"Rabbenu" Bahya ben Asher (fl. Late 13th —early 14th c.), a Spanish kabbalist and biblical commentator, divides his eating manual into four 'Gates,' whence the title Shulhan Shel Arba' ('Table of Four'). Two are devoted to the specific actions to be performed at the table, and two to the specific topics to be discussed there. The First and Third Gates prescribe specific meal behaviors. The First Gate is concerned with the blessings and hand-washing rituals rabbinic tradition requires for meals. The Third Gate is concerned with 'Derekh Eretz,' that is, rabbinic meal etiquette, and is essentially a brief anthology of the traditions about host/guest relations from the minor Talmudic tractates like Derekh Eretz Zuta and Derekh Eretz Rabba. Interwoven between these two is the Second Gate, devoted to a discussion ostensibly about the 'physiology of eating' but really an exposition of a mystical kabbalistic theory of eating, and the Fourth Gate, devoted to discussions of the eschatological banquets reserved for the righteous in the messianic era and in the world to come.
Provenance: S. Moussaiow- his stamp on title page and final leaf.
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