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There is a principle in mussar that overeating desensitises/spoils our mood for learning and davening with kavana (see Hachsharat HaAvrechim ch.9 for example). E.g. if one is very into one's learning, enjoying it, desiring it and concentrating well, but then has an indulgent meal, he/she will often find that the mood is gone and he/she can't find the passion or even the interest to learn anymore.

This makes me wonder why Yitzchak asked for a meal before giving the berachot to Esav (etc). I understand that the general explanation for that (e.g. Rabbeinu Bachaye) is that he was looking to be in a pleasant, joyful mood, and was using his favourite food as a trigger/anchor for that.

So I wonder if there is any kashe here? Was Yitzchak not afraid that the succulent meal would have a negative effect and, while perhaps making him happy, would also suck away his spiritual mood and negatively impact the beracha? If not, why not? What's different?

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  • Why are you assuming that if he had a meal he overate?
    – Dov
    Nov 12, 2023 at 10:34
  • @Dov I am probably projecting :) The meal was 2 kids and wine. It's not written how much he ate though. Is it really about over-eating, or is it what is eaten? Meat and wine seems like a recipe for this kind of thing - exhaustion etc
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Nov 12, 2023 at 10:43
  • יצר הרע פסק ממנו
    – shmosel
    Nov 20, 2023 at 5:54

2 Answers 2

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Two points:

Firstly, on a basic level...what makes you assume that just because he asked for a tasty meal he would end up overeating? Surely someone of Yitzchak's righteousness was in control of his physical desires especially if they impacted negatively on his spiritual endeavours?

Secondly, refer to the Sforno who explains that this meal was designed purely to provide a greater merit for Esav who was otherwise undeserving of any brochos:

ועשה לי מטעמים. רצה במטעמים כדי שיתעסק בכבוד אב ובזה תחול עליו הברכה כי גם שלא הכיר בגודל רשעו של עשו מכל מקום לא חשב אותו לראוי שתחול עליו אותה הברכה שהיה בלבו לברכו ולכן כשברך יעקב אחר כך שידע בו שהוא ראוי לברכה לא שאל מטעמים ולא בקש דבר וברכו תכף באמרו ואל שדי יברך אותך:

Made it into a tasty dish. Yitzchok knew that Eisov was not worthy of the blessing that he wished to confer upon him. For this reason, he instructed him to perform an act of honor towards him to give him merit. By contrast when he blessed Yaakov (28:3) he knew that he needed no additional merit.

Refer also to the Netziv and Reggio for a similar approach.

Alternatively, in line with the view of Rabbeinu Bachya that notes how it was designed to put him into a more pleasant mood, refer to Radak who notes how the type of food was selected in order to help an ageing man's more unsatisfied diet:

ועשה לי מטעמים, לא היה שואל הציד לחסרון שהיה לו ממאכל, כי עשיר גדול היה ומקנה רב היה לו, אלא שהזקנים נפשם קצה בהם ומתאוים המאכלים ומבקשים דבר חדש מוטעם במאכלם, ובשר הציד הוא מאכל חדש שאינו מזדמן תמיד כבשר הצאן והבקר והעופות הגדלים בבית, לפיכך שאל יצחק מעשו בנו להביא ציד וייטב לבו בו ויברכנו, כי ידע כי צריך הוא לברכתו כי לא היה איש הגון וטוב, אבל יעקב לא היה צריך לברכה, כי ידע יצחק כי ברכת אברהם לו תהיה וברית קיום הזרע המיוחד לאברהם, ובניו ירשו את הארץ; ואברהם גם כן לא ברך את יצחק:

ועשה, he did not ask for venison because there was shortage of food in his home, for he was exceedingly wealthy. We observe that aged people progressively get tired of the food they are used to, and they crave something new to give them an incentive to eat and enjoy their food. Venison is a different kind of meat, not comparable in taste to the meat of sheep or goats or beef. Therefore Yitzchok asked Esau to bring him something which would put him in a pleasant frame of mind, the kind of good feeling which is a necessary prelude to bestowing a blessing with one’s entire heart. He was well aware that he needed something to put him into the right frame of mind as Esau’s general conduct was not one that commended itself to his father so that he would gladly volunteer such a blessing as he felt he was obligated to dispense. There would be no need to send Yaakov on such an errand prior to blessing him, as his righteousness made blessing him something natural.

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One point is it is the overeating is what causes this spiritual insensitivity rather than eating. The point being that when you over indulge. Another point is in the kavana behind the eating as well regardless of the amount. The Apter Rav was known as a great tzadik yet he also ate enormous amounts of food everyday. This wasn't about indulging for the personal pleasure of eating and was part of his avoda. (What exactly the nature of his avoda was is not something I can explain.)

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