Today’s daf (Pesachim 24b) contains an important halachic principle which has numerous practical applications, but which also teaches us about how we should eat and thereby enjoy the food that we have.
‘We are taught that Rabbi Abahu said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: “No lashes are given [as a punishment] to someone who consumes any of the prohibited foods in the Torah [i.e. those prohibited foods which we are not only forbidden to eat, but which also are forbidden to benefit e.g. chametz] unless they do so דרך הנאתן – in the normal manner, [meaning in a way] which gives them enjoyment [from the prohibited food]”. And what does this come to exclude? Rav Shimi bar Ashi said: “To exclude a case where someone placed [forbidden] cheilev fat of an ox that is to be stoned [which is אסור בהנאה] on their wound… and certainly [it also excludes] someone who eats raw cheilev fat.”’
Based on the example given by the Gemara about healing, and as explicitly stated by the Rosh (Pesachim 2:2) and the Shach (on Yoreh Deah 155 note 13), the permission granted to consume forbidden foods like chametz שלא כדרך הנאתן – meaning in manner such as in pill form that provides no immediate enjoyment – only applies לצורך רפואה, meaning for the sake of healing, but this may not be done for non-medical needs.
Yet by teaching us what is considered שלא כדרך הנאתן, our Gemara also offers us a glimpse of what is considered authentic דרך הנאתן – which is to detect, to appreciate, and to savour the flavour of a food that has been consumed.
One of my very few vices is that, every year, I watch the ‘Masterchef’ TV series in Israel (which – for those interested – recently started). I love the show for a variety of reasons including the fact that it provides me with a unique window into the lives and the food of the people who live in the country that I love. But in addition to the fascinating people and remarkable recipes that can be learnt from Masterchef is the simple appreciation for natural ingredients and the pleasure that can be experienced from eating great food.
Sadly, too many of us rush through our lives that even when we have cooked a meal for ourselves or we have purchased or been served food that someone else has cooked, though it may seem that we eat the food דרך הנאתן, we are often in such a rush, or are so distracted, that it is as if we are eating the food שלא כדרך הנאתן and we thereby fail to fully appreciate the taste of the natural ingredients we are eating, or savour the flavour of the food we are consuming.
True, those who need healing often need to consume food שלא כדרך הנאתן. But as long as we are well, a simple lesson we can learn from today’s daf is that we should make sure we take the time to appreciate the blessings that God gives us through the food that we consume.