Each According to His Measure

In tractate Yoma,1 our Sages pose a difficulty: It is written:2 “When the dew descended on the camp at night, the manna descended upon it.” This implies that the manna descended within the camp. But it is also written:3 “And the people will go out and gather [the manna],” from which we can infer that they had to leave the camp to gather the manna. And it is further written:4 “And the people spread out and collected the manna,” indicating that they had to search far and wide.

Our Sages offer the following explanation. The three verses refer to three types of Jews. For the righteous, the manna descended at the entrance to their dwelling. Those of intermediate spiritual stature had to go out of the camp to collect it, and the wicked had to search.

In the same vein, our Sages1 note that the Torah refers to the manna as bread3 and cakes,4 yet also says it must be ground.4 The righteous, they explain, would receive baked bread. Those of intermediate spiritual stature would receive cakes ready to be baked. And the wicked would receive a substance that had to be ground.

“Bread From Heaven”

The Torah refers to the manna as “bread from heaven,”3 or “grain from heaven.”5 Therefore there are opinions among the Rishonim that the blessing recited over manna praised G‑d who “brings forth bread from the heavens.”6

The difference between “bread from heaven” and “bread from earth” is that “bread from earth” requires several types of labor before it can be eaten. Thus with regard to the labors forbidden on the Sabbath, the Mishnah includes the work necessary to prepare bread:7 ploughing, sowing, reaping, and the like. Moreover, even after these labors are performed, the baking of bread produces waste.

“Bread from heaven” is different. All the different labors were not necessary to prepare it,8 nor did it produce waste.9 And this “bread from heaven” was the diet, not only of the righteous, but also of those of intermediate spiritual stature.

(When referring to a person of intermediate spiritual stature, a benoni, the intent is not to speak of a benoni as defined in Tanya,10 but a benoni in the commonly accepted sense of the term — one whose spiritual scales are equally balanced between merit and sin.)

Moreover, the manna also sustained the wicked. And even then, it did not produce any waste. The fact that wicked people — even those who carried the idol fashioned by Michah11 — partook of the manna did not affect the level of the manna itself. Even as it was digested by them, becoming part of their flesh and blood, it retained all its qualities.

And not only did the manna itself remain unchanged, it elevated those who partook of it. Thus our Sages said:12 “The Torah was given solely to those who partook of the manna,” for the manna refined the Jews and made them worthy of the Torah.

The manna had this effect on all 600,000 Jews, making them worthy of receiving the Torah in its entirety: its simple meaning, its allusions, its homilies, and its mystic concepts.13

Partaking of the manna did not change the nature of the wicked immediately; they did not turn to G‑d in teshuvah at that time. For that reason, even after partaking of the manna several times, there were Jews who still had to grind14 and cook before eating. Moreover, several of the incidents referred to in the verse:15 “And you tried me these ten times” occurred after the Jews began partaking of the manna.16 Thus we see that the manna’s effect was not complete. Nevertheless, in all instances it definitely had some influence.

A Parallel Between Manna and Shabbos

Based on the above, we can appreciate a ruling in Sefer HaItim17 quoted in the name of Rav Saadia Gaon: When a person finds himself in a distant community on Shabbos, and does not know which Torah portion should be read, he should recite the portion concerning manna. For this portion was related on Shabbos.

On the surface, this ruling is difficult to understand; many portions in the Torah were related on Shabbos. For example, “everyone agrees that the Torah was given on Shabbos,18 and so the person could read the Ten Commandments. Why should he read the portion concerning manna?

The above question can be resolved by clarifying the intrinsic connection between the manna and Shabbos. Just as the manna did not lose its spiritual quality despite the fact that it descended to very low levels, so too the Shabbos retains its essential quality even as it descends to very low levels.19

With regard to the verse,20 “And the heavens, the earth, and all their hosts were completed,” the word vayichulu is associated with the word kilayon,21 meaning “expiration,” i.e., it is as if the soul of the world expired with love for G‑d.

This does not mean that the world ceases to exist, but rather that the world as it exists became elevated. For that reason, it is a mitzvah to take pleasure in the Shabbos by eating and drinking.22

Nevertheless, the pleasure which a Jew derives from eating and drinking on Shabbos —i.e., not only the deed, but the pleasure itself — is a mitzvah. During the week, we should not eat or drink more than is necessary to maintain our bodies. And even then, one should not eat or drink for pleasure, but rather out of necessity, for pleasure makes one more materially oriented. On Shabbos, by contrast, not only does the pleasure not make a person materially oriented (as reflected in the Zohar’s statement:23 “The verse24 mentions ‘the waste of your festivals,’ and not ‘the waste of your Shabbosos’”), the pleasure itself becomes a mitzvah.25

The light of Shabbos permeates creation, to the extent that even an utterly wicked person will not lie on Shabbos.26 The intent is not to say that the Shabbos prompts him to turn to G‑d in teshuvah. On the contrary, the person remains the same. Nevertheless, he will not lie on Shabbos because the light of Shabbos permeates even the lowest levels.

This explains why a person who does not know which Torah portion to read on a given Shabbos should read the one concerning manna. For every type of influence which is drawn down into the world is drawn down through the Torah. Thus the creation of the Shabbos atmosphere — i.e., that the light of Shabbos should permeate the material realm — is also dependent on the Torah. Accordingly, when we do not know the portion connected with any given Shabbos, we should read the one concerning manna, for it conveys the spiritual theme which characterizes the Shabbos.27

The Ten Commandments, and similarly other portions of the Torah, reflect elevated spiritual levels. They do not, however, reflect how these spiritual lights descend into this world without change.

Two Types of Spiritual Bread

Everything which exists has its source in the Torah. The Torah is described with the analogy of bread.28 Accordingly, the two types of bread, “bread from heaven” and “bread from the earth” have their source in two different dimensions of “bread” within the Torah.

Nigleh, the revealed teachings of Torah law, parallels “bread from the earth,” while P’nimiyus HaTorah, the Torah’s mystic teachings, parallels “bread from heaven.”29

Nigleh is comparable to “bread from the earth” because it is characterized by questions and differences of opinion, and its study involves effort. P’nimiyus HaTorah, by contrast, is compared to “bread from heaven,” because within it, “there are neither unresolved questions... nor differences of opinion.”30

One should not, however, surmise that because P’nimiyus HaTorah is comparable to “bread from heaven” it is intended for only a spiritual elite. The opposite is true; just as the manna was intended for every Jew, even the wicked, so too P’nimiyus HaTorah is intended for everyone.

And their involvement with P’nimiyus HaTorah will not cause them any loss. On the contrary, since, as our Sages taught:31 “Study is great, because it leads to deed,” the study of Chassidus will lead people to turn to G‑d in teshuvah, and become students of the Torah and observers of the mitzvos. As our Sages promised:32 “the light [of the Torah; i.e., P’nimiyus HaTorah33 ] will point them to the good.”

For this reason, we should not hold Jews back from the study of P’nimiyus HaTorah. On the contrary, we must seek to involve every Jew in this study, for it will lead them to the ultimate truth, to a state in which “he does not lie.” This involves exposing the shades of falsehood which characterize material existence. At that time, there will be no difference of opinion between the G‑dly soul and the animal soul, nor will there be any unresolved questions. We will all follow the path of G‑d, King of this Earth.

Not To Stand In Another Jew’s Way

There are those who claim that people who have not reached the rung of the righteous should not be allowed to study P’nimiyus HaTorah. This is a misguided approach, for bringing a Jew to the study of P’nimiyus HaTorah will motivate him to turn to G‑d in teshuvah. Preventing him from studying, by contrast, causes him to sink even lower.

Were we to ask the person who was rebuffed, why his spiritual state is so low, he could reply, quoting the verse:34 “I was driven away today from attachment to the heritage of G‑d.”

The person who drove his colleague away will himself be subject to examination: How much better and more refined is he than the person he drove away? Moreover, his achievements will be assessed according to the potentials which he himself possesses, and not according to those of the person driven away.

To cite a parallel, Chassidus35 explains that Moshe was “more humble than all the men on the face of the earth,”36 because he made the following calculation: Were another person given the soul which he had been given, and were he to have been granted the same level of Divine assistance that he had been granted, surely that other person would have reached even higher levels.

To clarify the matter with an analogy: When a person prevents another Jew from studying “the Torah of life,” and particularly when he does not allow him to approach P’nimiyus HaTorah, “the tree of life,”30 he can be considered a spiritual murderer. For he is severing his fellow Jew’s attachment to the living G‑d.37

Glimmers of Dawn

In general, we see that as we draw closer to Mashiach’s coming, the controversy and accusations against Chassidus have abated. For example, in previous generations there were claims that Chassidus should not be studied at all. Such arguments are no longer advanced. There is, however, a new argument: Chassidus is relevant only to a spiritual elite.

Every degree of concealment is motivated by a Divine intent; indeed, the intent is that the concealment itself lead to a greater revelation. Similarly, in the case at hand, not only shouldn’t these statements lead to distress, they should encourage us to intensify our involvement in the study and dissemination of Chassidus.38

This reinforced dedication will have a positive effect. When the yetzer hora sees that the concealment it brought about only caused the study and dissemination of Chassidus to be reinforced, it will see that its efforts were — according to its conception — counterproductive, and will remove that concealment.

May G‑d help that we not be distressed by the challenges, nor by the concealment of G‑dliness which we face. Instead, may these challenges intensify the spreading of Chassidus. This increase in turnhastens the coming of the ultimate Redemption to be led by Mashiach. May it take place speedily, in our days.

(Adapted from Sichos Yud Shvat, 5717 and Sichos Shabbos Parshas Beshallach, 5723)