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De'ot - Chapter Four

De'ot - Chapter Four

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Halacha 1

Since maintaining a healthy and sound body is among the ways of God - for one cannot understand or have any knowledge of the Creator, if he is ill - therefore, he must avoid that which harms the body and accustom himself to that which is healthful and helps the body become stronger.

They are as follows: a person should never eat unless he is hungry, nor drink unless thirsty. He should never put off relieving himself, even for an instant. Rather, whenever he [feels the] need to urinate or move his bowels, he should do so immediately.

Halacha 2

One should not eat until his stomach is full. Rather, [he should stop when] he has eaten to close to three quarter's of full satisfaction.

One should drink only a small amount of water during the meal, and mix that with wine. When the food begins to be digested in his intestines, he may drink what is necessary. However, he should not drink much water, even when the food has been digested.

One should not eat until he has checked himself thoroughly that he does not need to relieve himself. He should not eat until he has taken a stroll which is sufficient to raise his body temperature.

Alternatively, he should work or exert himself in some other way. The rule is that he should engage his body and exert himself in a sweat-producing task each morning. Afterwards, he should rest slightly until he regains composure and [then, he should] eat. If he were to bathe in hot water after exerting himself, it would be beneficial. Afterwards, he should wait a short while and eat.

Halacha 3

One should always eat while seated or reclining on his left side. He should not walk about, ride, exert himself, subject his body to startling influence, nor take a stroll until the food has been digested in his intestines. Anyone who takes a stroll or exerts himself after eating brings serious and harmful illnesses upon himself.

Halacha 4

Together, day and night make up [a period of] twenty four hours. It is sufficient for a man to sleep a third of this period; i.e., eight hours. These should be towards the end of the night, so that there be eight hours from the beginning of his sleep until sunrise. Thus, he should rise from his bed before sunrise.

Halacha 5

One should not sleep face down or on his back, but on his side - on his left side at the beginning of the night and on the right side at the end of the night. He should not retire shortly after eating, but should wait some three or four hours.

One should not sleep during the day.

Halacha 6

Laxative foods such as grapes, figs, mulberries, pears, melons, certain types of cucumbers and certain types of zucchini should be eaten first, before the meal. One should not eat them together with his main meal. Rather, he should wait until they have descended from the upper stomach and [then] eat his meal.

Foods which are constipating, such as pomegranates, quinces, apples, and crustumenian pears should be eaten immediately after the meal and not in quantity.

Halacha 7

A person who desires to eat poultry and meat in one sitting, should eat the poultry first. Similarly, if he desires to eat both eggs and poultry, he should eat the eggs first. If [he desires to eat] both meat of large cattle and that of small cattle, he should eat the meat of small cattle first; [i.e.,] he should always eat the lighter fare first and the heavier fare afterwards.

Halacha 8

In the summer, one should eat unseasoned foods without many spices and use vinegar. In the rainy season, one should eat seasoned foods, use many spices, and eat some mustard and chiltit.

One should follow these principles in regard to cold climates and hot climates, [choosing the food] appropriate to each and every one of them.

Halacha 9

There are foods which are extremely harmful and it is proper that one should never eat them, for example: large fish that are aged and salted, cheese which is aged and salted, truffles and mushrooms, meat which is aged and salted, wine from the press, cooked food which has been left over until it produces an odor, and any food with a bad smell or a very bitter taste. These are like poison to the body.

There are [other] foods which are harmful, but their harmful effects do not compare to those first [mentioned]. Therefore, a person ought to eat them only sparingly and after intervals of many days. He should not eat them regularly as his main fare or constantly as a sidedish with his food.

[They are] large fish, cheese and milk which has been left over for more than twenty-four hours after the milking, the meat of large oxen or he-goats, horse-beans, lentils, chickpeas, barley bread, matzot, cabbage, leeks, onions, garlic, mustard and radishes. All of these are harmful foods. It is fitting that he should eat them very sparingly and only in the rainy season, abstaining entirely in the summer. [Of these], horse-beans and lentils alone, should not be eaten either in the summer or winter. Squash may be eaten in the summer season.

Halacha 10

There are foods which are harmful, but less so than these. They are water fowl, young pigeons, dates, bread roasted in oil or kneaded in oil, flour which has been sifted so well that no bran is left, fish brine and pickled fish oil. They ought not to be eaten in quantity.

A man who is wise, overcomes his desires, is not drawn by his appetites and eats nothing of the aforementioned unless he needs them for a medical reason, is [indeed] heroic.

Halacha 11

One should always avoid fruits. He should not eat of them in quantity even [when] dried and, it goes without saying [when they are] fresh. When they are not sufficiently ripe, they are like swords to the body. Carobs, too, are always harmful.

All pickled fruits are harmful and should be eaten only sparingly in summer weather and in hot climates. Figs, grapes and almonds are always beneficial, both fresh and dried. One may eat of them as much as he requires. However, he should not eat them constantly even though they are the most beneficial of fruits.

Halacha 12

Honey and wine are harmful to the young and wholesome for the old. Certainly, this applies in the rainy season. In summer, one should eat two-thirds of what he eats in the winter.

Halacha 13

A person should always try to have loose movements throughout his life, tending slightly towards diarrhea. This is a cardinal principle in medicine: Whenever one suffers from constipation or has difficulty moving his bowels, serious diseases will beset him.

How can he induce loose movements if he has mild constipation? If he is a young man, each morning, he should eat well-cooked halimi which have been seasoned in olive-oil, pickled fish oil, and salt without bread daily; or drink the boiled water of [cooked] spinach or cabbage, [seasoned] with olive oil, pickled fish oil and salt.

If he is an old man, he should drink honey diluted with hot water, in the morning, wait approximately four hours and then eat his meal.

He should do this for one day, or three, or four, if necessary, until he has loose bowels.

Halacha 14

They have given another principle with regard to physical well-being: As long as one exercises, exerts himself greatly, does not eat to the point of satiation and has loose bowels, he will not suffer sickness and he will grow in strength. [This applies] even if he eats harmful foods.

Halacha 15

[Conversely,] whoever is idle and does not exercise, or does not move his bowels when he has the need, or is constipated, even if he eats the proper foods and takes care to follow the rules of medicine, will be full of pain for all his days and his strength will fade away.

Overeating is like poison to anyone's body. It is the main source of all illness. Most illnesses which afflict a man are caused by harmful foods or by his filling his belly and overeating, even of healthful foods.

This was implied by Solomon in his wisdom: "Whoever guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from distress" (Proverbs 21:23); i.e., "guards his mouth" from eating harmful food or eating his fill and "his tongue" from speaking [about things] other than his needs.

Halacha 16

The [proper] manner of bathing is that a person should go to the baths once every seven days. He should not enter [the bath soon after mealtime; nor when he is hungry, but when his food has begun to be digested.

He should bathe the entire body in hot - but not scalding water - and his head, only, in scalding water. Then, he should bathe his body in tepid water, followed by bathings in successively cooler water, until he has bathed in cold water. [However,] he should not use tepid or cold water for his head, nor should he bathe in cold water in the winter.

He should not bathe until after he is in a sweat and his whole body has been massaged. He should not linger in the bath. Rather, as soon as he is in a sweat and been massaged, he should rinse off and leave.

He should examine himself to see if he needs to move his bowels before entering the bath and after leaving it. Similarly, he should always examine himself before and after eating, before and after sexual intercourse, before and after exertion and exercise, before and after sleeping, all in all, on ten [different occasions].

Halacha 17

When one leaves the bath, he should dress and cover his head in the outer room [of the bathhouse], so that he not catch a chill. He should take this precaution even in the summer.

After leaving [the baths], he should wait until he regains his composure, and the warmth [from bathing] has receded, and then eat.

A nap before eating, after the bath, is very beneficial. One should not drink cold water on leaving the baths and it goes without saying, that he should not drink while bathing. If he should be thirsty upon leaving the bath and cannot refrain, he should mix the water with wine or honey, and drink.

It is beneficial for one to rub himself with oil at the baths, during the winter, after he has rinsed off.

Halacha 18

One should not accustom himself to constant bloodletting. He should not be bled unless there is an extreme necessity. He should not be bled in the summer or winter, but slightly in Nisan and slightly in Tishrei.

After the age of fifty, he should not be bled at all. He should not be bled and go to the baths on the same day, or leave on a journey after being bled; nor should he be bled on the day on which he returns from a trip.

He should eat less than usual on the day of a bloodletting. He should rest on that day, not exert himself, nor exercise, nor stroll.

Halacha 19

Semen is the strength of the body, its life [force], and the light of the eyes; the greater the emission [of sperm], [the greater] the damage to the body, to its strength and the greater the loss to one's life [span]. This was implied by Solomon in his wisdom: "Do not give your strength to women" (Proverbs 31:3).

Whoever is steeped in sexual relations, old age springs upon him [before its time], his strength is depleted, his eyes become dim, a foul odor emanates from his mouth and his armpits, the hair of his head, his eyebrows, and eyelashes fall out, the hair of his beard, armpits, and legs grows in abundance, his teeth fall out and he suffers many pains beyond these. The wise of the doctors have said: One of a thousand dies from other illnesses and a thousand from excessive intercourse.

Therefore, a person must take care in this mater if he wishes to live in good [health]. He should not engage in intercourse except when the body is healthy and particularly strong, when he has many involuntary erections, the erection is still present even when he makes an effort to think of something else, he finds a heaviness from the loins and below, the tendons of the testicles seem to be stretched, and his flesh is warm. Such a person needs to engage in intercourse and it is medically advisable.

He should not engage in intercourse on a full or empty stomach, but after the food has been digested. He should examine himself to see if he needs to move his bowels before and after intercourse. He should not engage in intercourse while standing or sitting, nor in the bathhouse, nor on a day on which he goes to the bathhouse, nor on a day on which he lets blood, nor on the day he departs on a journey or arrives from a journey, nor [on the day] before or afterwards.

Halacha 20

Whoever conducts himself in the ways which we have drawn up, I will guarantee that he will not become ill throughout his life, until he reaches advanced age and dies. He will not need a doctor. His body will remain intact and healthy throughout his life.

One may rely on this guarantee] unless [his body] was impaired from the birth, he was accustomed to one of the harmful habits from birth, or should there be a plague or a drought in the world.

Halacha 21

All of these beneficial habits which we have stated apply only to a healthy man. In contrast, a sick person, or one who has a single organ which is not healthy, or one who has followed a harmful way of life for many years, each of these must choose different patterns of behavior in accordance with his [particular] illness as it is explained in the medical literature.

Any change from the conduct which one normally follows is the beginning of sickness.

Halacha 22

Where there is no doctor available, neither the healthy nor the sick man should budge from all the directions given in this chapter for each of them ultimately brings to a beneficial result.

Halacha 23

A Torah Sage is not permitted to live in a community which does not have the following: a doctor, a bloodletter, a bathhouse, a latrine, an available source of water such as a river or a spring, a synagogue, a teacher of children, a scribe, a charity supervisor, a rabbinical court empowered to impose corporal punishment and jail sentences.

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