On measuring enough (Daf Yomi Eruvin 83)

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“He is also blessed, as he is not a glutton who requires more.”

I am beginning to see the entire world through the prism of an eruv as I wind my way through Tractate Eruvin. An eruv represents community, public spaces, trust, common values, respect for the earth and nature. I have found relevancy to the pandemic in many of the passages. The reading from a few days ago had everyone running to their cupboards to check the packaging of Ezekiel 4.9 bread to make sure the quote of its namesake was correct. Today’s reading discusses the benefits of a healthy lifestyle within the context of an eruv.

The discussion continues from the previous day on what constitutes a meal for purposes of creating an eruv that would allow someone to travel some distance on Shabbat. We have been told that it is a quantity of food that is sufficient for two meals “for each and every one of those included in the eiruv.” Today’s discussion focuses on the appropriate quantity of food for a meal. In essence, we are told that it is just enough. A few days ago, I wrote about filling one’s homes when one did not feel like they were “enough.” Today’s text is about filling one’s gut from the same soul swirling feeling of emptiness. And let’s face it: we are a hungry people.

The ancient measurements of determining what is enough are complex. We are told that the dough of the wilderness was a good measure of enough which was “an omer a head” and an omer (sort of equal to the capacity of 43 eggs) is a tenth part of an eifa, which is three se’a, which are eighteen kay or seventy-two log. We are told that a dough prepared from quarters of kav (approximately 1.2 liters) of flour is essentially enough, and that this is equal to a six quarter-kav of the Jerusalem measure, which is five quarter-kav of the Tzippori measure.

Whatever the right amount is according to these ancient measures determines a healthy meal. We are told that one who requires more “is a glutton” who damages his health. We are killing ourselves with over-eating, and sedentary lives. Covid-19 is the third cause of death in the United States behind heart disease and cancer. Certainly, heart disease and to some extent cancer are caused by how people live their lives, as are the causes of death that are on the list right behind the top three, including diabetes, stroke and Alzheimer’s.

When people visit the United States from other countries, they often remark on how large our meal portions are. I imagine Shmuel visiting a restaurant in Little Italy and examining a large plate of pasta wondering how one person could possibly consume so much. A doctor friend tells me that he is seeing more illnesses as a result of sedentary lifestyles since the start of the pandemic because people are less mobile and eat more as they shelter in place. And maybe we are trying to comfort ourselves with food because so much else seems out of our control.

We all know the lesson deep down that the Talmud teaches us today: we should eat just enough to be healthy and no more and no less. And regardless of who we are and where we are in our lives, we are fighting through these difficult times together, arm-in-arm, and we are enough.


About the Author
Penny Cagan was born in New Jersey and has lived in New York City since 1980. She has published two books of poems called “City Poems “ and “And Today I am Happy." She is employed as a risk manager and continues to write poetry. More information on Penny can be found at https://brokentabletsfrompennycagan.me
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