We learn that the manna, (מן) was pure spiritual life, it didn't have any physical 'clothing.' This matter greatly troubles the Pri Ha'aretz on parashath Beha'alotecha (Rav Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk) who says that it is our understanding that the evil that one does is a function of the physical part of the food we consume. In the desert, when we were consuming food with no physical nature, how was it possible that people would fall in sin, whether it be a minor rebellious act, or a major infraction of Torah?
He explains that the equation isn't quite so simple. Yes, the physical side of food has the potential to weigh down a person and make them more physical, but the result ultimately rests with the person. Just as in the natural view, the proteins, nutrients, and amino acids all are absorbed and integrated into bodily systems, new bone, new blood, new skin etc. The spiritual life-force within food becomes a part of the person, it is transformed entirely into the nature of that person. When the person is a good person, always striving to perfect themselves, then the life-force makes the person better, more pure, more holy. When the opposite is the case, then the life-force can greatly strengthen one's physical/mundane nature. (heaven forebid)
I'd like to develop this idea a little further, thinking about eating and kashrut as well. The Baal HaTanya explains that when something is forebidden to us it is because we do not have the ability to rectify or raise that thing up to be used in holiness, instead that thing will bring us down and make us impure and more physical. There is a clear analog in the physical world: disease and infections. When we consume something that is infectious, rather than in the normal healthy model where what we consume becomes a part of us, the contagion consumes us and turns part of us into more contagion. (Whether it be bacterial, viral, cancerous, parasitic, symbiotic, etc)
If we look at non-kosher or forebidden food as spiritual contagions, we can at least draw a picture in our minds to understand what affect it has on us.
From all this we learn two things:
- Don't eat things that can be harmful to you, spiritually, because our soul cannot digest and elevate them.
- Even when eating the things permitted to us, we must remember that if we aren't careful to integrate and elevate them into our essence, they will bring us down to their level.