ESSAY: Baby Food
What a nation ate in its infancy
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Four options and a fifth suggestion
The Three Loves of his Life
At the gathering at which he formally accepted the leadership
of Chabad-Lubavitch, the Rebbe laid down one of the cornerstones
of his philosophy and program
And G-d said to Moses: I shall rain down to you
bread from the heavens. And the people shall go out and gather
their daily portion...
And the children of Israel did so: they gathered [manna],
some more, some less. [Yet] each measured an omer [of manna]he
who gathered more had no more, and he who gathered less had
Exodus 16:4, 17-18
Life is the general term we use to refer to the
litany of actionselementary and complex, subtle and
pronouncedthat the soul stimulates in the body. The
body, on its own, is as static as flesh and bones sitting
in a pot;
the soul infuses it with warmth, vitality and awareness, imparts
to it the capacity for self-perpetuation (growth and reproduction),
instills in it a will, and grants a mind to its brain, sight
to its eyes and brawn to its muscles. All this and more is
life, the most analyzed and least understood phenomenon
More specifically, the influence of the soul upon the body
falls into two general categories: elementary life
and particular life.
Elementary life are the qualities common to all
living bodies and all parts of a living body. In terms of
elementary life, the infant is no less or more
alive than the adult, and the brain is no more
or less alive than the foot. Particular
life are the vital influences of the soul that are specific
to a particular body and a particular organ. Thus, the soul
imparts sight to the eye and intelligence to the brain. It
grants a higher degree of sensitivity to the fingertip than
to the heel. And it differentiates between individuals: in
their mental prowess, depth of feeling, eyesight and weightlifting
What is true of physical life is also the case regarding
the life of the spirit: the vitality of the soul also consists
of an elementary life and a particular life.
The elementary life of a soul are the qualities
common to every soul and fundamental to every area of spiritual
life, such as the intrinsic faith and commitment to G-d that
every soul possesses in equal measure and which permeates
all its organs and limbs. A souls particular
life are the faculties, talents and sensibilities that
comprise its individual spiritual persona (its understanding
of G-d, its feelings toward Him, its spiritual experiences
and deeds, etc.).
A Morsel for a Giant
Food is the glue of life, the medium that holds body and
soul together. So food, too, has both an elementary
and a particular role in the sustenance of life.
On the particular level, each body has its specific nutritive
needs, as dictated by age, body size and physiological constitution.
In the same body, each organ and cell requires its own diet
of vitamins and nutrients for its maintenance and development.
But there is also an elementary function to food,
one that embraces all bodies and organs equally. Food sustains
life in the most basic sense of the wordlife as the
vital energy that vivifies the flesh. In this, food affects
every body and every part thereof in the same way.
An expression of the relationship of food with elementary
life can be found in the Talmuds discussion of
the laws of Yom Kippur. The Torah forbids the consumption
of food on Yom Kippur. The quantity of food that constitutes
a violation of this prohibition is the volume of a kotevet (fresh fig).
The Talmud then adds that this law applies equally to everyone,
regardless of body size, since food in the amount of a kotevet
stills the hunger of every individual, be it a small child
or Og the King of Bashan (a famous giant). In other words, there is an elementary function
to food which relates equally to every body, without regard
to its particular size or qualities.
Rations from Heaven
In the sixteenth chapter of Exodus we read of the manna,
the bread from heaven, that sustained the children
of Israel during their forty-year journey from Egypt to the
A much emphasized detail in the Torahs account is the
quantity of manna allotted to each individual. G-d commanded
to gather it, every man according to his eating needs:
an omer per head.
Each night, the manna would fall from the sky, and each morning,
the head of the household was to gather an omer for
each member of his household. It was strictly forbidden to
save part of one days portion for the next (except on
Friday, when a double portion was to be collected, as the
manna did not fall on Shabbat). If a person gathered more
than an omer, he nevertheless found exactly one omer
in his basket; if a person gathered less than an omer,
he, too, found a full omer in his basket.
This seems to contradict everything we know about food: that
an adult eats more than a child, that a man eats more than
a woman, that a larger body requires more than a smaller one.
It is true that the manna was a miracle food, but the fact
that G-d stipulated a specific quantity as a persons
daily portion implies that the manna was to operate as a physical
food, whose mass provides the calories to fuel life. Indeed,
the above-quoted verse (Gather it, every man according
to his eating needs: an omer per head) emphasizes
that the manna was to be allotted not by some esoteric criteria,
but by a persons need.
Yet in the same sentence it determines this need to be a uniform
omer per head! In other words, the manna emphasized
the role of food in sustaining the elementary life
of man, distinguished by its uniform nature, over the individual-specific
nourishment of particular life.
First Things First
The manna was bread from heavenspiritual
nourishment that also sustained the physical body (as opposed
to the bread from the earth we eat today, which
is material nourishment that circuitously sustains our spiritual
lives). So the qualities of the manna as a physical food mirrored
those of its spiritual function.
The manna came to nourish the children of Israel in their
first forty years of nationhood. In this critical period,
the emphasis was on nurturing their elementary lifethe
very essence of their bond to G-d. This is comparable to the
very first days of infancy, when the care of the infant focuses
primarily on the effort to feed and sustain him, rather
than the development of his particular faculties and talents.
So the dominant quality of the manna was its function as the
nurturer of elementary life, also expressed on
the physical level by the uniform quantity allotted to every
individual, regardless of his or her particular qualities.
Indeed, the Torah does not even tell us, at first, how much
an omer is. This it does only at the very conclusion
of its account, in discussing the period of transition when
the people of Israel concluded their generation-long journey
from Egypt to Canaan and entered the Promised Land. The manna
had already ceased to fall, but a supply of it lasted until
they could harvest their first crop of grain in their new
Only then does the Torah tell us that An omer is a tenth
of an eifahi.e., the volume of 43.2 eggs.
For it was only when the people of Israel crossed the Jordan
River to begin their life as a people living off the land
that their omer of manna became a defined quantitya
quantity that can be measured, divided, meted out, adjusted
to the particulars of a personal diet. They had now matured
to the point where the elementary life aspect
of their development receded to the background and the cultivation
of their particular life commenced. Their intrinsic
bond with G-d was now to be translated into the particulars
of a life devoted to the sanctification of a material existence.
Based on Rebbes talks, Shabbat Beshalach 5745 (February
a Rock and a Hard Place
by Simon Jacobson
When dealing with adversity there are four different approaches:
Would you believe that all four options are limited?
The first time in history when a people were stuck
between a rock and a hard place was when the Jewish
people stood before the Reed Sea with the Egyptians pursuing
them close behind. What to do? The people were divided into
1) Some said: Lets jump into the sea; its
simply not worth the effort.
2) Others argued with resignation: We should return
to Egypt where we lived for so many years. A known evil is
better than an unknown one. True, we were enslaved, but anything
is better than this place where we will either be killed by
the Egyptians or drown in the sea. The challenges of life
are just too overwhelming. Conformity, surrender, assimilation
is the only realistic option.
3) Yet another group felt: Let us go to war with
4) And finally the religionists: stated: Let us
pray to G-d
All were wrong. Not only escapism and conformity, but also
battle and prayer are not complete options. Was life given
to us so that we spend most of our time doing battle, involved
in conflict and strife? And is prayer enough when faced with
challenge? We are blessed with resources to deal with every
challenge. So coupled with prayer we must do our utmost to
rise to the occasion.
What was the correct approach?
And when they did, the sea parted before them.
G-d told them: I who have given you life, and promised you
that you can and will achieve your objectives and reach Sinai
and the Promised Land, have also given you all the faculties
and resources necessary to fulfill your lifes mission.
When faced with challenge, with adversity, with the difficulties
each of us encounter in life, instead of spending time ruminating
about any or all of these four options, instead of being paralyzed
by doubt - FORGE AHEAD. Movement is the key to success. Moving
forward will bring a breakthrough. How, we may not always
know. But move and things will open up.
The Three Loves of his Life
The following is a free translation of an excerpt of the
Rebbe's words at a farbrengen (chassidic gathering) on the
Shvat 10, 5711 (January 17, 1951) - the gathering at which
he formally accepted the leadership of the Chabad-Lubavitch
Upon his arrival in America, the Rebbe quoted the Midrash, "When
you come to a city, do as its custom.'' Here in America people like to hear things
expressed in the form of a "statement'' - preferably
a provocative and shocking statement. I don't know if this
is how it should be done, but "When you come to a city,
do as its custom...''
A statement, then. The three loves - love of G-d, love of
Torah and love of one's fellow--are one. One cannot differentiate
between them, for they are all one, of a single essence. The
Baal Shem Tov quotes the early sages, "When you grasp
the part of an essence, you grasp it all.'' Since the three
loves are of a single essence, each one embodies all three.
If there is love of G-d without love of Torah and love of
one's fellow, this means that there is something lacking in
one's love of G-d. On the other hand, if there is a genuine
love of one's fellow, one will eventually attain a love of
G-d and a love of Torah.
So if see a person who has a love of G-d but lacks a love
of Torah and a love of his fellow, you must tell him that
the love of G-d alone cannot endure. And if you see a personwho
has only a love for his fellow, you must strive to bring him
to a love of Torah and a love of G-d; that his love toward
his fellows should not only be expressed in providing bread
for the hungry and water for the thirsty, but also to bring
them close to Torah and to G-d.
When we will have the three loves together - "a threefold
thread'' that "is not severed''
- this will achieve the redemption. For just as this last
galut was caused by a lack of brotherly love,
so shall the final and immediate redemption be achieved by
love for one's fellow.
Adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe by
. Derech Mitzvotecha 45a.
. See Tanya, ch. 51; Sefer HaMaamarim Kayitz 5700,
. This is not to say that it is permitted to eat
less than this amount on Yom Kippur, but rather that this
is the amount that constitutes a full-fledged violation
of the biblical prohibition and carries the penalty of karet
(cutting off of the soul) prescribed by the
Torah. Eating less than the volume of a kotevet is
only a partial violation and carries no penalty.
. Talmud, Yoma 73b, 80b.
. In fact, the Torahs setting of the omer
as the measure of a persons daily food consumption
is of relevance to us today as the source of the law that
requires the separation of challah from a dough that
is kneaded with an omer or more of flour (Talmud,
. Our sages make this correlation, attributing to
the manna the qualities of mothers milk: Just
as the breast provides all the tastes in the world to the
infant, so, too, the manna (Talmud, Yoma 75a, based
on Numbers 11:8).
. Exodus 16:35; Rashi on verse (from Talmud, Kiddushin
38a). This transition period lasted from the Moses
passing on Adar 7, until they ate from the grain of
the land 38 days later, on Nissan 16, as described
in Joshua 5:11-12. According to the Mechilta (Exodus, ibid.),
this period extended through the entire fourteen years in
which the people of Israel conquered and settled the land.
. Exodus 16:36; see Mechilta and Rashi on this
. Likkutei Sichot, vol. XXVI, pp. 103-113.
 The previous rebbe of Chabad Lubavitch, Rabbi
Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (1880-1950).
 Midrash Rabbah, Breishit 48:16
 See Talmud, Yuma 9b.
 Likkutei Sichot, vol. II pg. 499.