eating your way to salvation

Lately I've been getting sick of the process of eating. The thought of putting more things in my body out of necessity without being able to know what other side-effects it will have on me (especially in the case of food consumed outside of the home) just makes me frustrated with the need to eat altogether. I happened to find a good reason to eat in the Noam Elimelech on Chayeiy Sarah.

The story of the exile from Gan Eden is well known, but it's not often well-understood. There are just too many wholes for questions. Of course, according to the pshat, the simplest understanding of the text, it works, but what about trying to apply the lessons and learn something about our world and our situation from it.

It would seem apparent that the sin involved eating, for eating we were banished from Gan Eden. The Noam Elimelech's explanation holds to this general statement, but like all good Hassidic Torah he turns the statement on its head:

After the sin, God was looking for a way to allow Man to fix the sin. He settled on eating as the best way to fix the sin, and so, he sent Man out of Gan Eden to live in a world where he was forced to eat. What's the goal here? The Noam Elimelech explains that when one lives and works and especially eats in holiness, he raises up lost sparks of holiness that have fallen into this very physical realm. [These lost sparks or souls have embedded themselves into physical objects which we consume in order to return the life in them to us, then through our holy lifestyles, the life these sparks give us can be returned to its proper place.]

So, first of all, according to the Noam Elimelech, this exile from Gan Eden was in order that we would all have to eat, because through eating we can raise up all the souls that fell when Adam first ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Through this eating in holiness, we are able to eat from the Tree of Life, and because of this eating in holiness, we will ultimately live forever. So, instead of being kicked out so that we couldn't also eat from the Tree of Life, we were kicked out specifically so that we would be able to also eat from the Tree of Life.

Meaning that eating is the major work we were put here to do. Eating in holiness that is. Eating kosher. Eating to have strength to serve God. Eating with lofty (read:holy) intentions. That would explain why so much of halachah is concerned with what we eat.


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