Bread from heaven. Bread from earth. What is the difference between the two? One requires labor: plowing, planting, reaping, grinding, sifting. The other is delivered from above, fresh and ready to eat. One must be digested by the body, and the wastes eliminated; the other is completely absorbed, with no byproducts.
This week’s Torah portion, Behaalotecha, describes the “bread from heaven” that the Jews ate in the desert each day. The manna descended from heaven each day, fresh and perfect. For the tzadikim, the manna landed right at the foot of their tents. The average Jews had to go out to collect it, while the reshaim, the wicked ones, had to leave the camp to forage for manna. There were also differences in the form the manna was delivered. Tzadikim received the manna fully prepared. The average Jews received the manna as a dough, which they had to bake. The reshaim had to grind and knead the manna before they could eat it.
Because the manna, in essence, was a spiritual food, it was completely absorbed by the body, without need to eliminate waste. Even in the reshaim, the manna was fully absorbed. Not only did they absorb the nutrients in the manna; they also absorbed the holiness, which elevated them and purified them. In time, their steady consumption of manna had an effect on their personalities.
Torah, also, comes in two forms, bread from heaven and bread from earth. The “bread from earth” refers to the revealed parts of Torah, the Talmud and Jewish law, which were developed through a process of discussion and debate. Various viewpoints were proposed, analyzed, sifted, rejected or modified. The “bread from heaven” refers to the hidden parts of Torah, the Torah of Kabbalah and Chassidism, which was given to us directly, without debates and questions.
However, despite its label of “bread from Heaven,” one must not assume that the study of Kabbalah and Chassidism must be limited to only the most learned or spiritually advanced. In the desert, everyone ate the manna, the tzadikim, the average ones and the reshaim. In fact, just as the manna had a positive effect on anyone who consumed it, study of Chassidism will inevitably affect the one who studies it and lead to an elevation of the character and the soul.
Especially now, as we approach the era of the final Redemption, it is imperative for everyone to get a taste of the “new Torah” which will be taught by Moshiach. Moshiach’s Torah is not, G-d forbid, literally a new Torah that will supplant the Torah we study today. Rather, the insights and revelations of Moshiach will so surpass anything that we have understood until now that it will seem to be a new Torah. The best way to prepare for these revelations is by studying the teachings of Chassidism, which are a faint reflection and a foretaste of the Torah that Moshiach will teach.
May G-d help us all to have a true enthusiasm and appreciation for the study of His Torah. And may the study of His Torah purify and elevate us to the point that we are ready for the ultimate Redemption, when we will greet our righteous Moshiach.
(Based on an address of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Likutei Sichot vol. 4, p. 1035