Essential spiritual food and clothing
Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver
Generally speaking, livelihood includes two kinds of basic needs: food and clothing. These are both necessities for livelihood, i.e., physical survival, for a person must have some food and clothing to survive. However, they serve very different functions.
Food is an ohr pnimi, an “internal light”—an influence that comes down and adapts to the level of the recipient on its terms, who internalizes and unites with it. So when a person eats, he takes the food inside, and once it has been digested, it becomes one with his flesh and blood. This then enables one’s physical life to continue, for the food becomes converted into blood and other nutrients that spread throughout the body, strengthening it and making it a fit vessel for the soul to become fully vested in it, enabling the soul to continue giving life to the body.
In contrast, clothes represent an ohr makif, an “encompassing light,” an influence that does not descend to the level of the recipient, but encompasses him. Likewise, clothes do not actually become one with the wearer; rather, they surround him and benefit him by providing warmth, maintaining modesty, expressing his identity, and so on.
The same is true of spiritual livelihood and spiritual health, which depend upon the combination of two parallel kinds of divine service—Torah and Mitzvos.
Torah is compared to eating, as it is written, “Come and partake of My bread,” and “Your Torah is in my innards,” for the Torah is an ohr pnimi that a Jew is obligated to intellectually “digest” and unite with.
In contrast, Mitzvos are compared to clothing, for they elicit upon the Jew an intense ohr makif, a sublime divine light, that descends upon the Divine Soul, the Bestial Soul, and the body, but does not permeate the Jew’s personality, which primarily constitute the intellect and emotions.
So when Hashem instructs in the Torah to fix regular times for Torah study, to perform Mitzvos, davven with a minyan, and so on, these are not merely worthy actions that we do because we want to make Hashem happy, or the like. Nor are they merely a fulfillment of our duties to Hashem. Although they include all the above, we should realize that Torah and Mitzvos simply provide our soul—which constitutes the Jew’s true self (see here)—with the “food” and “clothing” that it needs in order to survive and thrive.
 Zohar 3:7b.
 Cf. Tanya ch. 5.
 Mishlei 9:5.
 Tehillim 40:9.
 Cf. Tanya chs. 5, 25, 46.
Dedicated in the merit of a speedy release for the captives Yonasan ben Malka (Jonathan Pollard), Jacob Ostreicher (Yaakov Yehuda ben Shaindel), Alan Gross (Aba Chonah ben Hava Chana), Sholom Mordechai Halevi ben Rivka (Sholom Rubashkin), and Zeva Rochel bas Chaya (Wendy Weiner Runge).
Dedicated by Dovid and Bracha Tsap as a merit for their daughter Sara Rachel bas Hinda Zelda Bracha, in honor of her birthday on 10 Cheshvan.
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