Torah 57: Medicine, the Sage’s Wisdom and the Tikkun of Eating – part 8

Rav Shagar • 2008

Rav Nachman presents the chiddush that meriting Shabbat is achieved specifically through eating on Shabbat – “And you will eat/enjoy the inheritance of your father Yaakov”. Eating on Shabbat is an eating done in holiness, wholly at odds with eating on a weekday, an activity that can easily fall under the domain of the evil inclination, ‘the Other Side’.
What is Rav Nachman’s intention?
What is the connection between eating on Shabbat and the creation of peace?

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Eating on Shabbat

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When the hands are rectified through a vow, as mentioned above, then the lights of the Patriarchs shine in him. This is because a vow is the aspect of the light of Yaakov, and the hands are Avraham and Yitzchak, who are right and left. This is the aspect of “He performed wonders in the sight of their fathers” (Psalms 78:12)—i.e., through the above mentioned wonder, the light of the patriarchs shines in him…

By means of these lights, a person ascends and delights in the delight of Shabbat, in the aspect of

“Then you can delight… I will let you ride the heights of the earth, and I will give you to enjoy the inheritance of your father Yaakov” (Isaiah 58:14). “The heights of the earth” are Avraham and Yitzchak, who are the hands, for they are the “arms of the world” (Deuteronomy 33:27). “I will give you to enjoy the inheritance of your father Yaakov”—this is the aforementioned vow. By means of the Patriarchs and the aforementioned faith, he merits the delight of ShaBbaT. [Shabbat] is the aspect of Shin BaT. Shin is the aspect of the patriarchs. BaT is the aspect of faith…

This delight of Shabbat is the aspect of eating in holiness. From weekday eating the Other Side too derives benefit, whereas the Other Side has no share whatsoever of Shabbat eating. This is why we have been commanded concerning Shabbat eating, as it is written (Exodus 16:25), “Eat it today, for today is God’s Shabbat.” This is because the food of Shabbat becomes holiness and absolute Godliness, without any waste whatsoever…

One can accomplish with Shabbat eating what one accomplishes by fasting—i.e., defeating one’s enemies in the merit of Shabbat delight just as one does by fasting.

(Likkutei Mohara”n 57:3-5, translation from Sefaria)

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In order to understand this passage, let us mark out its structure: three parts, with the two initial sections in parallel with one another:

(1)        The first part discusses a right hand and a left hand under the influence of angels, an influence that depends on a faith in the Sages. When this faith is disturbed or corrupted, it may be repaired through an oath (an aspect of Yaakov).

(2)        The second part discusses the hands as hands of the forefathers, and how - when they are joined by faith through the medium of an oath – it is possible to merit the illumination of Shabbat and the level of Yaakov, who represents the oneg Shabbat, the joy of Shabbat.

(3)        The third part discusses shalom - peace, or enemies’ surrender - which is born from this Shabbat, and also the fasts and charity that emerge from it.

Let us take a moment to discuss the second section. It would appear that the spiritual goal at hand is creating a connection between the shining force of a forefatherly virtue and a faith in the tzaddik who is interpreting Torah. Yet there is a contradiction between the two: on the one hand - tradition, on the other hand - the tzaddik’s independent power of chiddush. Despite this tension, the two must be brought together. It is only then that we may merit Shabbat (שבת) which – as the Kabbalists have taught - is the joining of shin (ש) - the three forefathers - with the bat (בת) - kingship, a faith that is man-made but becomes a kind of Torah.

Rav Nachman presents the chiddush that meriting Shabbat is achieved specifically through eating on Shabbat - “And you will eat/enjoy the inheritance of your father Yaakov” (Isaiah 58:14). Eating on Shabbat is an eating done in holiness, wholly at odds with eating on a weekday (an activity that can easily fall under the domain of the evil inclination, ‘the Other Side’).

What is Rav Nachman’s intention?

What is the connection between eating on Shabbat and the creation of peace?

Oftentimes we are unaware of the influence of food consumption on our lives - not only what we eat, but how much and how we eat it. When one eats, often the food nourishes the body alone, sustaining our basic foundations (which is why food can leave someone feeling full and heavy). On the other hand, sometimes we enter another state of mind on Shabbat, in which food brings us greater spiritual elevation and attainment of deep spiritual heights.

In order to more deeply understand the issue of food here, let us return to the sin of Adam, for eating was one of the activities affected by his act. The Kabbalists described the sin as a blemish on Kingship (malchut). This might be explained as the triumph of man’s aggressive nature, his desire to conquer. The Hassidim described the sin of the Tree of Knowledge as man’s refusal to become one with G-d.  In this, man is different from all other creations - animals and angels alike - who act entirely according to G-d’s bidding. Man, on the other hand, is able to express “I will rule”, the ego’s phrasing. G-d’s estrangement creates a mindset of loss, and at the same time - a desire to fill that emptiness with the possession of external objects. This is the root of corruption of work (המלאכה) in the sin of the first Adam: a kind of labour is produced which requires an activation of power and strength. Here, then, is a fine example of the sin of first Adam and the punishment that ruined him. The result of the sin is its punishment: the effort required for labor, man’s estrangement from nature.

So, too, with the blemished act of eating: first, the feeling of loss that we try to neutralize by filling it with superficial items; secondly, the desire to rule over the food, to incorporate it inside us. This, too, is a part of aggression and passion in us, the snake’s lingering stink.  On weekdays, too, it is possible to ‘repair’ the food process, through different methods. For example: waiting before eating. Judaism hangs upon that moment of waiting.  When the person does not ‘attack’ the food like a piece of prey to be devoured - that is when the food can become a form of nourishment both for the body and the soul.

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