- Moshe Ben-Chaim
- Reader: If I were to add a fifth species to my Lulav on
sukkot, let's say marijuana. But I didn't do this as a halachic
action, but I concocted some quasi- philosophic-moral reason for doing
so (as you do to justify Bahya), it would still be bal tosif, whatever
my rationalization. However, I suspect that you are unwilling or
unable to admit that this is case with Bahya (referring to his urge
that man abstain from permitted physical pleasures) due to ideological
- But, as a matter of fact, I believe you have made an egregious error
in your reading of Bahya. He opens Chapter 5 of Prishut, with the
words"Al Pi Toratenu"-" according to our Torah",
and then proceeds to forbid the permitted, by claiming that this is
all according to Torah law. Here is a clear and incontrovertible case
of Bal Tosif.
- Mesora: This is not baal tosif,
as he is suggesting an approach already mentioned in the Torah, it is
called "kadesh atzmicha bmutar shelcha", "Sanctify
yourself with that which is (even) permitted." We also read
"pas b'melach tochal", "Bread with salt you shall
eat", referring to the righteous person's attitude towards
subsistence. This teaches that even with that which is permitted to
the nation as a whole based on their average, human needs, the
righteous go beyond the letter of the law and realizes the principles
set down in "Kedoshim thiyu".
- Parshas Kedoshim was adding on to what the Torah prohibited. Ramban
teaches there that one should even abstain from the permitted, as the
law added "Kedoshim thiyu", "be thou sanctified",
after all prohibitions were listed. This "Kedoshim thiyu"
must then come to add a new law. But what does it additionally
prohibit if no new objects are prohibited? The answer given is that
one should abstain from even the permitted.
- One is able to keep within the confines of the letter of the law,
yet eat, drink and have intercourse most of the day. This
overindulgence has been identified by the Rabbis by name,
"menuval brishus haTorah", "disgusting within the
confines of the Torah". This attitude is not prohibited by law,
but it most definitely deters one from the life of pursuing wisdom.
Even though overindulgence is not prohibited, it is clearly not a life
of wisdom. Abstinence is praiseworthy in the pursuit of this life. It
readies the soul to be engaged in thought, as the passions are not
inflamed. It helps keep the focus on ideas, instead of fantasy.
- Abstinence then is perfectly in line with the pursuit of Torah,
although it is uncomfortable for the average man for whom the Torah
must also include, and therefore limits its prohibitions.
- Read the Ramban at the beginning of Kedoshim for elucidation.