Torah Scholars Tend To Be Frail

One does not usually associate ruddy health with the most religious Jews.

Adam Kirsch writes: Yet Talmud scholars, the chapter also teaches, did not often get a chance to indulge in such dainties. Whether because they were too poor, too busy with study, or too ascetic in general, the sages were expected to be frail…

Rabbi Shimon would decline a dish of figs, saying, “These do not leave the intestines at all.” Here as at many earlier points in the Talmud, we see that the rabbis placed a particular emphasis on digestion, as we see in a story about Rabbi Yehuda. A “heretic” once tried to insult him by saying, “Your face is similar either to usurers or to pig breeders.” The meaning of this insult seems to be that Yehuda looked too well-fed, rather than having the refined pallor appropriate to a scholar. The reason for his glow of good health, Yehuda replied, was not that he followed a low and profitable occupation, but that he had regular bowel movements: “I have twenty-four bathrooms on the way from my home to the study hall, and all the time I enter each and every one of them.”

…In addition to being physically frail, we learn, some mighty scholars were also unattractive.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in Health, Orthodoxy. Bookmark the permalink.