"And He humbled you, and caused you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not…that He make known to you that not by bread alone does the man live, but by every word that leaves the mouth of G‑d the man lives." (Deut. 8:3)

There is a problem [with this verse.] The words "the", which appear twice in the words "the man" [in Hebrew, "haAdam"] are unnecessary. It should have said: "a man does not live by bread alone."

To say that the soul's life force comes from bread and physical food makes no sense….

This can be explained with a statement in Likutei Torah by the Arizal, that scientists once questioned the source of the soul's vitality. To say that the soul's life force comes from bread and physical food makes no sense. On the other hand, the soul cannot be said to live without food, like an angel. If so, why does a person die from hunger if he does not eat for several days? Death is the separation of the soul from the body. Still, why does the soul depart for lack of food, since it does not derive benefit from it? They became very confused over this issue.

The Arizal explained that they were fools, and did not understand the root of Creation. Our Sages have said, "G‑d created the world with ten utterances" (Avot 5:1), meaning that everything came into existence by means of the utterances themselves, for the utterance of G‑d is lofty and holy. As soon as G‑d said, "Let there be a firmament," the firmament came into existence, as it says, "With the word of G‑d the heavens were made" (Psalms 33:6). That utterance entered into the inner vitality of the firmament to enliven it, so that it should remain for as long as the world exists, as it says: "Forever, O G‑d, Your word stands in the heavens" (Psalms 119:99). Likewise, when He said, "Let the earth put forth grass and fruit trees," or "Let the earth put forth living creatures" (Gen. 1:11,24). Those utterances brought them all into existence, and the utterance itself is their inner vitality.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi explains that the letters of G‑d's speech descend from the spiritual realm, undergoing countless permutations, until they become concretized in the objects of the physical world. See Sha'ar HaYichud v'HaEmunah, chapter 1, printed together with Tanya.

Now, when a person takes a fruit or other piece of food and makes a blessing over it with concentration, saying "Blessed are you, G‑d…" and mentioning the name [of the food], he arouses the vitality that went into the creation of that fruit, because everything was created through its name. Then, like attracts like and arouses it. This vitality is the nourishment of the soul. All of this applies to foods that are permitted and kosher, which the Holy One commanded us to uplift from the physical to the spiritual.

This is what is written: "And He humbled you, and caused you to hunger." For the manna was extremely spiritual, and the base people were not satisfied with it and said: "Our souls loathe this miserable bread" (Num. 21:5). Thus it says, "And fed you with manna," - that was extremely spiritual, the bread of mighty, that the ministering angels eat. However, it became concretized somewhat, so that they could grasp it, in order "that He make known to you".

Even when you enter the Land of Israel and eat physical bread, you should place the honor of your souls before the honor of your bodies, and uplift everything from physical to spiritual. For "not by bread alone…" - that is, when it is merely physical, without awakening its spiritual component. "…Does the man live" - that is, the soul which is called "the man" (whereas the body is called "the flesh of man" - "basar adam") (Zohar, Gen. 20b). "…But by every word that leaves the mouth of G‑d" - for when you pronounce the name with concentration, in the blessing that you make over [the food], you arouse its spirit. From this lives the man, i.e. the soul, which is sustained by the spiritual component in the food. G‑d arranged this precise intention, for by creating worlds and destroying them, sparks of holiness fell into the four parts of Creation: mineral, vegetable, animal and human, and it is fitting for a person to uplift them.

This is like a parable of a king who lost a precious stone from his ring….

This is like a parable of a king who lost a precious stone from his ring. Even though myriad of servants, officers, sages, governors and military lieutenants stood before him at the time, he did not command any of them to search for the gemstone, but told only his beloved and only son to search, find, and return it to him. And even though the king fully trusted that his attendants and servants would all return the stone if they found it, nevertheless, he did not want them to look for it, for he wanted his beloved son to take the credit, and so that the found item be called by his name. Not only that, he even gave his son several hints as to its location, for the king knew where it was the whole time. He did everything only in order to reward his beloved son, and to take great pride and delight in him, saying, "See! No one in the world could have found the stone except my son!"

The creation of the worlds was in order for the Israelite nation to sort out the sparks of holiness….

The meaning of this parable is clear. The creation of the worlds was in order for the Israelite nation to sort out the sparks of holiness from permitted and kosher foods, as the Sages said: "For the sake of Israel, which is called 'the beginning'." (Vayikra Rabba 36)

Thus the Baal Shem Tov commented on the verse: "Hungry and also thirsty, their souls faint [in Hebrew, "titatef"]in them" (Psalms 107:5). He explained here a great secret: Why did G‑d create various types of food and drink that human beings desire? Because they contain sparks of Adam, the first man that became enclothed in the mineral, vegetable, animal and human levels, and that long to become attached to holiness. They arouse the "Feminine Waters" [Mayin Nukvin] in the mystery of the Sages' statement "A drop does not descend from above that does not have two drops rising to meet it." (Zohar III:147b) Everything a person eats and drinks contain his very sparks that he needs to repair.

G‑d sends numerous clues to Israel, in order for them to find the lost object and return it to its owner….

That is, although the holy sparks originally came from Adam's soul, which was fragmented and scattered throughout Creation as a result of his sin, each person can only collect the sparks that are related to his individual soul, for each human soul was also present in Adam before the sin.

Thus, it is written "hungry and also thirsty", for a person hungers and thirsts for them. And it says, "His soul is enwrapped [in Hebrew, 'titatef', from the root 'atef', meaning both to 'faint', and to 'enwrap'] in them," in the mystical meaning of exile, i.e. in a garment, [as in the verse] "And he took her for a prostitute because her face was covered" (Gen. 38:15). For all that a person makes use of is really like his children, which are enwrapped [in the physical]. Understand this!

G‑d sends numerous clues to Israel, in order for them to find the lost object and return it to its owner, to their Father in heaven. He does not command his angels, seraphs or ophanim [types of angels]. Furthermore, the item was lost intentionally, as our Rabbis have said, "He built worlds and destroyed them." (Bereishit Rabba 3:7)

[Keter Shem Tov, p. 18b]
Reprinted with permission from www.baalshemtov.org