Hardly anybody would think that there is anything strange and wonderful about bread. And yet, as we shall presently see, there is much about bread that is truly wonderful. At least one kind of bread, unleavened bread, or Matzah, has a wonderful history for us Jews. We talked about the significance of Matzah in our Talks of last month. Here we shall talk about regular, or leavened, bread. As a matter of fact, all breads, no matter how they may differ in look and taste, fall into two classes: leavened bread and unleavened bread. The first is made of dough which is fermented with yeast, soda, or baking powder; the latter is baked without fermentation.

We shall also talk about a third kind of bread, a very special kind of bread, which is of particular interest to us in this month of Iyar. But about this later. Bread has a very early history; it is as old as mankind. The Torah tells us that when Adam sinned by eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree, G‑d told him, "By the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread" (Gen. 3:19). That is the first time that the word "bread" (lechem) is mentioned in the Torah. Our Sages tell us that Noah invented the plough, which made it easier to produce grain for bread. This is one of the reasons why he was called Noah ("comforter"), because he brought comfort and ease to mankind (Gen. 5:29). Malchizedek, the king of Shalem, welcomed Abraham our father with "bread and wine" when Abraham returned from his victory over the four allied kings (Gen. 14: 18). Abraham, who "spoke little, but did much," and whose hospitality we are told to emulate, offered "a morsel of bread" to the three angels who visited him in the guise of wayfarers, and he hurried Sarah to knead and make cakes out of fine flour (Gen. 18:5-6). Lot baked unleavened cakes (Matzoth) for his unexpected visitors (two of the angels), who came to destroy Sodom and save him (Gen. 19:3). When Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away, he supplied them with bread and a bottle of water (Gen. 21:14). Rebeckah gave Jacob "the savory meat and the bread which she had prepared" to take to Isaac, in order to receive his blessing (Gen. 27: 17). Jacob gave his hungry brother Esau "bread and a mess of pottage" after buying from him the birthright (Gen. 25:34). Fleeing from Esau, Jacob prayed only for "bread to eat and a garment to wear" (Gen. 28:20), and on his flight from Laban, Jacob invited his pursuers to eat bread with him (Gen. 31:54). The brothers sat down to eat bread after they threw Joseph into a pit (Gen. 37: 25). At Potiphar's house, Joseph did not eat his master's bread (Gen. 39:6), like Daniel in the palace of the Babylonian king, who also did not touch the king's bread (because

it was most likely baked with animal fat). During the years of famine, which Joseph foretold, Egypt became the "bread basket" of the world (Gen. 41:54). When Joseph entertained his brothers at dinner in his house, still pretending to be none else but the Egyptian Viceroy, he and they were served bread separately, for the Egyptians despised the Hebrews, and they also despised shepherds, and would therefore not share bread with them at the same table! (Gen. 43:25; 31:32.46:34). Some students of the ancient Egyptians believe that the Egyptians were the first to make leavened bread, having discovered a way to make it puff or rise. If so, it is characteristic of their nature, for the Egyptians themselves were puffed up with vanity and inflated with arrogance.

Bread is mentioned in the Bible by the words "staff of bread," indicating how much a man must rely on it for his life. However, quite often the word "bread" in the Bible is used in the sense of "food" in general. Nowadays, few housewives make their own bread; it is much more convenient to get it from the bakery or grocery. Thus the average child never gets a chance to see how bread is actually made. It was different about half a century ago, when only five out of every 100 loaves eaten by Americans were baked outside the home. Today only 15 out of 100 loaves are baked at home, and the rest are baked in huge bakeries. Whatever bread-making is done at home, it is done mostly in farms and villages. In the cities almost all the bread (98%) is made in large bakeries. The main ingredients of bread, as everybody knows, are flour and water (and / or other liquid, such as milk), which are mixed into dough. Yeast, sugar, salt and shortening are added, and the dough is allowed to ferment and rise for a few hours. It is then cut and shaped into loaves, or cakes, and baked in an oven. In the big bakeries everything is done by automatic machines, which measure the ingredients, mix the dough, form the loaves, bake them, slice them, and wrap them in wax paper. Because some of the ingredients used in the making of bread and cakes are not kosher, Jews are permitted to use only such breads and cakes as are produced by bakeries under strict Rabbinical supervision. It is also necessary to watch out for the word "pareve" (non-dairy and non-meat; "neutral") and "milchig" (dairy) stamped on the packaged bread or cake, so as not to fall into the error of mixing dairy and meat products. Wheat is most often used in the making of bread, but other grains are also used, such as rye, corn, barley, and even rice. Wheat flour contains more protein and a little less starch than other flours. It makes lighter and more easily digested bread.

Bread, well-baked and of good quality, is a wholesome and healthful food. It contains carbohydrates, protein, minerals and vitamins. Most bakers' white bread is enriched by the addition of vitamins and minerals. Whole-wheat bread contains slightly more minerals and vitamins than refined white bread.

The importance of bread, in Jewish life, can be seen from the fact that when one wishes to eat bread, it is necessary to wash one's hands in a certain way, recite a blessing "concerning the washing of the hands," and then recite the blessing "Who brings forth bread from the earth." After eating it is also necessary to recite the long Grace (Birkas haMozon).

So far we have spoken of "bread from the earth." We must now say a few words about the other kind of bread which we mentioned earlier, and which is of special interest to us this month. It is the "bread from heaven" which our ancestors enjoyed during their forty years' wandering through the desert. We mean, of course, the manna.

On the 15th day of Iyar, exactly one month after the children of Israel left Egypt (in the year 2448 after Creation), a wonderful thing happened to them, when the manna was rained down for them from heaven.

The only provision, which the children of Israel had taken with them from Egypt, was some dough, which they baked into round, flat cakes-Matzoth. When the hour of liberation had come, they left in great haste, and had no time to let the dough ferment. These Matzoth lasted them for 3O days, two meals a day, morning and evening. After breakfast on the 31st day (15th of Iyar), that is, after 61 meals, their provisions were gone. As evening approached, the children of Israel raised a hue and cry, demanding food of Moshe Rabbenu. They did not ask for it in a nice way, the way children should ask for food from a loving father; for they should have known that their Father in Heaven would not let them starve. Nevertheless, G‑d sent them "bread from heaven"-the manna.

The manna was a most wonderful food. It satisfied everyone's taste. Whatever taste one wished to find in it, it tasted exactly like it. It came down in abundance every morning, but everyone was to gather only one omer (a certain quantity) per head. If anyone was greedy and gathered more, or if anyone did not manage to gather a full Omer for each member of the family, it still turned out to measure no more and no less than one omer per person. No one was to leave any manna for the following day; if one did, it would turn wormy and useless. G‑d wanted them to turn their eyes to heaven each morning, and learn to rely on G‑d for their sustenance. The only exception was the holy Shabbos day. No manna came down on Shabbos, but on Friday each received a double portion, for Shabbos also.

The children of Israel did not know what kind of a food this wonderful thing was. They called it Man (manna), because this word means "food," and it also means "portion," for each one received an allotted portion.

Thus, at the time when the children were about to become a nation, and to, receive the Torah, and before they were to settle in their own land, they were given a wonderful lesson in what should be the Jewish attitude to their material needs. Like anyone else, a Jew must work for a living, but he must know that his food comes from G‑d; that he must have faith in G‑d, and that G‑d can be relied upon to provide for his needs. There is no need to be greedy, for each one receives an allotted portion. Above all, the holy Shabbos must be observed, for G‑d can provide for a living during six days of the week.

The Torah sums it up in those famous words: "Not by bread alone does man live, but by all that comes forth from G‑d's mouth (i.e. by the word of G‑d) shall man live" (Deuteronomy. 8: 3).

First we will get acquainted with the most important grain from which most breads and cakes are made - wheat.

Wheat belongs to the group of grains called cereals. Other important cereals are rice, oats, corn, barley and rye. (In Jewish Law, insofar as the blessing over cake is concerned, and in certain other respects, only the following five kinds of grains belong in the same group: wheat, barley, spelt [a kind of wheat], oats and rye. Rice and corn are excluded from this category.) .

Wheat is the world's most important food crop. It covers more of the earth's surface than any other food crop, even more than rice, which a few years ago was the leading food crop. The world's production of wheat is about 7 billion bushels a year. (A billion is 1,000 million) .It has been estimated that if all this wheat-grown in one year - would be loaded on a freight train, the train would stretch one and a third times around the world at the equator.

Nearly half of the wheat grown in the USA each year (or about 500 million bushels) is ground into flour, making nearly 300 million pounds of flour). Most of the flour produced is white flour. White flour is produced by removing the bran (or "coat") of the kernel, and grinding only the white, inner part of the kernel. W hole wheat is produced by grinding, or milling, the entire kernel; it is therefore darker.

In the process of milling white flour, some of the food value of wheat is lost. The flour is therefore enriched by adding to it vitamins and iron.

no-fix-up: The average person in the USA uses about 126 pounds of wheat a year, or a little less than 2 1/2 pounds a week. This includes not only bread and cake, but also many other products made of wheat, such as breakfast cereals, noodles (lokshen) and similar products. Many Americans like to have a cereal for breakfast, either a dry cereal (puffed wheat, wheat flakes, shredded wheat biscuits, etc.), or a cooked cereal (farina, wheatena, etc.).

Bran and other parts of wheat, left over from the milling of white flour, are made into animal feed for cattle, poultry, etc.

About I bushel of wheat out of every 100 used in the USA goes into the manufacture of industrial products, such as alcohol for synthetic (artificial) rubber, fertilizers, vitamins, and other products.

Nearly three out of every four bushels of wheat go into the making of human food: bread, cakes, cookies, pies, doughnuts, macaroni, cereals, and so on. About one fourth of the wheat used in the USA is kept for seed, and there is usually quite a surplus of wheat for export, some of which goes to feed the hungry in other parts of the world.

Most of the wheat grown in the USA is winter wheat, which is planted in the fall, and harvested the following spring, or summer. But there is also a substantial crop of spring wheat, which is planted in the spring, and harvested the same summer. This year's expected wheat crop in the USA is 977,789,000 bushels of winter wheat and 262 million bushels of spring wheat, for a total production of 1,239,779,000 bushels. This is about 50 million bushels less than last year.

no-fix-up: The food value of wheat is as follows: 70% - carbohydrates; 12% proteins; 12% water; 2% fat and 1.9% minerals.

Wheat was one of the earliest grains grown by man. It was one of the crops with which the Promised land - the Land of Canaan which became the Land of Israel, the Holy Land -was praised (" A land of wheat and barley," etc.). It was also one of the main crops of Egypt, which during the time of Joseph became the "bread-basket" of the world. When Egypt was smitten by the Ten Plagues, the plague of Hail ruined the crops of flax and barley, which were already ripe, or nearly so, while the wheat and spelt were not ruined, because they were "late" (Exod. 9:31-32).

Egypt was a very fertile and rich land; perhaps the richest and most fertile in the world. When the children of Israel agreed to leave that land, after more than two centuries, and go into the barren desert, it was a momentous decision. They went out into the wilderness eagerly; men, women, children, babies and old folks. They left the "fleshpots" of Egypt in order to follow the Divine call, which beckoned them to come to Sinai and receive the Torah.

For forty years G‑d fed and watered the whole people of Israel, with their livestock, throughout their wanderings in the desert, where no food could be grown, and no rain could be expected to fall. In a most extraordinary and miraculous way G‑d showed them day in and day out, that "not by bread alone does man live, but by that which issues from G‑d's mouth (by G‑d's "word") does man live" (Deut. 8:3).

This was one of the basic lessons which the children had to learn during their forty years of "schooling," before they were ready to settle down on their own land. They had to learn that when they planted their land and reaped their harvests, it was not their sweat and toil that gave them bread and more than that, but -G‑d's "word." Without G‑d's blessing, all their toil would be wasted.

This is the plain meaning of the above famous verse in the Torah. But there is yet a deeper meaning in the words, "Not by bread alone. ..." It is explained at great length, and in great depths, in the holy books of Chasidus. Briefly it is this:

The whole of Nature is divided into four general categories, or "worlds": minerals, vegetables, animals, man. There is a tremendous difference between a grain of sand and a grain of wheat, or between a flower and a bee, or between a dumb animal and a human being. Certainly, there is an even greater gap between the lowest in the scale of Creation (minerals) and the highest (man):

Now, usually, the strong can support the weak, the rich can support the poor; but not the other way around. It seems therefore hard to understand how, in Nature, it is the other way around: the lower creatures support the higher creatures: the soil (minerals) support the vegetables, the vegetables support the animals, and all three support man. Take bread, for instance. Bread has no life, no mental or intellectual qualities. Yet, when a person eats bread (or other foods), it is not only transformed into human flesh and blood-which is a most wonderful transformation in itself-but also into those extraordinary cells of tissue which make up the human brain, which enables a person to think and to speak. A child feeding on cereals and other foods grows and develops, not only bodily, but also mentally and spiritually. How is this possible? Does bread have mental and spiritual qualities, which pass on to man as he eats it?

The answer is that it is not the physical matter of the bread (the carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, etc.) which gives and sustains life. For in every particle of matter, there is the "word" of G‑d which created it out of nothing and constantly says to it: Be! It is this "word" of G‑d which is the real thing, while the physical matter is but an outer "shell," very much like our body is the outer shell or frame for our; inner, and hidden, soul. It is this real thing -the "word" of G‑d, which "brings forth bread from the earth" -which really gives life and sustenance to the human being.

To make it a little clearer: When G‑d willed to create the world, there was nothing at first, and G‑d created every- thing out of nothing by saying, "Let there be!" The process of creation has continued ever since, as we say in our prayers: "In His goodness He renews constantly, each day, the work of Creation." If G‑d should withdraw His "word" for one instant, everything would turn back to nothing as before Creation. Thus it is the "word" of G‑d, or "that which issues from G‑d's mouth," which is the real bread that gives life to the person eating it, and with it all those mental and spiritual qualities which make up a human being.

This is what the saintly Ari meant when he said that everything, even the "lifeless" things, like a stone, have a "soul," that is-the Divine "word" (or "will," or "power," or whatever it may be called) which is hidden in everything, and which is the real thing.

If we understand this great truth (and this requires serious study in the books of Chassidus), we will better understand many other truths which are the very foundation of our faith and way of life. We will, for instance, get a better understanding of the true meaning of Hashgocho Protis (Divine Providence) which extends to every minute particle of matter; we will understand more deeply the true meaning of G‑d's Unity, which means that in reality, at the root and core of everything, there is nothing but G‑dliness; we will realize how much closer we are to G‑d than we could imagine. Knowing these truths, and living up to them in our daily life, through the fulfillment of the Torah and Mitzvoth, this is what we have been created for. This, then, is the deeper meaning of the words of the Torah, "Not by bread alone does man live. ..."