Soul Hunger

Friday, 6 September, 2019 - 9:33 am

You know that sometimes you engage in emotional eating? It usually happens when the heart is suffering from emotional overload, and then we search for chocolate or ice cream, or both of them together, in order to calm down some inner discomfort that we can’t identify. A brave, wise and open person will know to look inward and will see that he has within him some sort of deep emotional hunger and the chocolate and ice cream do indeed help, but only for a short time, a very short time.

One doesn’t always have to fight it; usually the very recognition that it is emotional hunger already influences the internal feeling of fullness favorably. And the main thing is that the person knows that after he finishes the ice cream and the chocolate he has some emotional work to do.

There is also soul hunger. The soul is hungry for some nutrition. There are many ways to feed the soul. One of the easier ones is, simply, food. When a person eats in order to accomplish something positive by the eating itself, he is extracting the G-dly spark that is embedded in the food, and with it he feeds his neshama, his soul. Of course, this is true if the food is kosher. One cannot extract the G-dly spark that sustains non-kosher food by eating it.

When one is choosing food for the soul, it is preferable to choose a plant, a fruit or a vegetable. On the famous pasuk from parashat Shoftim, “For man is a tree of the field,” Chazal say, “This teaches us that a person’s life is only from the tree.” This is puzzling, because we also eat food that comes from animals, preferably medium/medium well, and there are those that I know personally who eat mainly meat.

In Chassidut it is explained that the meaning is not how much and from where man chooses to get his sustenance, but from where will he receive higher quality spiritual food. We have learned that “Not by bread alone does Man live, but by everything that emanates from G-d’s mouth does Man live.” According to Chassidut the meaning is that it is not the bread that is sustaining, but, rather, Hashem’s speech. The G-dly spark in the bread is what sustains you. And since the G-dly spark in the vegetable world, the emanation from G-d’s mouth that sustains the growing plant, comes from a higher root than that which sustains the animal, then vegetarian food feeds the soul better. And when Chazal said that the life of a person comes from the vegetable world, they are saying exactly that – that from the vegetable world he will receive better nutrition. It is superfood for the soul, or, to put it differently: start eating lettuce.

One way or another, a bit like with emotional hunger, the very knowledge and recognition that we are eating in order to satisfy the hunger of the soul is enough to put us in a better place, because then we will relate to everything we put into our mouth as something spiritual, with a goal, and not just another satisfaction of a desire.


May we succeed!


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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