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L'havin Inyan Lechem Mishne


During their sojourn in the wilderness after leaving Egypt, our forefathers were miraculously sustained, as everyone knows, by “manna” from heaven, whose onset is recounted in this week’s Torah portion (see Exodus chapter 16). The manna (man in Hebrew) would appear with the morning dew every day except Shabbos; for this reason, the Jews were instructed to gather a double portion on Fridays. This is why, even today, we use two whole loaves of challah (or other suitable bread) at the Shabbos table: they represent the double portion of manna provided in honor of the Sabbath.

In reciting the blessing over this double portion of bread (called lechem mishne in Hebrew), there is an apparent difference of opinion between the revealed and hidden aspects of the Torah, that is, between sources based upon Jewish law (halacha) and those of Jewish mysticism. Jewish law advises one to hold the two loaves one above the other. By contrast, Jewish mystical tradition considers it appropriate to hold the loaves adjacent to one another – on the same level plane.

To understand this, it is necessary to preface a discussion of the text of our grace after meals, known as bircas mamazon. This prayer is a Biblical requirement, derived from the verse (Deuteronomy 8:10), “You shall eat and be satisfied, and bless G-d, your L-rd, for the good land which He has given you.”

Bircas mamazon contains several blessings. The first of these, bircas hazan (“the blessing [known by its opening words], ‘Who provides sustenance’”), praises G-d for providing sustenance or nourishment (mazon) to all living things. The second, bircas ha’aretz (“the blessing [over] the land”), thanks G-d for various benefits He has bestowed upon us, especially the Land of Israel and, again, our sustenance. The third, the blessing boney Yerushalayim (“Who [re]builds Jerusalem”), asks G-d to have mercy upon the Jews, the holy city of Jerusalem, the Davidic dynasty and the Holy Temple; prays yet again for sustenance; and concludes with a request that G-d rebuild the city of Jerusalem (site of the Holy Temple). A fourth blessing, hatov v’hameitiv (“Who is good and does good [to others]”) praises G-d for His benevolence.

Our sages teach (Brachos 48b) that the command to bless G-d in the verse “You shall eat and be satisfied, etc.” refers to the blessing “Who provides sustenance,” the formal text of which was instituted by Moshe (Moses) when the manna fell from heaven; the mention in that verse of “the land” refers to the blessing over the land, the text of which was instituted by Joshua (who took the Jews into the Land of Israel); and the verse’s characterization of the land as “good” refers to the blessing “Who rebuilds Jerusalem,” since Jerusalem is called (Deuteronomy 3:25), “this good mountain.”

The blessing over the land concludes by thanking G-d “for the land and for the sustenance.” This double expression is explained by our sages as thanking G-d for “the land, which provides sustenance.” Still, the conclusion of a blessing is considered a summary of the entire blessing’s content; it encapsulates the gist of the blessing as a whole. If so, we need to understand why the sustenance provided by the land is so intrinsically bound up with the basic concept of the land that it was necessary to include that reference to sustenance explicitly, together with the land itself, in the blessing’s conclusion?

The question is bolstered by the body of the blessings. The text of the blessing “Who provides sustenance” refers only to sustenance, not to the subjects of the other blessings. Yet the blessing over the land, bircas ha’aretz, refers not only in its conclusion, but within its body as well, to sustenance.

To understand all the above, we must explain the inner, spiritual purpose of eating. (The obvious fact that eating is necessary to sustain life is not a satisfactory explanation, for G-d could have made us without need of food.)

This inner significance is alluded to by the famous verse (Deuteronomy 8:3), “… and He fed you manna … in order to make you know that man does not live by bread alone; rather, by all that proceeds out of the mouth of G-d does man live.”

The expression “all that issues from the mouth of G-d” refers to the spiritual vitality within the food. G-d created the world by means of ten spoken commands (“Let there be light,” etc.), and the spiritual energy and creative life-force which G-d put into these words is what sustains the entire universe and perpetuates its existence. Specifically, bread, which is made from grain, contains within it the spiritual energy that G-d invested within the command (Genesis 1:11), “Let the land sprout forth [growing things],” and the verse is telling us that it is not the physical bread which sustains humanity; rather, it is the spiritual life-force contained within that command that sustains humanity. It is necessary for mankind’s very existence for us to have not just bread to eat, but the G-dly life-force that comes with it.

However, nice as that may sound, we cannot accept it at face value because there are serious problems with this idea. First, mankind, too, was created by one of G-d’s ten utterances, namely (Genesis 1:26), “Let us make man in our image.” Therefore, seemingly, humanity has its own direct connection to the G-dly life-force of creation, and should have no need for the energy directed at grains and the plant kingdom. In fact, one could ask why it is not plants that need the Divine energy invested within the command that created man, rather than the other way around. Second, man is not the only creature that eats bread. The animal kingdom, too, depends upon grains and growing things for sustenance. That being the case, what does the verse mean by saying that “what issues from the mouth of G-d” is what sustains man – it should more accurately say something like, “is what sustains life.” What is meant by stressing the sustenance of specifically man through bread and the spiritual energy therein?

The answer lies in the fact that the Hebrew word for “man” in our verse is ha-adam, which literally means “the man” – as though a particular man were meant. This can be understood in light of the teaching (see Sha’ar HaKedusha of Rabbi Chaim Vital of blessed memory, as well as the beginning chapters of Tanya), that every Jewish person has two souls: one, the nefesh ha-bahamis, or “animal soul,” animates the physical body and its functions, while the other, the nefesh ha-Elokis, or “G-dly soul,” is “truly a part of G-d above” and provides the spiritual, holy, aspect of a person. (To be accurate, it should be pointed out that even the “animal” soul of a Jew is holy; however, this is not the place to explain why.) The Hebrew language (not unlike English, in which we find words such as “person,” “human,” and “man/woman”) contains several different words that express the meaning, “a person.” Each of these connotes a particular aspect of humanity; use of the specific word adam in the verse “Man does not live by bread alone” allows for the implication, “the spiritual side of man does not live by bread alone.”

That is, it is not only one’s physical body that is nourished by food, it is the spiritual aspect of man, the G-dly soul within a person, that is so nourished as well. The verse implies that, for some reason (which we will explore below), G-d chose to set things up so that the G-dly soul itself, the very spirituality of a person, actually needs something it can only get from “bread” – from physical, earthly food.

To understand this, we must explain the Kabbalistic concepts of Tohu and Tikun. Jewish mysticism teaches that before creation of the universe as we know it today, a “higher order” spiritual universe existed, known as Olam HaTohu, the Realm of Chaos. This did not prove viable, and “broke,” or degenerated into the order of existence as it stands today – known Kabbalistically as Olam HaTikun, the Realm of Repair. This idea, and the associated concept of the “breaking of the vessels” (sh’viras hakeilim) that transformed the realm of Tohu into that of Tikun, has been discussed elsewhere (see, e.g., the adaptation of the discourse V’Hinei Anachnu M’Almim Alumim found in the Torah portion Vayeishev, as well as the adaptation of the discourse B’ha’alos’cha Es Haneiros (#2) in the Torah portion B’ha’alos’cha (which mentions concepts similar to those presently under discussion)). However, an important additional point must be made here concerning fundamental qualities of these two spiritual schemes.

A defining characteristic of Olam HaTohu was that every item within that order was a discrete entity unto itself. Things in Tohu were 100% “pure,” as it were, in the sense that they were not composites of any other thing.

We are accustomed to thinking in terms of things blending into and influencing each other, at least to some degree. The impulse to kindness, for instance, involves essentially kindness, but there’s a limit: there comes a point when one senses that one has given forth enough, and that it might even be detrimental to continue the unabated flow of benevolence (think of a parent bestowing a treat upon their child – that is good up to a point, but not to excess). Kindness is thus “regulated” or tempered by its opposite: “restraint,” which is the impulse to withhold as opposed to give forth. In this example, even the restraint itself is an aspect of kindness toward the child, for without it they would become “spoiled.” Likewise, we are used to judgment and might being tempered by considerations of mercy and kindness. This is how things are in Olam HaTikun, the world as we know it.

By contrast, as it existed in the primordial order of Olam HaTohu, the attribute of “kindness” was pure kindness, unadulterated by aspects of “restraint”; likewise, judgment and restraint were not mixed with any hint of mercy or kindness. The point is that Olam HaTohu was characterized by the discrete and separate nature of its contents, to the point of exclusivity: any given thing was that thing only, and could not tolerate the introduction of something “foreign” to itself. As noted above, though, the present order of Olam HaTikun is precisely the opposite. As the popular saying goes, nothing in this world is purely “black” or “white”; to a greater or lesser degree, it’s all shades of gray.

The realm of Tohu is considered a spiritually superior level to that of Tikun. Nevertheless, perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, humanity is said to trace its spiritual roots to the realm of Tikun, while the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms derive from Olam HaTohu. This is why we find that each species of animal, for example, has a specific nature, or instinct, that is natural unto itself and which admits of no contrary considerations. Our sages teach that the eagle, for example, embodies qualities that epitomize compassion for its young, and is thus held up as a symbol of compassion. On the other hand, the ox has an angry nature, and if provoked can be truly dangerous, as reflected in the Torah’s discussion about the duty of care incumbent upon the owner of an ox which has demonstrated a goring tendency. It is absurd to think of a charging ox having second thoughts motivated by considerations of mercy. This is because animals as they exist in this physical world are actually manifestations of spiritual principles originating in Olam HaTohu, which is characterized by discrete, mutually exclusive, attributes.

Human beings, however, originate on the spiritual plane of Olam HaTikun, in which every attribute is actually a composite of every other (recall how “restraint” itself can be a component of “kindness,” as illustrated above by the parent refraining from giving too much candy). We are therefore a complex mix of sometimes incompatible emotions, and our actions can be motivated by elements of each.

The spiritual root of mankind in the realm of Tikun is hinted at by the Hebrew word for “man,” adam. By the grammatical principle of gematria, this is numerically equivalent to 45, represented by the word “ma,” spelled by the letters mem and hey (see Introduction to Tikunei Zohar). The significance of this is that the realm of Tikun is associated with the mystical Divine Name of 45 (known as the Shem Ma), so called because its letters are also equivalent to that number.

(The Kabbala teaches that the Shem Ma is actually the Tetragrammaton – the holy and unpronounceable Divine Name of four letters – in which each of the four letters themselves are “expanded” by spelling them out as words in which the letter aleph is (except in the first) included. That is, the first letter of the Tetragrammaton, yud, would be written with the letters yud, vav and dalet; the second and fourth letters, which are both hey, would be spelled by the letters hey and aleph; and the third letter, vav, by the letters vav, aleph and vav. This combination of letters adds up to the value 45.)

Let us now look a bit deeper into the “mechanics” of how the spiritual elements of Olam HaTohu form the source from which the physical creatures of this world are derived.

Until now, we have been referring generically to the “attributes” of the realms of Tohu or Tikun. In reality, these attributes are the so-called ten sefiros, the ten principal means of Divine manifestation, corresponding to the ten primary factors in the human personality. These range from the highest degree of intellectual capacity, chochma (often loosely and imprecisely translated as “wisdom”), to the comparative “lowest” level, malchus (“sovereignty”), which is associated with practical action. In between we find a hierarchy of attributes including the primary emotions of kindness (chesed) and restraint (g’vurah).

The ten sefiros proceed from highest to lowest. We have said that in the realm of Tikun, these sefiros combine with each other, allowing for the possibility of – to return to our example – the “restraint” aspect of “kindness.” In Olam HaTohu, by contrast, one attribute cannot co-exist with another, as they are mutually exclusive. The only way for things in Tohu to progress from chesed to the next lower level of g’vurah is for chesed to totally disappear, allowing for the existence of its opposite, g’vurah. This is alluded to by a Biblical passage often cited in mystical writings as a reference to this “evolution” of Olam HaTohu: Genesis 36:31-39 describes the kings that ruled “in the Land of Edom, before there ruled a king over the Children of Israel.” A series of kings are enumerated, about each of whom it is written, “and So-and-So died, and there ruled in his stead Such-and-Such.” Each king is a mystical reference to one of the attributes of Tohu, and the only way for the next to arise was if the prior, incompatible, one, ceased to exist (“died”).

This may be thought of as a string of causes and effects, with one thing leading to the next until, after myriad stages and progressively lower degrees, creatures of this physical world came into being which may be said to derive from a spiritual source in one or another of the “unadulterated” attributes of Olam HaTohu. These include animals, which, as discussed, have natures paralleling the particular, discrete attributes of that realm.

A person, however, rooted in Olam HaTikun, is a multifarious being, possessing various emotions, and what any given person does often reflects elements of several different motivating factors.

It is important to understand the reason for the mutual exclusivity and “intolerance” which characterize the attributes of Tohu. It results from each attribute being, as the expression goes, “full of itself”: because it is totally preoccupied by and focused on itself, it cannot allow for the existence of anything outside itself.

In a person, we find the same phenomenon. If one becomes preoccupied with one’s anger, for example, or with feelings of love, one can get carried away by the excesses of feeling and act inappropriately. This is because a person in that situation is “self-centered” – as though his or her own feelings come before all else. It is only when the light of reason illuminates and guides the emotions that one behaves in a moderate manner, in a manner that appropriately balances one’s own anger with the need for civil behavior, kindness with restraint, etc.

The same is true of the attributes of Tohu. Without the beneficial effects of the spiritually superior “intellectual” attributes, these cannot co-exist in harmony. This reflects an important spiritual principle: the loftier the spiritual level, the closer to G-d (in a manner of speaking) it is, and as a result, the greater the recognition that G-d Himself is the only true, real, existence. There is literally nothing else but G-d (as explained more fully elsewhere), and this truth is most fully manifest on the highest planes of spiritual revelation. Generally speaking, these are the first three of the ten sefiros, which parallel the intellectual attributes of a person. (See especially discussion below regarding the sefira of chochma.) When the influence of these sefiros (collectively referred to – metaphorically – as mochin, “intellectual faculties”) is felt within the relatively lower “emotional” sefiros (referred to as midos, “emotions”), the midos, too, are enabled to feel their own insignificance before G-d. This is the state of affairs in Olam HaTikun, and it is this spiritual dynamic that is reflected in the human phenomenon of intellect’s ability to overcome emotion. In Olam HaTohu, by contrast, this influence of mochin upon midos is lacking, resulting in the “isolation” of the midos as self-centered, mutually exclusive attributes.

(To revisit the idea of the Shem Ma, the Divine Name of 45, and its association with Olam HaTikun, we may now see another aspect of this correspondence: As explained above, the Shem Ma is formed by expanding the letters of the Tetragrammaton with the letter aleph. The shape of this Hebrew letter symbolizes blending and inclusiveness, because it is calligraphically represented by two yuds, one on the top of the aleph and one on the bottom; the two yuds are joined by a vav in between, like so: À. This combining of parts into a unified whole is the hallmark of Olam HaTikun.)

To summarize this lengthy discussion, we have said that the sefiros of the spiritually superior realm of Olam HaTohu were discrete and mutually exclusive entities, while those of Olam HaTikun are composite blends. The reason for this is that in Tohu, the midos are not influenced by the mochin; this is not the case in Olam HaTikun.

We are now in a position to understand one practical ramification of all the above: the purpose of eating.

Fundamentally, we eat to sustain life. (It is worth noting that even someone who is not thinking about this aspect of food, for example, a gourmet whose attention is preoccupied with sensory impressions, is still, after all, eating – and deriving life-giving nutrition from the food.) Anything a person does requires the expenditure of a certain amount of energy, and they get this from their food. Ideally, we Jews should lead a life of total devotion to G-d, in which all a person’s thoughts, speech and actions are directed toward holy ends – studying Torah, praying, even doing another person a favor. This ideal is best expressed during prayer, when a person meditates upon the unity of G-d to the point he or she achieves a kind of rapture, a loss of self-identity in favor of total absorption into G-d’s all-encompassing Self. (This is one meaning of the expression “to give up one’s self [literally, “soul”] at [the concluding word, meaning “[G-d is] One,” of the Shema prayer,] “Echad.”) Even this most sublime of human activities, however, requires the energy obtained from food.

Thus, a person and their food have a mutually beneficial relationship: on the one hand, as we have just explained, the person benefits from eating because the energy thereby obtained enables him or her to worship G-d, ideally with total devotion and no thoughts of self. On the other hand, though, the food itself is elevated to a higher plane when a person does this. Previously, it was just a slice of bread (for example); now, it has played a necessary role in Divine service and in expressing the unity of G-d. Not only is this a transformation, an enhancement of status, for the physical food, which contributed the actual calories used by the body, it is also an elevation for the food’s spiritual life force, derived from the original Divine utterance that brought it into being, as we shall now explain.

It was said above that the realms of Tohu and Tikun each contain ten sefiros. Each sefira is itself comprised of two aspects: the or (light) of the sefira and the keli (vessel) that contains that “light.” These concepts have been explained in detail elsewhere (see, e.g, the adaptation of the discourse Erda Na on the Torah portion Vayeira); for present purposes it is necessary only to state that when the Kabbalah speaks of sh’viras hakeilim – the “breaking of the vessels” of Olam HaTohu and their “falling” into this realm of Tikun – it is referring specifically to the vessels of Tohu, the keilim, and not to the oros, lights.

It was also said above that the spiritual life-force of the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms in this world is descended from the sefiros of the realm of Tohu. More precisely, it is from the keilim of the sefiros of Tohu; when these keilim, or vessels, “broke,” their shattered fragments (allegorically speaking) “fell” through many successively lower spiritual stages and were ultimately embedded within the physical substances of this world, providing their spiritual life-force. The oros, or lights, of Tohu did not “fall” into this world when that realm disintegrated. Instead, they were re-absorbed into their own spiritual source – the Or Ein Sof, or Infinite Light of G-d Himself.

Now, when a person eats and then uses the energy gained to pray and become absorbed into G-dliness, they are effectively raising the spiritual energy of the food – derived, as just explained, from the keilim of Tohu – and elevating it, too, into union with G-d’s Oneness. This is a great change for the keilim of Tohu, since Tohu generally is characterized by separateness and not union, as we have already said. (Such a change is only possible through man’s actions in this realm of Tikun, because it is specifically in Tikun that the Shem Ma – in which is expressed the concept of G-d’s unity and containing something of His Infinite Light – is manifest.) Thus, eating spiritually elevates what was eaten.

At the same time, however, eating spiritually elevates the eater. This is because, once the vessels of Tohu have been raised up into a state of unity, as explained above, they are once again fit to contain the lights of Tohu, which had been reabsorbed into G-d’s Infinite Light. This greater infusion of G-dliness raises the newly “repaired” vessels of Tohu to a level even higher than their state prior to sh’viras hakeilim (even though, prior to sh’viras hakeilim, the vessels had likewise been suffused with the lights) – because the lights of Tohu as they now illuminate the vessels of Tohu are the lights of Tohu as reabsorbed within their own superior source (G-d’s Infinite Light), a much higher level than the lights had possessed prior to sh’viras hakeilim – and they elevate with them the realm of Tikun into which they had been raised by eating (and to which they are inherently superior in any event).

It is for this reason, then, that G-d wanted man to eat food. Even though mankind, like food, was created with the spiritual energy of one of the ten Divine utterances that created the world, eating – when done for the holy reasons explained above – elevates both the food and man to a spiritual level otherwise unattainable by either. Thus, far from being an “animal” act, eating is a particularly lofty form of worship.

In a mystical sense, this concept of man being elevated to a higher spiritual plane through eating also applies (albeit in an allegorical sense, of course) to G-d. For, as mentioned above, our verse (“Man does not live by bread alone…”) uses the word ha-adam (“the man”) – as though a particular man were meant. This is a common Kabbalistic reference to the spiritual manifestation of G-dliness known as “the heavenly Man,” as in the verse describing the prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the heavenly realms (Ezekiel 1:26): “And on the likeness of the throne, there was a likeness of the appearance of a Man [i.e., G-d].” (Technically, as it were, this refers to the six Divine attributes (sefiros) from chesed through yesod as manifest within the realm of Atzilus. These correspond to the emotional attributes, the personality, of a person, and can thus be thought of as collectively describing a “Man.”) Naturally, G-d Himself is infinite and indescribable; this characterization of Him as a “Man” manifesting those particular “attributes” is for our benefit only, since we can understand and relate to it. Consequently, it is possible to speak of G-d imbuing those particular sefiros – His manifestation as the “Heavenly Man” – with additional potency, additional spirituality stemming from an even loftier level (namely, the lights of Tohu), making His heavenly “likeness” seem even more “real,” more “alive.” This is what happens when we Jews elicit the lights of Tohu by eating.

(What a compelling reminder not to ruin this potentially holy act by allowing it to degenerate into mere gluttony and bodily gratification!)

The above is the mystical meaning of the verse (Deuteronomy 8:10), “You shall eat and be satisfied, and bless G-d, your L-rd….” The Hebrew word for “bless,” of the same root as baruch, connotes drawing down, an elicitation from above of spiritual influence. (That is what it means to “bless” someone.) In the present context, the phrase “G-d, your L-rd” (Havaye Elokecha) is a reference to G-d as the “Heavenly Man” just discussed. Thus, Kabbalistically, the verse is saying that by eating, we “bless,” as it were, we elicit additional spiritual vitality into, the Heavenly Man Himself!

All that we have said to this point concerns what may be termed lechem min ha’aretz, bread from the earth. (This is physical bread, such as we eat after reciting the standard blessing over bread, which praises G-d who “brings forth bread from the earth” (hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz)). The word aretz, earth, refers to the Kabbalistic Divine Name of 52 (Shem Ban), which (in this context) is associated with the realm of Tohu. The concept of bringing forth lechem min ha’aretz, bread from the earth, is that of extracting and elevating – bringing forth – the “sparks of G-dliness” that “fell” from the realm of Tohu, as explained above, through our eating for the purpose of Divine service.

However, there is also such a thing as lechem min ha-shamayim, “bread from Heaven.” This is represented by the manna, as in the verse in this week’s Torah portion (Exodus 16:4), “Behold, I will rain upon you bread from Heaven.” It is of the same spiritual order as that represented by dew, which is why the manna fell with the morning dew, as it says (Exodus 16:14), “And the layer of dew evaporated [revealing manna on the ground].”

Our sages teach (Ta’anis 9a; Zohar III, 156a) that the manna fell in the merit of Moshe. Recall that, earlier, we stated that (in contrast to the Name of 52 just linked to the realm of Tohu), the Divine Name of 45 – the Shem Ma – is associated with the Realm of Tikun, and that Tikun is characterized by the influence and balancing effect of mochin (intellect) within midos (emotion).

More specifically, the Shem Ma is identified with the sefira of chochma (the highest of the intellectual attributes) within the realm of Atzilus. It symbolizes utter deference and nullity (bitul in Hebrew) before G-d. This quality is hinted in the word chochma, which can be split into the words koach ma, the “power of ma.” “Ma” literally means “what,” and the sense here is of such utter nothingness in its own right, such bitul in deference to G-d, that it can only be described as “what” – as if to say, “what is it in and of itself? It has no independent existence!”

It is this quality of chochma that accounts for it alone being the receptacle for G-d’s Infinite Light (Or Ein Sof), which manifests itself within chochma because that sefira offers no opposition to G-d’s Infinity. All other sefiros have some trace of an existence of their own, even if subtle, which contradicts the notion of G-d as infinite and all-inclusive, other than Whom nothing else exists. Only chochma, the “power of ma” or “nameless force” is defined by its very nonexistence before G-d, and thus is a fitting vessel for the Or Ein Sof. (It is important to know, however, that the Or Ein Sof – G-d Himself, as it were – is nevertheless present within all other sefiros and indeed, within the entirety of creation, by virtue of chochma’s own investiture within those successively lower levels.)

The above is why, as explained earlier, the Shem Ma is associated with Tikun and its composite nature, its being characterized by blending together of components which, in Tohu, would be incompatible opposites. The Shem Ma is identified with chochma, utter bitul before G-d. Just as two rival ministers who ordinarily would not tolerate each other’s presence would lapse into silence and utter deference in the presence of the king – there is no room for self-centeredness then, all that matters is the king – so do the separate sefiros lose their “intolerance,” their sense of mutually exclusive “selfhood,” when chochma and its inherent bitul before G-d is manifest within them. Thus, Man, the creature of the realm of Tikun, is a blend of different emotions, which act in harmony only when the light of reason (intellect, chochma) suffuses them.

Now, Moshe derived from a supremely lofty spiritual level. We have just described how the Shem Ma, chochma of the realm of Atzilus, is the quality which brings bitul and harmony into all other sefiros and, by extension, all the rest of creation – even actual human beings and their otherwise conflicting emotions. Moshe’s spiritual root is also identified with the Shem Ma aspect of chochma of Atzilus. However, there is an important difference. True, intellect may be brought to bear on emotion and thus bring the latter into harmony, but this describes “intellect as applied to emotion.” Intellect also exists as “intellect per se”: pure intellect, before its application to emotion. This was the aspect of chochma that formed the spiritual source of Moshe’s soul: the Shem Ma itself, not merely as manifest by its effect upon emotion.

And here is an extremely satisfying insight: The above is the reason why, when instructed by G-d to redeem the Jews from Egypt in order to receive the Torah, Moshe protested (Exodus 4:10) on the grounds that he had a speech impediment: “I am impaired of speech and impaired of tongue.” Everything G-d does is for a purpose, and Moshe’s speech impediment was no exception.

Our Rabbis teach (Zohar III, 28a) that the expression “impaired of speech” refers to the Oral Torah, while “impaired of tongue” refers to the Written Torah. The Torah’s laws are, in a sense, the expression of G-d’s “emotional attributes,” the emotional sefiros. Jewish law declares some things kosher or ritually fit for use, while others are pasul or unfit for ritual use; some things are tahor, pure, whereas others are the opposite; and so on. The mystical root of status as permitted, pure, etc. is the “emotional” sefira of chesed (kindness, benevolence), while status as forbidden, impure or the like reflects the “emotional” sefira of g’vurah (strength, severity).

Moshe, on being asked to redeem the Jews and transmit the Torah to them, believed this would be impossible for him. Although the humblest man in the world (see Numbers 12:3), Moshe nevertheless recognized his true spiritual level. (He may have felt unworthy, but he recognized reality all the same.) He knew that he was literally the embodiment of that level of bitul within chochma of Aztilus – the Shem Ma in and of itself, not as manifest – which preceded application to midos, emotional attributes. How, then, could he accomplish the revelation of the Torah, which essentially entailed expression of G-d’s “emotional” attributes? Moshe’s spiritual level was simply not compatible with that. He was “impaired of speech and impaired of tongue”; he could not express, in the spoken or written Torah, the transcendent, inexpressible spirituality of G-d.

To answer this objection, G-d assured Moshe (Exodus 4:12), “I will be with your mouth.” The Hebrew word used for “I” is Anochi, a reference to a spiritual level associated with G-d’s very Essence (so to speak) – the level of Atzmus Ein Sof Baruch Hu, the Essence of the Blessed Infinite One. The word “I” refers to such a personal level of the self that it can only be used by the person to whom it refers – no one else can use the word “I” with reference to another. We can call someone “tall” or “short” or otherwise reference some single aspect of theirs; we can even refer generally to their whole being by use of their personal name (“Jack Smith”); but the very inward essence of a person, their “selfhood,” cannot even be referenced except by that person. When G-d told Moshe that “Anochi – I – will be with your mouth,” He was saying that, yes, your own level (the Shem Ma itself within chochma, as it transcends application and expression within midos) cannot, by definition, express the Divine midos of the Torah to the Jews. However, you will succeed anyway, because you will be assisted by a level of spirituality so exalted that there is no difference, on that level of Anochi, between intellect and emotions, above and below, dark and light. By means of the spiritual level of Anochi, it was possible for G-dliness to be revealed below in the exact same manner as above, because Anochi transcends such distinctions.

That is why the manna descended in the merit of Moshe. In the ordinary scheme of things, we are expected to worship G-d, after which He responds by bestowing His benevolence upon us. However, under extraordinary circumstances, G-d sometimes bestows a certain spirituality to us on His own initiative, unwarranted by anything we have done. This is a very sublime level of holiness which we could not have merited on our own. The spiritual source of the manna was of this order: it was on a plane inaccessible by way of human worship; only G-d’s own grace, and not any prior human action, could bring about such a supremely holy revelation. It was the lofty level of Anochi that had been transmitted to Moshe – with respect to which there is no difference between what is otherwise inaccessibly high and what is relatively lower – that enabled the manna to descend.

To appreciate the nature of the manna’s spiritual origin, let us recall the incident in Genesis (see 30:31-31:12) in which Jacob agreed with Laban that Jacob’s pay for his years of work would be whatever sheep would thenceforth be born with certain agreed-upon markings. The Torah uses the words akudim, n’kudim, u-v’rudim to describe these markings. The classic commentator Rashi explains that the word akudim is derived from the word for “tying-up” or “binding,” (akeida), such as is done when binding the ankles of sheep. (The markings in this case thus referred to coloring about the ankles.) Rashi explains the word b’rudim (by the rules of Hebrew grammar, the initial “b” in this word (actually the Hebrew letter beis) changes to a “v” (the Hebrew letter vais) in forms of the word like u-v’rudim, above), citing the Aramaic translation of Onkelos, as describing a white stripe encircling the body (see also the etymology given by the 19th century commentator Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, rendering the meaning of the root as “separate”, as in “discrete”). (N’kudim, although not relevant for present purposes, means “spotted” or “speckled.”)

On a deeper level, these descriptions represent spiritual concepts. We said earlier that the realm of Tikun is characterized by the separate and distinct sefiros nevertheless blending together. Specifically, the sefiros as found within the realm of Tikun may be grouped into vertical “columns” or “lines” of related sefiros. The rationale behind this grouping is beyond our scope here, but its relevance lies in the fact that the realm of Tikun may be described as the world of b’rudim. In this realm, the blending together, the ability of the sefiros to accommodate one another, is not because they are truly one entity, but rather because the illumination of the bitul associated with chochma causes them to weaken, to “downplay,” their own selfhood. This is an imperfect form of unity, for each sefira would, left to its own devices, as it were, exclude all others but for the weakening of their “egos” by the light of reason.

However, the manna derived from a spiritual level that can be described as akudim – bound together. The meaning is that on this level, the sefiros are all “bound together in one container,” they partake of a superior form of unity than that of the realm of b’rudim. Perhaps this can be better understood as follows: we have been speaking of the sefiros of Tikun as they are in themselves, and we have understood the reason for their lack of mutual exclusivity as being connected with the weakening of self-conception, the nullity and deference, associated with the light of reason. However, there is another way to view the sefiros: not as they are as individual sefiros, but as they are as aspects of a greater whole. A person’s emotions, for example, can each be considered separately – as emotions per se – but they can also be viewed as elements of a single person. As such, their individual natures are no longer a negative factor but a positive (we actually want a person to have healthy and “whole” emotions, not weakened, suppressed ones). Thus, their very wholeness and strength is, in this case, itself an aspect of the perfection and unity of the one person. This perspective allows for the full expression (as opposed to suppression) of the individual sefiros in a context nevertheless characterized by unity – a superior form of unity than that of b’rudim and Tikun. This superior form of perfection is only possible as a result of the revelation of the Or Ein Sof, for this makes irrelevant that the sefiros in and of themselves have opposite natures. The Or Ein Sof does not allow for “opposites” or “distinctions,” only perfection: perfect sefiros in perfect unity. This was the level of the manna.

With all the foregoing, we can now understand the teaching that Moshe instituted bircas hazan, the initial blessing of the grace after meals. This first blessing is in the third person: we thank G-d “Who sustains the entire world in His goodness, etc.” This is not the style of the subsequent blessing, bircas ha’aretz, which is in the second person, i.e., addressed directly to G-d: “We will give thanks to You, G-d our L-rd, etc.” This is appropriate, however, since, as explained above, Moshe’s spiritual level (manna, the “bread from Heaven”) was so lofty that it could not (without Divine assistance) be expressed directly and openly. The blessing he composed reflects this in its indirect, third-person wording. (Note that in Hebrew, the third person form is called lashon nistar, the “hidden” form of address, since the object is not present. This fits well with our point.) By contrast, the second blessing – the “blessing over the land” – is in the second person because it refers to “bread from the land (or ‘earth’),” which, unlike the inaccessible and Divinely-bestowed “bread from Heaven,” is associated with our worship here below and its consequent reward from above. This is a direct, give-and-take, “second person” relationship between us and G-d.

Furthermore, this second blessing begins “We will give thanks to You,” and continues, “and for all [this], G-d our L-rd, we give thanks to You and bless You….” The Hebrew word for thanks is hoda’a, which literally means “concession,” “admission.” In this sense, the wording can be interpreted as meaning “we concede to You, G-d our L-rd,” and “for all this, we concede to You.” For, G-d’s perspective differs from ours: G-d knows the truth, which is that He is the only reality and all else is as nothing before Him. But we mortals, unable to see that perspective due to our limited perception, think that reality is what we ourselves see, while G-d is intangible and insubstantial. Thus, we proclaim unto G-d, “we concede” to Your perspective; it is You Who are right. When we eat food and use the energy for Divine worship instead of physical gratification, we are indeed demonstrating this.

Merely “conceding” a point is not enough, though; merely “admitting” or “conceding” something implies that the thing conceded is nevertheless not wholeheartedly believed. It is necessary to bring the concept down to the level at which it thoroughly permeates the person and becomes their genuine realization and belief. We therefore continue, “[we concede to You] and bless You.” For, as explained above, the literal meaning of b’racha, blessing, is the drawing down of spirituality. As discussed in that context, our eating actually “blesses” G-d, as it were: it elicits extra vitality from the sublime level of the lights of Tohu into G-d’s representation to us as the “Heavenly Man.” It reveals the spirituality “below” just as thoroughly as it is manifest “above.”

At this point, only one thing more must be explained: the significance of Shabbos.

It is written (Exodus 31:17), “For [in] six days, G-d made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day, He rested, etc.” Likewise, (Genesis 2:2), “and He rested on the seventh day.” What do these things really mean, since G-d neither required six days to make the universe, nor could it have tired Him out (as though such a thing were possible) so that He should need “rest”? The answer is that the Torah is teaching us something about the spiritual forces G-d invested within creation, and about the elevated level of holiness the universe attains on Shabbos.

A person who focuses his or her attention on a certain task finds his or her faculties preoccupied with that task; the person may not, for example, concentrate on, or even hear, what someone else is saying because their mind and their faculty of hearing are “tied up” at the moment. If someone wants to express a profound intellectual concept in writing, they must first concentrate on formulating their ideas in the most appropriate way, using apt symbols and metaphors where necessary, choosing just the right words, and so on. Also, many stages of successively more tangible expression are undergone until what originated in the inchoate essence of the soul itself makes its way through levels of imagination and intellectual contemplation, feelings, concrete thoughts, and words. Even the faculty of bodily movement is pressed into service as hand movements ultimately result in ink on physical paper. It is indeed hard work, requiring the concentrated and exclusive attention of the person in their entirety, to express deep philosophical concepts for mass consumption in writing.

When the task is finally complete, all the person’s faculties are “freed up,” causing a certain feeling of release and satisfaction.

In a similar fashion, G-d “concentrated” or “focused” His Divine creative attributes during the six days of the week. Specifically, these were the six “emotional” attributes from chesed (kindness, benevolence) through yesod (foundation) of the realm of Atzilus. On the first day, G-d used His attribute of chesed (expressed through His attribute of malchus (sovereignty)) to create light); on the second, He used His attribute of g’vurah (judgment, restraint) to separate and divide the waters below the firmament from those above, and so on.

On the seventh day, however, He “rested,” meaning not that G-d was tired, of course, but rather something akin to that just described in connection with the person concentrating their faculties and attention into some “creative” task: on the seventh day, Shabbos, the six sefiros mentioned, representing all the specific Divine faculties “invested” within creation – comprising the entire life-force of the universe – were released from containment within creation. G-d’s creative energies were “freed up” again, metaphorically speaking, and elevated back to their source in G-d’s all-encompassing energy, which is utterly one, “simple” and undifferentiated, with no distinction between “higher” or “lower,” etc. This is why Shabbos is associated with Divine “satisfaction” and why the universe is said to experience a collective elevation in spiritual stature on Shabbos.

Now, something similar was said above about the spiritual level of manna. However, there is an important difference between the respective levels of manna and Shabbos.

We said that the manna originated on the spiritual level in which everything is “bound within one container,” that is, a unity so perfect that the sefiros are at the same time full-strength yet united. Still, since G-d is infinite, even this is not the epitome of perfection. On the contrary, even this level of akudim may be said to be associated with the created entities, in the sense that it is their source. It contains, in potential, all the details of the creations that ultimately derive from it – but precisely that makes it merely “the source that relates to creation (m’kor hashayach l’hishtalshelus).” Put another way, all the details of creation are the specifics; the spiritual level of akudim is the general, all inclusive level they are specifics of. There is a higher category of “source,” the source that transcends creation, that cannot be associated in any way with specific details, even as “their” source. For G-d is certainly not limited to being the “source” of the universe and all it contains: had He so wished, He could have created an infinite number of completely different universes, all with totally different details unimaginable to us. Thus, He cannot be described as the source of the universe or the general level of which everything is merely a specific manifestation; this would limit Him (G-d forbid) to definition in terms of the universe.

Instead, G-d is simply Himself, the Atzmus Ein Sof, the Essence of the Infinite One. He is the “source” of everything only because everything derives – automatically – from Him, but not because He is, in essence, “their” source. Rather than including in potential every detail of creation, this exalted level is utterly one, “simple” and undifferentiated, with no distinction between “higher” or “lower,” etc. – it is the level of G-d Himself to which everything ascends on Shabbos. Revelation of this level is revelation of G-d, not “merely” revelation of the source of creation.

And this explains why the manna did not fall on Shabbos. Shabbos is of the simple and undifferentiated level of the Essence of G-d; it transcends the spiritual hierarchy of creation (seder ha-hishtalshelus). Manna derives from the plane of akudim, the general source of all specific details of the universe; it is the source of the hierarchy of creation (m’kor hashayach l’hishtalshelus). When Divine revelation of the order of Shabbos, which transcends any definition in terms of the universe, is manifest, there is no room even for the sublime level of akudim, which is defined in terms of the universe.

At last, we are ready to understand why, according to the perspective of Jewish law and the revealed aspect (nigleh) of Torah, one should ideally hold the two Shabbos loaves – corresponding to the double portion of manna that fell on Friday in anticipation of its absence on Shabbos – one above the other. This configuration, one above the other, symbolizes seder hahishtalshelus, the spiritual hierarchy of creation by which one level is higher, one lower, yet a third below that, etc. This is characteristic of nigleh, which proceeds from G-d to us in the form of or yashar, a straightforward progression of the Divine light. The mystical, or hidden (nistar) aspect of Torah, by contrast, is likened to an or chozer, reflected light, meaning that the G-dly illumination has already suffused creation and, having “bounced back,” is on its way to re-absorption in that sublime level of G-dliness which we have just described as the ultimate, undifferentiated source of all where, transcending seder hahishtalshelus, there is no distinction between “higher” or “lower.” Thus, according to Jewish mysticism, it is advisable to hold the lechem mishne, the two Shabbos loaves, on the same plane – one beside the other – for this symbolizes that level.

(As a practical matter, the Lubavitcher Rebbe has advised that for the Friday night meal, we hold the two challos (loaves) on the same level, one beside the other; while for the meal on Shabbos day, we hold the right challah just slightly higher than the left one.)

Lo Tov Heyos HaAdam Levado
Mayim Rabim Lo Yuchlu L'Chabos
B'Etzem HaYom Hazeh Nimol Avrohom
Erda Na
Chayei Sara
V'Avraham Zakein Ba Bayamim
Vayachp'ru Avdei Yitzchok
Vayashkeim Lavan Baboker
Vayeavek Ish Imo
VeHinei Anachnu M'Almim Alumim
Ner Chanukah Mitzvah L'Hanicha
Vayigash Eilav Yehudah
Chachlili Einayim Miyayin