It is Pesach time and it is necessary to review the aspects of Holy Eating. As Rav Tzadok HaKohen reveals (see the “Secret of Eating at the Seder” ), the main tikkun person can make for his lack of kedusha of eating during the whole year is at Laila Seder, because it is the only time when eating (of matzah and maror ) is a direct mitzvah.
Yitzhak Buxbaum has a comprehensive section on eating in his “Jewish Spiritual Practices“, which is a great summary over large number of Chassidic and non-Chassidic Jewish seforim dealing with deeper aspects of serving Hashem.
The following is Part 1 of a short and very incomplete summary of chapter 10: “Eating and Holy Meal” – those interested should definitely get the complete book or even the original sources quoted in here 🙂 .
Holy Rav Hirsh HaShamash of Rimanov said that service of G-d through eating is greater and a higher level of avodah than that of prayer. (Divrei Shmuel, p.211, #9)
1. Preparation for the meal
While cooking the food, state the intention and pray that it will be for a holy meal and a service of G-d. Pray that what you experience in the food is the pleasure of the radiance of the Shechinah [and not only the physical taste].
Set the table nicely to be clean and neat. Cleanliness leads to holiness and physical cleanliness induces a feeling of spiritual cleanliness.
Inverse is also true: The Other Side is gets power through the holding in excrements and wastes unnecessarily, and this can lead to foreign thoughts… So you should not eat unless you first cleaned out your insides from your previous meal. (Darkei Tzedek, p. 20)
Putting food on the table is a great service of G-d, even more so is removing the dishes from the table after the meal. (Rav Asher of Stolin, Beit Aharon, p. 286)
IshTam: Holy eating definitely requires creating a space where one can focus on eating properly, e.g. social chatter with co-workers during the meal is a sure killer 😉
Similarly, it helps if the place of eating is special and associated with spiritual practice, not the mundane activity (e.g. not the workplace).
2. Teshuvah – repentance and confession.
Meditate on teshuvah before prayer, before Torah study and before eating. (Rav Moshe Teitelbaum, Hanhagot Tzaddikim, p.50, #34)
You should confess before a meal in order to silence the “accusers” (Derech Hayim, 1-26)
Everyone has to confess, because eating is in the place of a sacrifice, and with every sacrifice the person who brought it had to confess, to atone for his sins… And on the Shabbat and Yom Tov, when the confession is not to be said, say instead verse (Dvarim 30:6) “And the Lord your G-d will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live” – and meditate on repentance [from love] within your heart. (Shnei Luchot Habrit, Reishit Chochma, Shaar ha-Kedusha, ch 15, #72, n.171)
Before eating, give something for tzedaka. (Rav Dovid ha-Levi of Steppin, Hanhagot Tzaddikim,p.56, #19 ) – any tzedaka before eating sanctifies the meal.
4. Limit the meal
Decide before the meal how much to eat and no more. Because once you start eating, and your stomach expands, you can be dragged into overeating. (Rav Avracham of Slonnim. Torah Avot, Maasei Avot, #167).
IshTam: Kedusha has a quality of separateness, so by mere act of separation of a portion of a meal to eat, we bring a measure of holiness on it and elevate it before we even started to eat. Of course halachically the food still remains chullin (regular food), but it obtains an intrinsic quality of kedusha.
5. Meditate before/during the meal and state your intention
Eat not from lust for food but to keep yourself alive and have strength to serve G-d. eating from desire gives energy to the other side.
Rabbi Zusya of Anipoli said:
The will of the Creator, blessed be He, then, is to “enliven every living thing” by means of eating. So I have to eat in holiness and purity, for I’m doing His will by eating. And then you think this way, you can accomplish the spiritual purpose of eating by lifting the holy sparks to their source… And you should realize that it is He who brought you to this hunger and thirst… (Mazkeret Shem ha-Gedolim p.79)
The kabbalists have written that anything you eat on weekdays hat is more than is necessary for your health adds more power to the Other Side and strengthens your yetzer ha-ra (evil impulse), so that it will gain control over you. (Pele Yoatz, quoted in Kedushat haShulchan, p. 146)
6. Pray for G-d’s help
Always confess before you eat and say: “Master of the World! Help me that my eating be in holiness, and that my intention in eating be for the sake of heaven. Save me from falling into overeating ”. (Rav Shmuel Valtzis, in Midrash Pinhas, p.45a, #17)
7. Pray for your sustenance
It is a higher level of closeness to G-d to draw all of your needs, including food, to you through prayer – even though G-d would give them to you anyway. (from R. Nachman’s Winsdom p.367, Sichot HaRan #233 )
8. Stated Intention
Before eating say aloud what your intentions are in the meal. For example state: “I’m eating so that my body will be healthy for the service of G-d“.
The Shulchan Aruch:
For everything from which you derive benefit or enjoyment is this world, your intention should be not your own pleasure but to serve G-d blessed be He, as is written: “Know Him in all your ways.”. Our Sages said: “Let all your deeds be for the sake of heaven”. Even things of personal choice, such as eating and drinking, walking, sitting and standing, sexual intercourse, conversation and everything connected with the needs of the body – all should be for the service of G-d or for something that leads to the service of G-d. So even if you are hungry and thirsty, if you ate and drank for your own pleasure, it is not praiseworthy; you should intend that you are eating and drinking to keep yourself alive for the service of G-d. (31:1,2)