My good friend and fellow Jewish yogi, Mitch Cohen, recently shared the article below with me, and I wanted to share it here. After reading it, I was reminded of a phrase that I either coined or borrowed several years ago in earlier days of my spiritual quest: Existential Hunger. There were times that I felt a physical hunger, yet I knew that it wasn’t really related to the need for food on the physical level, and that there was no food at that level that would satisfy that hunger. It was a hunger for meaning, for purpose. Here is what Mitch sent to me:
Here is an article that I found on the International Center for Tzfat Kabbalah website:
Nutrition of Body and Soul
The plants are the main source of nutrition for living creatures. Even mankind needs bread that comes from plants in order to live. What is the secret of the power of the plant world in sustaining human life? How can the plant world, which is inferior to humans, connect the human body and soul, as by eating plants, people gain the power of life?
It is interesting that the lower we go on the ladder of creation, we increase in the nutritional importance of the created beings. Meat, which comes from animals, is not as satisfying to humans as bread, which comes from the plant world. Bread is less important to humans than water, without which people cannot exist even a short time, and water is from the “inanimate” world. It has been found that in order to exist, people need food from the lowest categories of creation. Why?
The Kabbalah explains that the human’s need for food arises from the presence of the divine sparks in food. The human soul aspires to obtain these sparks and therefore the human was created in a way that it always needs food.
This is hinted at in the passage, “man does not live by bread only, but by everything that comes out of the mouth of the Lord does man live” (Deuteronomy 8:3). In other words, it is not the material essence of the bread that sustains the human, but the divine spark in the bread. When people eat or drink, their souls absorb the sparks in the food or drink. The sparks are “freed” from a state of being hidden in the food by their integration into the person’s soul, and they nourish the soul. The Kabbalah explains that the “lower” and more primitive a food, the greater its benefit in nourishing the soul. The sparks in inanimate matter are loftier than those in plants and those in plants are loftier than those in animals.
The Kabbalah explains that the sparks that originated higher in the supernal worlds fell to the lowest steps of creation. For this reason, food that originates in the worlds of the inanimate, plants and animals has the ability to sustain humans, who are higher than they are on the ladder of creation, simply because their origins are higher in the supernal worlds and they have more powerful divine sparks.
Thus the Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Hassidic movement, also explained the passage, “Hungry and thirsty, their soul enclothed in them” (Psalms 107:5) “Humans feel hungry and thirsty because of their souls. It is their souls that are thirsty and hungry for the divine sparks in food.”