I remember once learning that one should not learn Torah from a Rav who's overweight because (something along the lines of):

"if he can't control his appetite, how can he control his other worldly desires"

... or something similar.

Anyone know where this teaching can be found?

  • 4
    Bava Metzia 84a
    – Alex
    Aug 26, 2019 at 23:01
  • 1
    @Alex Where does it says that you can't learn from those overweight Rabbies?? Also, it's obvious that it's some kind of Midrash, and not simple truth. Aug 27, 2019 at 5:39
  • 1
    @Alaychem I understood him to mean just the opposite - that that Gemara is a proof that you can learn from them.
    – DonielF
    Aug 28, 2019 at 23:54
  • Not always is an overweight person overindulgent, some people are naturally big and fat. You could have two people eat the same exact things and one might be fat and one thin. It can be genetic. There's no way to know for sure.
    – larry909
    Aug 29, 2019 at 10:57

2 Answers 2


A similar idea is stated in the Talmud (Eru. 54a):

אמר רב הונא מאי דכתיב חיתך ישבו בה תכין בטובתך לעני אלהים אם אדם משים עצמו כחיה זו שדורסת ואוכלת ואיכא דאמרי שמסרחת ואוכלת תלמודו מתקיים בידו ואם לאו אין תלמודו מתקיים בידו

Translation (Soncino):

R. Huna said: What is the purport of the Scriptural text, Thy flock settled therein; Thou preparest in Thy goodness for the poor, O God (Ps. 98:11)? If a man behaves like an animal that treads upon its prey and eats it or, as others say, that drags it and eats it, his learning will be preserved by him, otherwise it will not.

Rashi explains, according to one interpretation of that Talmudic text, that a student who is not particular about his food and general pleasantries (as a lion who treads and immediately eats his prey) will have his learning preserved.

Tanna Dve Eliayah Rabba (ch. 26) states:

ואם לא זכה אדם לבקש רחמים על ד"ת יבקש רחמים על אכילה ושתיה יתירה שלא יכנסו לתוך מעיו

Loose translation:

one who did not merit having Torah fill his stomach should pray that excess food and drink not fill his stomach

This Midrash, quoted slightly different, appears to be the source for Tosafot (Ket. 104a) who supplies as follows:

עד שאדם מתפלל שיכנס תורה לתוך גופו יתפלל שלא יכנסו מעדנים לתוך גופו

Loose translation:

Before one prays that he merit to absorb Torah he should pray that delicacies not enter his stomach

The Zohar (Terumah 154b) writes:

דְּהָא יֵצֶר הָרָע לָא אִשְׁתְּכַח, אֶלָּא מִגּוֹ מֵיכְלָא וּמִשְׁתְּיָּא. הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב, (משלי ל) פֶּן אֶשְׂבַּע וְכִחַשְׁתִּי וְגוֹ', דְּמִגּוֹ מֵיכְלָא וּמִשְׁתְּיָּא יֵצֶר הָרָע מִתְרַבֵּי בִּמְעוֹי דְּבַר נָשׁ

Loose translation:

The evil inclination is only awakened/found on account of food and drink, insinuated in the verse (Pr. 30:9) Lest I be satiated and renounce etc.; because of food and drink the evil inclination is compounded in a person’s stomach

But all things considered,R. Yaakov Emden (Lehem Shamayim, Avot 6:4) cites many seemingly paradoxical statements regarding such behavior and sums it up, concluding that over-indulgence and abstinence is relative.

In Post-Talmudic literature, R. Shlomo ibn Gabirol (Mivhar HaPeninim 1:29) records:

ואמר מי שמתעסק בתורה לא יתכן שיהא צוארו עב וגופו שמן


Robustness and obesity are seldom the portion of the devotee to study and religion

  • +1 for Tanna devey Eliahu. R. Shlomo ibn Gabirol is wrong. Raabi Yochannan was overweight. Aug 29, 2019 at 7:38

Could the teaching come from Maimonides, who wrote, “Caring for the health and wellbeing of the body is one of the ways of serving G‑d... "One is unable to think clearly and comprehend truth if he is unwell.” If a mind becomes too cloudy it may not see things in full clarity.

  • 1
    Can you source this statement of Maimonides’?
    – DonielF
    Aug 28, 2019 at 23:56
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    @DonielF I can't remember. It's sourced somewhere. The point is certainly there, though.
    – Shmuel
    Aug 28, 2019 at 23:59

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