Parshas Chayeh Sarah-Torah Or-Why G-d made us dependent on food, and the difference between Shabbos and weekday eating

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Yigaleh Lan Taamei….…”

[Torah Or p. 15b]

This Mamar focuses on the topic of eating food. Food consumption makes up one of the greatest markets known to civilization. Cuisine and dining are at the forefront of entertainment and social gatherings. Every person expends several hours per day in involvement with food, from the purchasing of the products, to the cooking of the food, to the actual eating. Every person must eat several meals a day. In total, every person uses a very large percentage of his life in his involvement with food. Why? Why did Hashem create this human necessity to eat? He could have created us without the need to eat, and by so doing we would be able to use our time more wisely to serve Him and accomplish the purpose for which we were created. In Judaism, we find various Mitzvos associated with food; the Kashrus of food, as well as eating food. There is a Mitzvah to eat foods on various dates such as Shabbos, Yom Tov, and Rosh Chodesh. There is a Mitzvah for Kohanim to eat the meat of the Karbanos. There is no Mitzvah, however, to eat during the week and it is simply done to retain energy. What, then, is the meaning and purpose behind this weekday eating? What importance does eating food on Shabbos and Yom Tov serve to the point that it is considered a Mitzvah? This Mamar will take the reader through a thorough analysis of the concept of food and eating, and it answers one of the greatest questions posed by those who are philosophically inclined. The Mamar is based on the Mamar of “Yigaleh Lan Taamei” in Torah Or, which is the first Mamar of Parshas Chayeh Sarah. Nonetheless, due to the brevity of the Mamar written by Admur, we have added many insights and additional excerpts from the Mamar of the Mitteler Rebbe entitled “Yegaleh Lan Taamei,” printed in Siddur Im Dach, as well as the Mamar “Achilas Kodshim” printed in Derech Mitzvosecha by the Tzemach Tzedek.


Explorations of the Mamar

1.      Why does Hashem want us to eat food? Couldn’t He have created us in a way that we don’t have to eat?

2.      How can food be spiritually damaging to a person?

3.      What is the meaning of eating certain foods on Shabbos and Yom Tov? Why is it a Mitzvah?

4.      What does it mean that there is no Borer on Shabbos?



The Question:[1]

What is the purpose of eating? G-d could have created us in a way that we do not require food for sustenance, similar to inanimate objects, which exist without feeding. Why did Hashem arrange for us to eat three meals a day? Is there any difference between the food we eat on Shabbos and the food we eat during the week? Why during the week is there a Mitzvah to abstain from food that one desires to eat simply out of lust, while on Shabbos one is specifically meant to enjoy luxury foods?


A spiritual service:[2]

Eating food is not merely a fact of life and a means for living, but is a form of the service of G-d that actually helps the continuous life of the worlds. This can be seen from the service of the sacrifices, which took place in the Temple and encompassed almost all of the Temple service, incorporating tens of positive and negative commands in its details. The service of the Karbanos in the Temple drew Divine energy into the worlds and allowed its continuous life and expansion. Now, in exile, when we no longer have the Temple service, this great Avoda has to be performed by every individual Jew from the table at which he eats. On this, the verse states, “Zeh Hashulchan Asher Lifnei Hashem”, that the table at which one eats is considered to be in the presence of Hashem. Chazal learned from this that the table of man is considered as his place of atonement, similar to the Mizbeiach in the times of the Temple. There are various Beirurim or forms of Avoda that can be performed through eating food. One is that through eating food, the food is elevated from the animal kingdom to the level of Midaber, the human body. This elevation also brings about a spiritual elevation of the food, which is caused by the removal and elevation of the Divine sparks contained within it. The second function of eating food is diffusion, or Hamshacha, whereby the food has the ability to draw down Divine light to us below.


The Kelipa contained within food:[3]

Every food has a Mazal: Every kind of produce has a Mazal that serves as the spiritual power that gives it life. There are various types of Mazalos that correspond to the various types of vitality given to each agricultural product in terms of its shape and taste. This is the reason for the difference in soil production, in which one soil produces one type of fruit while another soil produces a different type of fruit. This is dependent on the angelic minister that is assigned over that plot of land, and the form of energy that he draws down to the soil in that area.

The creation of pleasure within food: The pleasure found in the taste of foods: There are seventy angelic ministers who govern their corresponding country and nation and direct the flow of spiritual energy into their country. All of the physical pleasures and delicacies found in their land are a direct result of the spiritual energy that the ministers received. From where do the ministers receive their Divine flow of energy? It comes from the Taanug Eloky, the G-dly pleasure that fell through the Sheviras Hakeilim, the rupture of the vessels of Tohu. From here, the physical and materialistic pleasures in matters that do not involve G-d are derived. This is in addition to the fact that every food is mixed with good and evil due to the sin of the Tree of Knowledge. Hence the pleasurable taste found within food is actually a derivative of sublime G-dly energy that has been brought down into Kelipa. It is upon man to redeem the sparks of good found within the food and elevate the pleasure to its original source of holiness. This is accomplished through consumption of the food.

The two forms of Kelipa: Every food contains two aspects – its taste and its ability to satiate. These two aspects both derive from two different levels of vitality that the food receives. The taste remains in one’s mouth and is ceded once the food has been fully chewed and swallowed, while the body of the food remains in one’s stomach and gives energy by converting the food into blood. The satiating ability of the body of the food derives from the essence of the name of Ban within Tohu, while the taste of the food derives from the external aspects [the “Tanta Taamim”] of the name Ban. Both of these aspects of the food contain good and evil, as the pleasure of taste can make a person a glutton and lustful, while satiation can lead one towards frivolity. It is upon man to redeem the sparks of good found within both the taste and body of the food and to return it to its original source of holiness.


Bringing food from the animal kingdom to the G-dly soul:

When one eats food, the energy that he consumed is sent to the heart and mind and is transformed into fat and blood. Blood is the life and vitality of a person. The liver receives the blood that was created from the food and sends this blood to the heart and mind, as there are three rulers of one’s body – the liver, the heart, and the mind. This blood is eventually transformed into cells of the heart and mind, hence elevating the food from the level of animal or vegetative to the level of human. This gives strength [to the intellectual aspect of one’s G-dly soul[4]] to be able to serve Hashem properly with his heart and mind and channels enthusiasm and energy into his passion for G-d. Without this food, one’s heart [i.e. emotions] would be weak and hence would be disabled from channeling energy and enthusiasm and serving G-d. Likewise, one’s mind also receives strength through the food and is now able to contemplate G-d’s greatness. This is the meaning of the Birur that allows food to enter into the human state.

Redeeming the sparks:[5] When a Jew eats food, he is also consuming the Kelipa that the food contains and is found within its taste. Nevertheless, his G-dly soul refines the food from this evil and then elevates its sparks. This is similar to the consumption of the Karbanos on the Mizbeiach, in which the Mizbeiach would consume and elevate the animal’s soul, hence refining the Divine spark. It is for this reason that the table of a person brings him atonement, as when the Divine sparks of Tohu are elevated to Atzilus this causes an abundance of Divine light to shine there and hence heals all of the wounds inflicted by one’s sins.  


Why is a blessing not recited prior to eating food as is recited prior to fulfilling other Mitzvos?[6]

Although, based on the above, the eating of food is a great Avoda in itself, nevertheless a blessing of Asher Kidishanu is not recited prior to eating. This is because a blessing signifies Hamshacha, drawing below, and in the Avoda of eating one does not draw below but rather elevates above.


The function of food on Shabbos:

The above function of food is only regarding the weekday meals.  However, on Shabbos food does not fulfill this function of Birur, elevation, as it is forbidden to do Borer on Shabbos. Rather, the function of eating food on Shabbos is Hamshacha, to draw Divine light of Oneg Haelyon below into this world. [This drawing down of Divine light is similar to the eating of the Kodshim performed by the Kohanim. When the Kohanim ate the Karbanos, they did not bring about an elevation of the Divine sparks, as this was already performed by the consumption of the sacrifice on the Mizbeiach. In fact, the eating of the Kohanim draws down into the world a new Divine light, and eating on Shabbos is similar to the Kohanim’s eating, which is called Hamshacha.[7]] It remains, however, to be understood how food has the power to draw Divine light below into man, and why it receives this power specifically on Shabbos and does not require a Birur of its evil.


The root of food is from Tohu, and is higher than man:

The verse states, “Achur Vekedem Tzartani”. This means that man is both the first and last within creation. Every item has a root and source, hence although an item may be very low it can be rooted very high; likewise an item that is very high can be rooted very low. The same applies to food and a human being. Food as it exists below in this world is lower than man. Hence it is consumed by man and refined by him. However, the spiritual root of food is higher than man, as food derives from the world of Tohu, while man derives from the world of Tikkun. This superior root that food shares over man can be vividly seen from the fact that man specifically requires energy from food, and is thus a receiver from the food. It is the sparks of Tohu found within the food that give the food the ability to give life to man.


On Shabbos, the Shoresh of food is revealed:

On Shabbos, food does not require any Birur. This is because on Shabbos, an elevation of all of the worlds occurs, including the food level, which is elevated to its root and spiritual source in Tohu. [It no longer contains evil, as on Erev Shabbos the evil contained within the food already separates and only the good that is found within it remains.[8]] Therefore, the food has no need to be refined on Shabbos. On the contrary, it can serve as a conduit for man to receive from Tohu. This Hamshacha from Tohu is accomplished through eating the Shabbos meals. [Just as food contains two aspects of taste and satiation that require elevation during the weekday eating, so too on Shabbos the Hamshacha that is drawn down through eating is accomplished both through taste and satiation. This means that since on Shabbos the holy sparks found within the food are revealed and the evil is dispersed, one is actually able to draw down G-dly light through this act of eating. Therefore, when one enjoys the taste of Shabbos food, he is drawing down the Oneg found within that taste from the spiritual world of Tohu into the world of Atzilus. Likewise, when he feels satiated from Shabbos food, he draws down spiritual satiation to the world of Atzilus.[9]


The two forms of eating-Tzaddik and Rasha:

The verse describes two forms of eating. One is called Tzaddik Ochel Lesovah Nafsho – “a Tzaddik eats to satiate his soul.” The second is Ubeten Reshaim Techsar – “the stomach of the Reshaim is lacking.” The former verse regarding the Tzaddik refers to the form of eating that is done on Shabbos, in which the food itself draws new G-dly energy to the person’s soul. Hence the Tzaddik, which is the soul, eats to satiate itself with new Divine light. The latter verse regarding Reshaim, however, refers to weekday eating, in which the purpose of the eating is to refine and elevate the food to Holiness. The term “Reshaim,” meaning, “the wicked,” refers to the Kelipos contained within the food that is removed, Techsar, through the eating. Every food contains Kelipa. The Kelipa of the food is the Taavah [lust] that each food contains. This Taavah is the root of the Kelipa of that food. By eating this food and having it incorporated within man’s body, turning it into the blood that gives energy to his heart and mind, it transforms into goodness and holiness. This then removes the G-dly energy that the Kelipa of this food had captured, and hence the Kelipa now remains empty of its own G-dly energy.   


Weekday eating is the elevation of food; Shabbos eating is the elevation of man:

The purpose of eating during the week is to refine the food. This is the service of “Ubeten Reshaim Techsar”. Conversely, the purpose of eating on Shabbos is to draw down vitality into our souls from the root of the food in Tohu, which contains no evil or Kelipos. This is the service of “Vetzadik Ochel Lesovah Nafsho”. It is only the food of the weekday that contains waste and sewage, but the foods of Shabbos do not contain any [spiritual] waste. This is because the foods of the week are under the influence of the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, which brought good and evil into all matters. However, on Shabbos, since the worlds are not under influence of the Tree of Good and Evil, as Shabbos receives from above the Tree of Knowledge, the food does not contain evil at all.  


Yom Tov eating and Birur:

The verse states, regarding Yom Tov, “Peresh Chageichem”. This means that on Yom Tov the food contains Peresh, which is waste. On Yom Tov, there is a slight Birur/refinement that is accomplished upon eating food, and it is for this reason that Melachos relating to preparing food are permitted on Yom Tov. How is the Birur/refinement of food accomplished on Yom Tov? This is through making the poor happy and inviting them to partake of one’s meal. Yom Tov is a time of joy for everyone, and when one is in a state of joy he desires to make everyone else joyful as well. This joy affects the sweetening of the Gevuros and refines the Gevuros of the Kelipos found within the food. However, one who does not rejoice together with the poor during his meal does not sweeten the severities, and the food’s spiritual waste remains. On Shabbos, there is no waste at all found in the food, so even one who does not invite the poor to partake of his Shabbos meal is not punished by having his food retain its spiritual waste.


The eating of Karbanos:[10]

In times of the Temple, when sacrifices were offered, there was a positive command to eat the meat of the Karban. There were two forms of eating, one of the Altar and the other of the Kohanim. The eating of the Altar corresponds to our weekday eating, which serves the purpose of elevating the sparks. The eating of the Kohanim corresponds to our Shabbos eating, which draws down a Hamshacha from above.


Lessons of the Mamar

·         Eating food is an Avoda, a service of G-d. Recognize upon eating a meal that you are not simply eating to give yourself energy, but you are actually bringing about a refinement of the entire food industry!

·         Eating on Shabbos is an act of Holiness that draws down Divine light into your soul. Recognize the greatness of your Shabbos meal and emphasize the spiritual benefits received.

·         Eating on Yom Tov requires refinement through sharing one’s meal with the poor. Prior to Yom Tov, search out for someone in need of a meal and make sure that your meal will be one of true Holiness.


[1] Based on that which is explained in this Mamar, as well as the Mamar of the Tzemach Tzedek in Derech Mitzvosecha: Mitzvas Achilas Kodshim” and Siddur Im Dach.

[2] Excerpt from the Tzemach Tzedek, ibid.

[3] Excerpt from the Tzemach Tzedek ibid

[4] Siddur Im Tach

[5] Derech Mitzvosecha, ibid

[6] Derech Mitzvosecha, ibid

[7] Derech Mitzvosecha, ibid

[8] Derech Mitzvosecha, ibid

[9] Derech Mitzvosecha, ibid

[10] Derech Mitzvosecha ibid

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