"When I break for you the staff of bread, ten women will bake your bread in one oven, and they will bring back your bread by weight; you will eat but not be satisfied." (Lev. 26:26)

Bread is a metaphor for the Torah. Just as bread nourishes the body, the Torah nourishes the soul. And just as physical bread is the fallen manifestation of a higher spiritual reality, the Torah in its present manifestation - as we know it - is a fallen version of the original. In its original form, the Torah does not discuss earthly reality, but rather only describes the spiritual realm....the Torah does not discuss earthly reality, but rather only describes the spiritual realm…

[This is why human beings derive nourishment from bread: in their source, bread is higher than man's physical body and animal soul.]

This is what the Midrash means1 when it tells us that the Torah "preceded" the creation of the world - even the concept of a world - by "2,000 years". Similarly, the Torah studied by the souls of the departed and the not-yet-born in the Garden of Eden does not address physical reality. The Torah we see is a dim reflection of that Torah, a translation of its sublimity in earthly terms.

This fall took place when Moses broke the first tablets. When G‑d gave the Torah at Mt. Sinai, we were cleansed of the spiritual impurity the world fell into because of Adam and Eve's sin with the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. Had we not sinned, the Messianic era would have commenced then, and reality would have been elevated to the spiritual plane of the Garden of Eden before the Fall.

Since we would have existed on this higher spiritual plane, the Torah would not have had to descend and become couched in terms germane to physical reality. We would have been able to understand the Torah as it is written "in heaven". But when, because of the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses had to break the tablets, the world descended to its present, materialistic state, and our consciousness suffered a concomitant fall. The Torah "fell", too - that is, its sublime meaning became couched in physical terms in order to address the physical realities of our world.

[In this way, the breaking of the tablets is a reflection of the cosmic "breaking of the vessels," in which the lofty and uncontainable light of pre-creation "exploded".]

...the breaking of the tablets...caused the Torah to descend and become garbed in a physical context.

The phrase "When I break for you the staff of bread…" thus refers to the breaking of the tablets, which caused the Torah to descend and become garbed in a physical context. The term "the staff" of bread alludes to the Tree of Life of the Garden of Eden, the source of the Torah. The "breaking" of the staff refers to the descent of the Torah from its spiritual context as the Tree of Life into its present, fallen form. (These words shed light on the Admonition as a whole. Our perception of the Admonition as a frightening prophecy is a result of the "breaking of the staff", the disguising of Torah in the vocabulary of earth. In its heavenly form, the Admonition is all blessing; in heaven, no one is in need of admonition.)

The advantage of the Torah being couched in physical terms is that we can understand it. The disadvantage is that because we perceive the Torah in its earthly form, we may find it difficult to internalize it and assimilate its teachings into our spiritual bloodstream. The Torah therefore tells us how to avoid the pitfall of storing the ideas of Torah in a theoretical corner of our mind.

"…Bake your bread": Bread, again, is a metaphor for the Torah. Just as unbaked flour cannot be absorbed by the body, so the bread of the soul, Torah, will not be fully absorbed by its student unless it is properly "baked" in the fire of the soul's love for G‑d and its desire to cleave to Him. One can study thousands of pages of Torah and remain unaffected. To digest Torah so that it permeates all of one's being, one must evoke the soul's sometimes dormant love for G‑d - the fire that prepares the Torah for human digestion. How does one stimulate this love?

[Bread is generally made with wheat, and the numerical value of the word for "wheat" in Hebrew ("chita") is 22, the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, with which the Torah is written. The imagery is thus that the "wheat" - the 22 letters used in the study of the Torah - must be "baked" into "bread" - a form in which it can be digested by the soul - by "fire" - the love of G‑d.]

"…In one oven" [or: "in the oven of One"]: through meditating on the oneness of G‑d - that nothing truly exists besides Him. The "oven" that contains the fire of love for G‑d is created by meditation on His oneness. When a person meditates deeply on the fact that nothing truly exists besides G‑d, he forsakes all his love-affairs with the things of this world and becomes consumed with passionate love for G‑d, which he will quench by studying the Torah. But - We cannot take credit for this longing for the divine, since it is granted to us by G‑d…

"…Ten": This love must encompass all ten powers of the soul: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, kindness, severity, beauty, victory, glory, foundation, and kingship.

"…Women": In Kabbalistic imagery, the female denotes receiving. When our love for G‑d is evoked, we must not let it get to our heads. We cannot take credit for this longing for the divine, since it is granted to us by G‑d. We are only receivers of this feeling of love, we did not create it.

When all of these conditions are met:

"…They will bring back your bread by weight" [literally, "on the scales"]: When one arm of a scale goes down, the other goes up. Similarly, by integrating the Torah into our beings, by bringing it down and allowing it to reach even the most mundane facet of our lives, we cause a reciprocal reaction and "elevate" the Torah back to its primordial form, as it was before it "fell" into its present material context. The spiritual dimension of the Torah begins to open up before us, and we become privy to deeper and deeper insights into its infinite meaning.

As a result:

"…You will eat but not be satisfied": i.e. our love for G‑d will be so great that we will never be able to learn enough Torah. As deeper and deeper dimensions of the Torah open up before us, it will always seem new and thrilling.

[Adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Likutei Sichot, vol. 30, p. 18; Copyright 2001 Chabad of California / http://www.LAchumash.org]