In this week’s parsha we continue to learn Moshe’s final departing words to the Jewish people before they enter the Land of Israel. “You shall remember the entire road on which Hashem, your God, led you these forty years in the Wilderness so as to afflict you, to test you, to know what is in your heart, whether you would observe His commandments or not. He afflicted you and let you hunger, then He fed you the manna that you did not know, nor did your forefathers know, in order to make you know that not by bread alone does man live, rather by everything that emanates from the mouth of God does man live.” (Chapter 8, Verses 2-3) We live by the mouth of Hashem. Our lives are a gift that He gave us in His kindness and goodwill. We say every morning in our prayers, ‘Blessed is He who spoke and the world came to be.’
What is Moshe teaching us in these verses? What is the main source of our life and vitality? Rabbi Natan explains that the main source of our vitality is not from the food itself, but rather Hashem’s words are the main source of life. The deeper reason that we receive sustenance and vitality from food is because Hashem placed in the food this influence of holiness, which has the power to give vitality to a person. Food too has a spiritual source and influence that come from Hashem. Therefore, the main source of vitality comes from the Torah, which is the word of Hashem. The Sages teach that Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world. Just as in every other aspect of life, the Torah teaches us how to eat with holiness. Everything in creation is composed of four fundamental elements- earth, water, fire and air (spirit). Through the laws and the teachings of the Torah we are able to clarify these essential elements and live with them in harmony. We have the ability to separate the good in them from the bad. When these elements are not in balance, they can have a negative influence that causes us to behave with bad character traits or to desire pleasures that are unhealthy for us. When we are able to work with these four essential elements in balance and harmony, we merit to connect to our source of vitality and holiness- the Master of the World. (Likutei Halachot, the Laws of Pesach, 3rd teaching)
This teaching by Rabbi Natan about the true spirit of life is based upon Rebbe Nachman’s eighth teaching in the first part of Likutei Moharan. He explains in that teaching that the sighs and groans of a person are very precious and important, because they help them fulfill whatever they are missing. How? When a person lacks something- health, happiness, livelihood etc.; when he sighs over what he is lacking, this brings completion to his lacking. When something is lacking, such as health, it is because there is something lacking spiritually. There is a lack of harmony in our being. Everything that a person is missing in his life, it is only possible to fulfill these deficiencies and find completion by connecting to a true Tsaddik. Why? Because the spiritual aspect that a person needs to fulfill what he is missing can only be received from the influence of a great Tsaddik. This Tsaddik is always clinging to the light and the wisdom of the Torah, which contains in it the spiritual vitality that our souls need. (Based on the Abridged Likutei Moharan)
On a practical level, many people want to live with more vitality, more holiness, they want a more meaningful and happy life. However, many also wonder: how can I obtain these wonderful desires? Sometimes they seem so far away. In this teaching, Rebbe Nachman reveals that breathing is a way to connect more to the spirit of vitality and holiness that can be found in all of God’s creation, all the time. Specifically with deep breaths and sighs. Yes, through the simple act of taking time to slow down, breathe deeply, and allowing yourself to sigh over things that you might be lacking in your life, you can connect in a deeper way to Hashem. When we think of something that we are lacking or a difficulty that we have and let out a deep sigh, we are asking Hashem in our hearts and souls- I don’t know the answer, but I really need your help! I want to find better work to be able to support my family. I want to have a better relationship with my child. I want to wake up and feel happy for the gift of a new day of life! In addition, just by simply thinking to ourselves (or verbalizing) before taking a deep breath, ‘You are giving me this breath of life,’ we are expressing faith and bringing more holiness and light inside ourselves. We are connecting to our Creator and recognizing that He gives us the gift of life. He can help us fulfill all of our good desires and heal our pain and difficulties. He can bring completion to everything that we are missing in our lives.
(The image is from Wikipedia.org)