Do any of the meforshim explain the Gemara's anatomy lesson (kelayos yoatzos, re'eh sho'eiv kol minei mashkin, etc.)?
Gershon Dubin, Brooklyn NY
I did not find any Meforshim which explain the whole section of our Gemara, and I am unsure exactly which points in the Gemara you would like clarified, but I will try and help out.
The Gemara brings a Beraisa that says; "The kidneys advise, the heart understands, the tongue enunciates, the mouth vocalizes, the esophagus ingests and regurgitates all types of food, the trachea produces noise, the lungs absorb all types of liquids, the liver causes anger, the gall casts in it a drop to calm it, the spleen induces laughter, the stomach grinds food, the maw induces sleep and the nose induces arousal from sleep."
(a) The kidneys are said to advise, due to the fact that there are two of them, as opposed to other internal organs of which there is just one of each. We consider the right kidney as counseling good and the left one as counseling evil (Maharsha - some Poskim have advised people who are due to have a kidney removed to elect to remove the left one!) Perhaps Chazal attributed this characteristic to the kidneys due to the fact that their function is to filter the waste from the blood. Blood represents a person's desires, as the Pasuk calls blood Nefesh (Devarim 12:23) and Nefesh is the source of desire (ibid. 12:20). Since the kidneys determine which particles should be removed from the blood and which should remain, Chazal viewed them as advisors.(See also Michtav mei'Eliyahu vol.5 and Nefutzos Yehudah quoted in Ein Yakov.)
(b) The heart drives the blood supply. Since we have stated that the blood is the source of desires, which are the ultimate purpose for man's creation (that he may overcome them), Chazal considered the principle organ of the body's blood system as the organ that determines what course of action should be taken after the kidneys have passed on their advice. The blood, which contains the desires,is pumped around the body by the heart. In similar fashion, the Magen Avraham (OC 607:3) says that we hit the heart during Viduy because it was the heart that caused the Chet.
(c) The Beraisa then moves on to the mouth, throat and lungs. The Gemara's comments on the mouth and throat seem superfluous since they are self-evident. The Ben Yehoyada explains that the Gemara wishes to prove that the lungs indeed absorb liquid. We see this from the fact that when one talks a lot, one's mouth feels dry. This is because his lungs which are connected to his mouth, tongue and windpipe are working extra hard and are therefore absorbing more liquid than usual.
(d) The Gra in his Bi'ur on Berachos says that the Gemara's comments on the liver and the gall hint that man's life is full of anger and pain, and comes to an end when the Malach ha'Maves injects in him a drop of poison. A practical Nafka Mina of this Din is found in YD 42:3, where an animal with a missing gall is not considered a Treifah if the liver has a taste of gall. The Gra says the source of this Din is our Gemara. (See also Pri Tzadik vol.5 page 35 column 3.)
(e) The spleen induces laughter according to Rashi. However the Ravyah explains that the spleen grinds. See Teshuvos Be'er Sheva 70 (in some versions 67) who quotes both explanations. The Kuzari (4:25) quotes Sefer ha'Yetzirah as saying that the spleen cleanses the blood and in so doing enables happiness and laughter. (It should be noted that whilst contemporary science has only very recently decided that the spleen cleans the blood from worn out red blood cells and other foreign bodies, Sefer ha'Yetzirah has contained this information since around the year 2000 after creation.)
(f) The stomach induces sleep, perhaps because the stomach is the part of the body that digests the food that a person eats. Food is the earthly matter that a person needs to sustain himself. As far as a person's Neshamah is concerned no sleep would be necessary. However, a person is human and things from this world need constant refreshment, hence the need for sleep. When Moshe Rabeinu was on Har Sinai he did not eat or drink and therefore did not need to sleep for forty days. This is also the reason why the nose awakens a person. The air he breathes is his Neshamah (see Bereishis 2:7) and hence has no need for sleep.
I heard that when a person is in a situation where he must make a quick decision, the adrenal glands produce adrenalin to allow him to think quicker. The adrenal glands are on top of the kidneys (ad-renal).
Meir Eliezer Bergman
I must admit that the first time I learned this sugya, I had to smile. Some twenty years ago, after having had more than twenty major surgeries on my right kidney, the ureter connected to it tore and was irreparable. An attempt was made to take a portion of my colon and create an entirely new ureter, but after several months, that surgery proved to be a failure, and in November, 1979, I lost my right kidney.
The reason for the smile? Since I lost that "yetzer tov" kidney, I married my zivik, a true aishes chayil; fathered three sons who are all, Boruch Hashem, Yiddishe nachas factories; became a partner in a major NY law firm; became the regular Ba'al Krieh at my shul; my chavrusa and I finished five mesechtas in two years, until a new round of major surgeries separated us for months; and my own personal learning has increased to the point that not only am I learning my second Daf Yomi seder, but I am also enjoying my learning and all that I derive from it more than ever before in my life.
And this is all while I was left with only the one, left, "Yetzer harah" kidney.
By the way, I just got out of the hospital after nine days of attempting to get that kidney working properly. It seems its function is reduced to just above ten percent.
"V'lo nitashtani kol y'mai adunai, ki lo yiznach, l'olam Hashem."
I hope that right now, you're smiling too.
Henry W. Hocherman
May Hashem send you a Refu'ah and Yeshu'ah Sheliemah and keep up smiling. As the verse says (Mishlei 16:6) "Birtzos Hashem Darchei Ish, Gam Oyvav Yashlim Ito".
Thank you for sharing that with us.
Kollel Iyun Hadaf
I recently wrote an article for a Stern College publication called Derech Hateva, which discusses issues pertinent to both science and Torah. The authors of these articles try to show the harmony that exists between the Torah and the world of science as we know it. I recently wrote an article about the kidneys. My teacher, Dr. Harvey Babich, just emailed me something that the Rav has written about the kidneys. My teacher suggested that I email the Rav to show him my article.
With regards to the interesting article from Abby Atlas, her third suggestion is mentioned by Rav Dessler in the Michtav m'Eliyahu referred to in my answer.