Rebbe Shimon says: Three who ate at one table, without saying words of Torah
while upon it, are considered to have eaten from sacrifices to the dead
(idols) as it is written: "All their tables are full of vomit and excrement,
without [a clean] place." But three who who ate at one table and said upon
it words of Torah are considered to have eaten from the table of the
Omnipresent, as it is written: "And he said to me 'This is the table which
is in the presence of G-d'."
Why should eating at a table without words of Torah be considered as eating
from sacrifices to the dead? In the verse quoted, there is no mention of the
sin being a lack of words of Torah!
How does saying words of Torah make it as if they ate from the Table of the
Why is the failure to say words of Torah equated with sacrifices of the
dead, when the verse mentions only vomit and excrement. And what source is
there to say this law specifically when THREE people at a table? Why isn't
it true for two people, in the same way that we were taught in the previous
Mishna about two people who are sitting without words of Torah between them?
Everything that exists, including existence itself, belongs to the Almighty,
as it is written "To G-d is the earth and all that fills it" (Tehillim
24:1). But G-d gave man the earth and all that it contains, as it is written
"The heavens are heavens to G-d; but the earth, He has given to mankind"
(Tehillim 115:16). It is not appropriate for man to have access to more than
what is on the earth, the physical world (and not anything which is found in
G-d provides sustenance to all that He created. But the table from which
this sustenance is consumed is not considered a Divine table, since it
sustains man on the earth, in his physical existence, which has been given
to him. What can transform the table into a Divine table? Having it
connected to G-d. When the table acquires that connection, then one who
eats from it is eating from the table of the Divine. This is accomplished by
words of Torah being said at the table, which elevates the table beyond one
that simply provides sustenance to man's physical existence.
The idea can be illustrated with the metaphor of a king who feeds his
servants. What the servants eat is not considered food belonging to them,
but it is in fact the king's food, being provided from the royal account to
those who serve the king.
Since the Torah is considered a fundamental part of G-d, so to speak, the
Torah being said at the table connects the table to G-d, making it His own.
The food being provided by Him at such a table is really food belonging to
the Divine, and one who eats at such a table is considered as being fed
directly from the Divine. But without words of Torah, the food, although
provided by G-d, is simply being used to feed man's physical needs. Since
the physical world has been given over to man, food which nourishes only
those needs is considered as having being given to man, with man then being
the one to provide himself with his own sustenance.
(All life needs sustenance. "Food" ("lechem" is the word used in Biblical
and Kabbalistic language) provides the sustenance to anything which has
life. Physical life needs food which is of a physical nature to sustain it.
Spiritual life needs food of a higher nature to sustain it. The Torah
teaches us "lo al halechem l'vado yichyeh ha'adam," not by bread alone does
man live, "ki al kol motzah phi Hashem yichyeh ha'adam" but on all that
emanates from the mouth of G-d does man live (Devarim 8:3). The meaning is
that the man, as the unique living creature that he is, who combines both a
physical and a spiritual, divine, dimension, isn't sustained by physical
food alone. He also needs nourishment of a transcendent nature. If man's
eating feeds only his physical needs, then he is providing his own
nourishment, even if the resources for that nourishment originally came from
G-d. By connecting his eating to the transcendent sphere, through words of
Torah at the time of eating, he has the nourishment coming to him directly
from its Divine source.)
The principle that words of Torah can transform the table into a Divine one
is illustrated in the following Talmudic section (Brachoth 64a). And Rebbe
Avin Halevi says: All who derive enjoyment from the meal in which a Torah
scholar participates is considered to have derived enjoyment from the Divine
Glory, as it is written "And Aharon and the all elders of Israel came to eat
bread with Moshe before G-d" (Shemoth 18:12). Did they eat before G-d? Didn'
t they eat before Moshe! But this [phrase is used] to teach you that all who
derive enjoyment from the meal in which a Torah scholar participates is
considered to have derived enjoyment from the Divine Glory,
(Rashi on the verse in Shemoth quotes this section. You should note that
most older editions of Rashi that I have seen list the source as Brachot 24a
instead of 64a. This obviously due to the letter samech, representing 60,
having a line rubbed out or not legible in one source, making it look like a
kaf, which was then replicated in many subsequent editions of Rashi.)
Due to his Torah knowledge, the Torah scholar's existence transcends the
limitation of "The heavens are heavens to G-d; but the earth, He has given
to mankind" (Tehillim 115:16). His existence in this world is connected to
G-d in the heavens. Since it isn't limited by the system of "the earth He
has given to man," a meal in which the Torah scholar participates is
considered to be provided by G-d Himself, directly from the table of the
Divine. Participating in a meal which is being served by G-d Himself is
certainly basking in the Divine Glory and deriving enjoyment from It.