Beit Midrash

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  • Ein Ayah
To dedicate this lesson

Taking the Good While Avoiding the Bad


Various Rabbis

[Eating] spleen is good for the teeth and bad for the intestines. What is the solution for it? Chew it and then spit it out. Leeks are hard on the teeth and good for the intestines. What is the solution for it? Cook it well and then swallow it.

Ein Ayah: Besides the practical advice in these statements, there is a philosophical idea that is hinted at. Whenever there is something which we can enjoy, we should look both at its benefits and its drawbacks and plan how to gain from the former without being harmed by the latter. This is true not only of foods but of desirable elements in the world in general.
There are matters that make things more pleasant and glorious in the external realm but may sometimes cause internal deterioration. It is a mistake, then, for one to think that he may pursue the external gains without considering the potential damage. He will regret later that he received just "a flower that wilted" so quickly while he lost critical vigor in the eternal world.
For someone to refuse and even despise the external benefit is also not a proper thing because everything that Hashem made in this world is for His honor, and everything that can broaden one’s life and make it more splendid contains the completeness that is appropriate according to its value. Thus, it is proper to make use of the external matters, but in a wise way that will avoid the damage while obtaining the benefit.
Chazal taught us an example of the concept regarding benefits and dangers in the physical realm [spleen and leeks], warning us not to take the good in a manner that will bring either internal or even external harm. Indeed, if one only ponders abstract wisdom in the realm of understanding Hashem, even though it will cause his spirit to grow, if he goes too far and leaves behind his normal life, it can have a negative impact on his human spirit.

When Man Should and Should Not Intervene With Nature
(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 6:67)

All green vegetables take away one’s good complexion. Everything that is not fully grown makes one small.

Ein Ayah: It is proper to love nature as is, for it is the work of Hashem, and to not always occupy himself with artificial things. While this is true regarding both one’s physical and spiritual lifestyles, one should be aware of the following two things.
One is that if there is something natural that was made in order to join together with something man-made, then one should not suffice with its natural completion. Since man’s intellect is also a part in the natural world, the object’s "point of completion" is actually when man is finished with it. Thus, a raw vegetable may very well not be complete until man completes it through cooking, which is also a natural action.
Another observation is that there are things that do not need human intervention, and there is a need for them to reach their completion. If man takes such an object when it is still small and not ready, it will never reach its completion.
In general, we can say that man sometimes has desires that seem natural, but the problem is that he is not ready to wait until they are at their correct stage, when they will give the full benefit. Taking them before the time will just leave man himself small and incomplete.
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