QUESTION: The Gemara says that the Kohanim who served in the Beis ha'Mikdash
had chronic gastrointestinal problems, because they ate a lot of meat (the
meat of the Korbanos) and they could not drink wine to help their digestion.
The RU'ACH CHAIM (Pirkei Avos 3:3) proves from Yoma 73b that when the
Kohanim ate from the Korbanos in the Beis ha'Mikdash, they had no waste
protects. All of the meat was absorbed into their bodies, just as the Man
was absorbed into the bodies ("Nivla b'Eivareihem") of the Jews who ate the
Man in the Midbar (Yoma 73b), since it was a food of spiritual quality.
RAV SHMUEL ROTHCHILD in SEFER PEIROS TE'ENAH quotes from the SHALMEI TODAH
(end of 1:5) that this Gemara seems to contradict that assertion of the
Ru'ach Chaim. If the meat of the Korbanos was absorbed into the bodies of
the Kohanim so that they had no waste products from them, why should the
meat cause them digestive problems?
Furthermore, the Peiros Te'enah cites the KUNTRUS DIVREI TORAH (9:5) which
asks that we know that "Shomrei Mitzvah Lo Yeda Davar Ra" -- those that
perform a Mitzvah will not suffer from it. Eating the meat of Kodshim is a
Mitzvah, as we learned in Pesachim (85a, and Rashi there, DH v'Ha Tanya).
Why, then, did the Kohanim suffer from it?
ANSWER: The KUNTRUS DIVREI TORAH answers that perhaps the meat of the
Korbanos caused them stomach trouble only if they did not eat it l'Shem
Shamayim, with pure intentions. We find that some Kohanim did not have pure
intentions in their consumption of Kodshim (see Pesachim 3b, where the
Gemara says that some Kohanim would eat the Lechem ha'Panim with
haughtiness). The Gemara in Pesachim (8b) implies that the principle that
"those who are performing a Mitzvah will not be damaged" applies only when
one does the Mitzvah Lishmah. If one performs the Mitzvah for his own
personal benefit, though, he is not assured that he will be protected.
Similarly, it may be suggested that when the Kohanim would eat the meat of
the Korbanos for their own personal benefit, it was not absorbed completely
into their bodies and would cause gastrointestinal problems. (The Ru'ach
Chaim [ibid.] himself suggests such a dichotomy with regard to a normal
person's meal; if it is eaten entirely l'Shem Shamayim, then the waste
products of the food will be "burned by his Torah," leaving only the pure
and necessary part of the food, which is completely absorbed into the body.)