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REB NACHUM AND THE TWO FAT SAGES

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

"Due to their excessive obesity, there was room for a pair of oxen to enter and fit between them beneath their bellies, without touching them. A Roman noblewoman, told them: 'Your children are not your own! Due to your obesity, it is impossible for you to sire children.' They answered: 'Love compresses the flesh.'" * On Hayom Yom for 15 Tammuz.

by ChatGPT

Hayom Yom for the 15th of Tammuz reads: "My father writes in one of his maamarim: Fatness of the body can result from the spiritual pleasure and delight derived from G‑dliness. They say of R. Nachum of Chernobil that he became corpulent from answering amein y'hei sh'mei raba."


Reb Nachum of Chernobil, a tzaddik known for his fervent devotion and spiritual connection, became corpulent from the intense pleasure and delight he experienced in serving Hashem. As my father wrote in one of his teachings, the fatness of the body can be a physical manifestation of the spiritual joy derived from a deep connection to G-dliness.


Consider how this teaching is reflected in the following Talmudic story (Bava Metzia 84a):

"Due to their excessive obesity, when Rebbi Yishmoel son of Rebbi Yosi and Rebbi Elazar son of Rebbi Shimon would meet, there was room for a pair of oxen to enter and fit between them beneath their bellies, without touching them.


The Matronisa, a Roman noblewoman, told them: 'Your children are not your own! Due to your obesity, it is impossible for you to sire children.'


They replied to her: 'Our wives’ bellies are even larger than ours.'


All the more so!' she said…


They answered: 'Love compresses the flesh.'"

The Matronisa, observing their corpulence, questions their ability to have children. The Sages respond with a touch of humor, noting the even larger bellies of their wives. However, the Matronisa remains skeptical, suggesting that their aloofness and self-absorption may lead their wives to seek connections elsewhere.


But the Sages respond with profound wisdom: "Love compresses the flesh." They reveal the transformative power of love, the capacity for genuine connection to transcend physical limitations. It is not mere physicality or selfish hedonism that defines their relationships, but rather the deep bond of love that enables the compression of flesh, bridging the gap between the spiritual and the physical.


We discern here a profound truth about the interplay between physicality and spirituality. The Sages' response to the Matronisa's skepticism highlights the role of the feminine attribute, the woman, firmly grounded in the world, showing initiative and reaching out to her holy and otherworldly husband. The arousal from below is infectious, inspiring the husband to set aside his nature and connect on a deep level.


In this context, we can understand the teachings about Reb Nachum of Chernobil and his corpulence. Through his fiery devotion and intense recitation of "Amen, y'hei shmei rabba," he experienced a spiritual pleasure and delight that transcended the limitations of the physical body. His corpulence became a visible manifestation of the spiritual joy he derived from his profound connection to G-dliness.


This powerful lesson resonates with the teachings of the Tanya (Chapter 49), where "love compresses the flesh" expresses G-d's love for the Jewish people, as He constricts His infinite essence to connect with finite beings. The compression of flesh represents the transformative power of love that unites the spiritual and physical realms.


Moshiach promises a future where the joy and pleasure derived from serving Hashem reach their pinnacle. The Messianic era will bring about a harmonious union between the spiritual and physical, where the delight in G-dliness will permeate every aspect of existence. Just as Reb Nachum's corpulence symbolized his spiritual delight, so too will the world be filled with an abundance of spiritual pleasure as we experience the ultimate redemption and the revelation of Moshiach.


As we eagerly await the coming of Moshiach, let us strive to cultivate that delight and pleasure in our own service to Hashem, recognizing that it has the power to transform our physical existence and bring us closer to the harmonious unity of the Messianic era. May it be speedily in our days.


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