In this cycle, through the Torah, we will be taking a mystical journey. Our guide will be Rabbi Larry Tabick’s book, The Aura of Torah, published in 2014 by the Jewish Publication Society and the University of Nebraska. Translations of kabbalistic texts are by Rabbi Larry Tabick. Translations of the Torah and other commentaries are from Sefaria, except where otherwise noted. Translations of the Talmud are the Steinsaltz, William Davidson Talmud, on Sefaria.
Moses tells the Israelites that the miracles they have experienced are not because of their merit. They will forget this, and think that their good life is due to their own efforts. He reminds them that the good they will soon enjoy is from God and if they lack faithfulness to God they suffer.
He subjected you to the hardship of hunger and then gave you manna to eat, which neither you nor your fathers had ever known, in order to teach you that a human does not live on bread alone, but that a human may live on everything that comes from the mouth of God.
Tractate Yoma considers the rules of Yom Kippur. The Sages ask, what is an affliction?
The school of Rabbi Yishmael taught the following concerning the nature of Yom Kippur: The word affliction is stated here with regard to Yom Kippur, and the word affliction is stated further on in a different place, concerning the Jews in the desert: “And He afflicted you and caused you to hunger” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Just as further on the meaning of affliction is hunger, so too, here, the meaning of the word affliction is hunger.
Apropos the verse: “And he afflicted you and caused you to hunger, and fed you with manna” (Deuteronomy 8:3), the Gemara expounds related verses. The Torah states: “Who feeds you manna in the desert which your fathers did not know, in order to afflict you” (Deuteronomy 8:16). What affliction was there in eating the manna? Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Asi disagreed on the matter. One said: There is no comparison between one who has bread in his basket and one who does not have bread in his basket. The affliction in eating the manna lay in there being no leftover food for the next day. Each day the people worried that they might not have any food to eat the next day. And one said: There is no comparison between one who sees the food and eats it and one who does not see the food and eats it. Though the manna could taste like anything, it always looked the same and did not look as it tasted. Being unable to see the food that they tasted was an affliction.
Another verse states: “And dust shall be the serpent’s food” (Isaiah 65:25). Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Asi dispute the verse’s meaning. One said: Even if the serpent eats all the delicacies in the world, they will still taste like dust. And one said: Even if it eats all the delicacies in the world, its mind is unsettled until it also eats some dust.
The following passage is the origins of the kabbalistic text that comments on the Torah verse:
Rabbi Ḥanina bar Pappa said: Anyone who derives benefit from this world without a blessing, it is as if he stole from God and the community of Israel, as it is stated: “Whoever robs his father and his mother and says: It is no transgression, he is the companion of a destroyer” (Proverbs 28:24). The phrase, his father, refers to none other than God, as it is stated: “Is He not your Father Who created you, Who made you and established you” (Deuteronomy 32:6). The phrase his mother refers to none other than the community of Israel, as it is stated: “Hear, my son, the discipline of your father, and do not forsake the Torah of your mother” (Proverbs 1:8). The mention of the Torah as emanating from the mouth of the mother, apparently means that your mother is the community of Israel.
- Chaim Vital, 16th century, Eretz Israel
“It is not by bread alone that a human being lives.” The meaning is that the life force of the soul [neshamah] does not come from food, “but from everything that comes from the mouth of the Eternal does a human being live.” This is [the meaning of] the blessing that issues from the mouth, bringing forth holy sparks from “uncleanness,” and that is purified by the mouth of the Eternal, by chewing of the thirty-two teeth, which [symbolize] the thirty-two [occurrences of ] elohim [God], and the thirty-two paths.
Pri Etz Hadar (18th century based on Lurianic Tu b’shevat Seder, 16th century, Eretz Israel) (Sefaria)
… whoever enjoys produce in this world without pronouncing a blessing is called a robber. For by means of the blessing, one draws down abundance. The angel who is assigned to that fruit [which was eaten] is filled by the abundance so that a second fruit can replace the first. Thus one enjoys the fruit without blessing it is a robber. For through eating an aspect of creation [without blessing it], he eliminated the spiritual element that it contained. [Thus he] prevented that divine power from being manifest in the world, when he should had drawn down a blessing from above. As a result, the angel’s power is annulled, since it no longer possess the abundance [that it needs in order to replenish the fruit]. That is why the person is called a robber.
… [He is also a robber of his own soul and his parent’s soul] For through the kavvanah of the blessing recited when eating fruit, a person who eats rectifies the sparks of his own soul … “for a person does not live on bread alone, but on all that goes forth from the mouth of the LORD.” This alludes to the secret of the blessing, which retrieves [the sparks] from impurity to holiness.
Rabbi Tabick explains that the soul is not nourished by material things but by the spiritual — a connection to God. The intention aligned with saying a blessing creates that connection. It turns the material act of eating into a spiritual action.