“So G*d afflicted you and made you hungry, and had you eat the manna [translation: ‘what it is’] which you had not known and which your ancestors had not known, in order to make you know that not by bread alone do human beings live, but by everything that issues from the mouth of G*d do human beings live” (Deut. 8:3).
A human being does not live by bread alone — we do not live only for some thing — we live for Everything.
The Rabbis (Sifrei on Ekev) noted that Torah is bread, and the commentaries are additional sustenance, a person does not live by bread alone (study the commentaries please). We know this.
The famous saying of R. Elazar b. Azarya in Pirkei Avot (3:21), “if there is no flour (bread), there is no Torah; if there is no Torah, there is no flour (bread).” Here Torah is not bread, the imagery is of two separate substances, one bread, one Torah. Bread, man, Deuteronomy 8:3 dig it: a human being does not live by bread alone, that is bread, sustenance, parnassa, a livelihood, the material necessities.
If so, it is easy to understand the first phrase in Avot, if there is no bread, there is no Torah, because it’s tough to be holy when you’re hungry. A scholar who cannot make a living is a distracted scholar. But what does the second part of the R. Elazar’s words mean–if there is no Torah, there is no bread?
The Dow free fell three hundred points because Mr. Merrill and Mr. Lynch weren’t learning? That’s the point, it’s not about the Dow, it’s about the Tao. I don’t worry too much when the Tao drops.
R. Elazar b. Azarya was a 2nd generation Tanna (1-2nd century) who was a man of wealth and yichus (good genes). He could trace his ancestry back ten generations to Ezra the Scribe. R. Elazar became nasi as a young man, his beard turned white overnight so his colleagues would accept him (I’ve seen this happen).
So what did he have in mind when he said, if there is no Torah, there is no bread? For a person with no Torah, any amount of bread is never enough. No matter what your yichus, no matter how fine that DeLorean, a person without Torah is a person who remains hungry, dissatisfied. There is never enough bread. You can’t fill that space with bread. Always hungry, there will never be enough bread to fill the emptiness that only Torah can fill.
There is an emptiness inside of me, a cavern, it will not be filled with bread, with stuff, there is not enough substances to fill that space, this space is vacant for want of depth, for want of spirit, this space is not hungry for bread, this space is hungry for Torah, for meaningfulness, for spirit.
A human being doesn’t live for bread only; a human being lives for Everything. Only Everything is everything (Marvin Gaye). That’s the danger with this kind of hunger, we think we can stuff ourselves with some thing.
Drugs won’t do it, booze won’t do it, sex won’t do it, money won’t do it, food won’t do it, only G*d, the real deal, only Torah, only HaKol, Everything. Not the Dow, the Tao.
I got a monkey in my soul. “The I is a thief”, said the Kotzker, it snatches the partial and mistakes it for the whole. Only Everything is everything.
Into that emptiness we stuff the partial, the never-enough. Only Everything is everything. “Not by bread alone do human beings live, but by everything that issues from the mouth of G*d do human beings live.”
You can’t eat enough, you can’t drink enough, you can’t love enough to satisfy a hunger that isn’t physical. “My soul thirsts [tza-ma naf-shi] for G*d, the living G*d” (Psalm 42:3). That’s the only remedy, the enduring remedy, the perennial wisdom.
“You will eat [v’a-khal- ta] but you will be satisfied [v’sa-va-ta] only when you bless [u’vei-rakh-ta] HaShem” (Deut. 8:10).