Tzemach Tzadik by Rabbi Leone di Modena Chapter 37 Gluttony


Back to chapter 36 about abstinence

Translated by Ralph Anzarouth and an anonymous friend


As we know, the glutton and the guzzler eats and drinks more than is proper. The Torah has already spoken concerning the wayward and rebellious son. Our Sages of blessed memory said [concerning him] (Talmud Bavli, tractate Sanhedrin 70a): "Until he drinks a half log measure of wine and eats a Tartimor of meat1." And they further add (ibid. 72a) that he is subject to the death penalty because of what he will turn out to be, since the Torah said that he will seek to fulfill his obsession and when he will not find [the means] he will ultimately resort to violent robbery.

Under the same category can also be included those who seek to eat gourmet food and royal dishes, even in small quantities.

This trait of gluttony is found in the bird known as the vulture, whose excessive desire is such that it will travel a hundred miles in order to eat even a minimal quantity of a putrid carcass. For this reason it will always be found in the battlefield. Wherever it is seen, it is a sign of war.

The glutton and the guzzler destroys his memory, loses his mind, contaminates his blood, dims his eyesight, diminishes his strength, causes depravity, brings about harmful diseases, shortens his life and consumes every good aspect of a person.

King Solomon said (Proverbs 23, 20-21): "Do not be among wine-guzzlers, among gluttonous eaters of meat for themselves, for the guzzler and the glutton will become impoverished2." Osea said (Osea 4, 11): "Depravity, wine and new wine take away the heart.". King Solomon further said (Proverbs 23, 31): "Do not look at wine when it is red2." He also said (ibid. 21, 17): "One who loves wine and oil will not become rich", and in the holy writing wine is always understood to mean both food and drink. Our sages of blessed memory said (Talmud Bavli, tractate Pesachim 114a): "One who eats fat meat will hide in the attic [to escape his creditors]; whereas one who eats vegetables will sit [at ease] at the gates of the city". And in tractate Shabbat (folio 151b), concerning the verse (Malachi 2, 3) "I will cast excrement on your faces, the excrement from your festive sacrifice”, Rabbi [Rav Huna and some say Rav Chaga] said that this is referring to those who forsake the study of Torah and spend their days as if they were festive banquets. They further interpret this verse that 3 days after a man's death, his stomach splits open and the waste is expelled and an angel comes and takes it up and throws it on his mouth saying "Take the fruits of your toil".

Aristotle said that those who pursue food and drink are compared to animals. Someone else said: "One will toil in vain if he tries to conquer the rest of his inclinations without first overcoming gluttony, since this is the precursor of depravity, pride and all the [other] evils."

As it is known, the first Mitzvah which Hashem commanded our ancestor [Adam] and his wife Chava in this world concerned eating; and since they did not fulfill this Mitzvah they brought death upon themselves and their descendants until the end of all the generations. Some of our Sages of blessed memory say (Talmud Bavli, tractate Berakhot 4b) that [the forbidden fruit] was the vine; some say it was wheat and some say it was a fig. Therefore one should be extremely cautious in matters of eating and drinking, as it is written (Proverbs 13, 25): "The righteous eats to satisfy his soul, while the stomach of the wicked is not satisfied".

Note of the translators:
[1] Both of these are very excessive measure.
[2] Translation of this verse courtesy of Judaica Press and

The whole book Tzemach Tzadik in Hebrew (printed in Rashi characters) can be downloaded in PDF format and read online at Chapter 37 about Pride is found at pages 71-72.