Why does Mikra Bikurim-the declaration accompanying the bringing of the first fruits/produce begin with a review of the Egyptian exile and exodus? In particular, why is there an emphasis on the population explosion during the Egyptian exile? Why do these pesukim-verses; serve as the opening of the maggid section of Pesach evening Haggadah-telling? Is there a common denominator between the two?
And then you shall respond and say before HaShem your Elokim: â€œmy patriarch was a wandering Aramean. He descended into Egypt with a small number of men and lived there as an Ã©migrÃ©; yet it was there that he became a great, powerful, and heavily populated nation.
â€” Devarim 26:5
Â â€¦ This was to teach you that it is not by bread alone that the human lives, but by all that comes out of HaShemâ€™s mouth.
â€” Devarim 8:3
According to the Jewish mystical tradition all of creation is divided into four tiers domem â€“silent (inert); tzomeach-sprouting (botanic life); chai-animate (animal life); medaber-speech-endowed life (human beings). Each tier of creation ascends to higher tiers through an upwardly mobile food-chain by nourishing, and thus being incorporated into, the level directly above it until, ultimately, it is assimilated into the human being, the creature that can face and serve the Creator. Minerals nourish plants and are absorbed through the roots buried in the soil and through photosynthesis. Plants are eaten by herbivorous animals providing nutrients for the animalsâ€™ sustenance and growth. Animals are ingested by carnivorous humans supplying the calories, vitamins and minerals human beings need to live and flourish.
This upwardly mobile food-chain has a spiritual dimension as well.
Man is more than highly developed biological machine that expires when enough of the moving parts wear down.Â Man is endowed with a cheilek elokai mimaâ€™al-a spark of the Divine; and it is the union of soul and body that defines human life. Superficially the external symptoms of death may appear to be too many of the moving parts breaking down; in truth human death occurs as a result of the dissolution of the marriage between body and soul. This begs the question: If there is a spiritual element inherent in human beings what is it that nourishes the soul?Â Eating food is often described as â€œkeeping body and soul togetherâ€ but how is this accomplished?
The Rebbe Reb Chaim Chernovitzer cites a teaching of the Arizal in response. Our sages teach us that even the smallest blade ofÂ grass here below has a guardian angel on High that â€œbangs it on the head and exhorts it to growâ€(Bereishis Rabbah 10:6). In other words, even the lowest tiers of creation have a spiritual element that animates them, lending them existence, form and substance.Â In the case of grass, being a plant, a tzomeach-that which sprouts and grows; the grassâ€™ â€œsoulâ€ demands growth. Presumably for animals the soul would demand and promote movement and vitality and for soil and all inert creatures the soul would demand and promote silence and stillness. Such that all food substances are also composed of both a body and a soul, albeit inferior to the human body and soul both physically and spiritually. The manifest, visible food is the â€œbodyâ€ of the food, while the sacred emanation from on High exhorting it â€œto beâ€ and not revert to nonexistence lending it form and substance is the foods â€œsoulâ€.Â When absorbed or ingested the physical element of the food nourishes the consumerâ€™s material component while the â€œsoulâ€ of the food, i.e. its spiritual element, nourishes the consumerâ€™s spiritual dimension.
This is the meaning of the pasuk â€œthat it is not by bread alone that the human lives, but by all that comes out of HaShemâ€™s mouth.â€ The motza pi HaShem-that which emanates from HaShems mouth; refers to the Divine Will that this thing/ foodstuff exist. It is the motza pi HaShem lending tzurah-form; and spirituality that is indispensable for human beings to live, not the corporeal, apparent bread alone.