵידַע בֵּאוּר הָאָסוּר וְהַמֻּתָּר וְכַיּוֹצֶא בָּהֶן מִשְּׁאָר הַמִּצְווֹת. …

And I say that one isn’t fit to stroll through the Pardeis except someone who filled his belly with “bread and meat”. Which is to know what is permitted and what is prohibited and the like from among the rest of the mitzvos.

Rama, Yoreh Dei’ah 246:5, citing this Rambam:

… ואין לאדם לטייל בפרדס רק לאחר שמלא כריסו בשר ויין, והוא לידע איסור והיתר ודיני המצות.

… and a person should not stroll through the Pardeis until his belly is full of “meat and wine”. Which is, to know prohibition and permission and the laws of the mitzvos.

There are differences in grammar, but I want to focus on the difference R’ Rakeffet pointed out. The Rambam describes Jewish Thought and secular knowledge as “bread and meat“, but the Rama changes it to “meat and wine“. Why?

As I noted in the past (see The Rambam’s Philosophy and Mesorah, and The Rambam, Knowledge and Akrasia), the Rambam’s philosophy is unique in emphasizing knowledge over character. It is the subject of Rav Samson [ben] Raphael Hirsch’s criticism of the Rambam in Nineteen Letters (letter 18). The Rambam opens the Moreh discussing how the ideal, pre-fruit Adam, chose between truth and falsehood, and the need to choose between good and evil was part of man’s decline due to the sin. He closes the book with a discussion of four planes of human perfection, the lowest being wealth, then health, morality, and the final highest level — intellect. In between he attributes prophecy to mental perfection, to the point that he considered Aristotle a near-prophet; individualized Providence (hashgachah peratis) is proportional to man’s understanding of G-d; mitzvos are defined as a means to learn about Him, unlearn the mistakes of idolatry, and setting up a stable society so that we have the peace and time to study; the Rambam requires knowledge of G-d by philosophical proof, not ecstatic experience or relying on trusted sources; etc…

So the Rambam’s notion of mastering Judaism would be very intellectual, and therefore would be to the mind much like bread and meat are to the stomach — the staples.

If the Rama understands Judaism as would the majority of Jewish tradition, then he would understand Judaism as having more of an emotional or middah component. Therefore, instead of bread, the Rama invokes putting into our “stomachs” something more connotative of emotion — wine.

This might also explain the difference in sequence. The Rama could have simply been repeating the idiom as it appears in the gemara‘s discussion of the laws of Yom Tov, “there is no joy except through meat and wine”. Or, perhaps the Rama — or even the original thought about Yom Tov joy — could not put emotions ahead of intellect, wine ahead of meat. We do not know because we are passionate, we are passionate about what we know.

3 thoughts on “Bread, Meat and Wine

  1. NOW I know what you were talking about in shul!

    I only want to add that this may dovetail nicely with the Maharal’s (and others’) development of the idea in Gevurat HaSHem that the 3 matzot represent the Avot, as wheat is a bechina of chochma, whereas the four cups cprrespond to the Imahot, as wine is a bechina of Binah…

    • But how would that play out here? The Rambam would be saying that one can’t enter the Pardeis until after consuming “meat” and something that requires immediacy, and the Rama instead chooses something that improves with age? What aspects of learning Torah get worse with time?

And your thoughts...?