Rabbi David Sterne
The holy Arizal of Tsfat, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, explains this
verse to mean that not by physical food, but by the spirituality in
the food, does man subsist. The spirituality in the food is the combination
of Hebrew letters with which G d created the food (Gen. ch. 1), and
this is what gives us our life force when we consume it.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Rebbe of
Lubavitch-Chabad, takes this idea a step further. Saying that man lives
by the spirituality within the food doesn't give us enough information
to truly understand the verse, he says, adding that the Ari actually
implied something much deeper in his commentary.
The Alter Rebbe asks: How is it that man, who is at the
pinnacle of creation, should be nourished and dependent upon creatures
lower than him on the creative scale (mineral, vegetable and animal)?
The answer lies, he says, not only in the ten creative
utterances of creation (Gen. ibid), but in another creative process,
known as shevirat hakelim ("breaking of the vessels.")
G d initially brought a very high level of revelation
of Himself and of spirituality into the world. He wanted to make us
the beneficiaries of tremendous spiritual illumination and revelation.
It turned out, though, that His creation was just not ready to receive
it. The result was like pouring hot water into a cold cup - the cup
breaks. Creation couldn't take it.
The spiritual light of creation, so to speak, shattered,
falling into places where it didn't belong. The highest categories of
creation fell furthest into the grasp of non-spiritual forces--the kelipa/shell--that
actually hide, rather than reveal, G dliness in the world.
When we eat these foods in a way which the Torah deems
appropriate - meaning if they are kosher, and we eat them with a blessing
- we lift them from their entrapment in unholy places, and return them
to their spiritual source. Since that source is spiritually above humanity,
we get a spiritual "lift" from the food, in addition to physical
nourishment. The G dly sparks that were in the food impart the spiritual
energy of their source, and we get a spiritual and physical lift.
Thus, "not by bread alone does man live, but by the
world of G d entrapped in the bread..." That is, not only by the
food itself, but by the G dly sparks inside the food, do we live. Humans,
even though we are higher than the food we eat, live from the spirituality
in the food, when it is returned to its source above us.
[From "Inner Lights from Jerusalem."
Rabbi David Sterne is the founder and director of the "Jerusalem
Connections" organization in the Old City of Jerusalem.]