T H E H O L Y B A K E R
from a discourse of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi said in
by Rabbi Yossi Marcus
I brake for you the staff of bread and ten women will bake your bread in one oven
and they will bring back your bread by weight (lit. in a scale)… [and you will
eat and not be sated]. (Leviticus
It is known that although
these admonitions seem to be curses they are in truth only blessings.
its literal sense, the verse reads as a curse of a food shortage, food being the
“staff” upon which we support ourselves. It also predicts be a shortage of firewood
forcing people to share one oven. Furthermore, the loaves will fall apart and
the women will have to weigh the baked crumbs to divide them equally. What follows
is the kabbalistic interpretation, in which the verse is read as a blessing.
story is told about Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s son, Dovber, who as a child once became
terribly distraught and sick after hearing the reading of the Admonition in the
synagogue. When asked why he had never reacted this way in previous years when
the same section was read, the child replied that every other year his father
had been the one reading from the Torah. That year his father was out of town
and the Torah was read by someone else. The child concluded: “When Father reads,
one hears no curses.”]
It is written in the Zohar
There are three
levels that are tied one to the other: G-d, Torah, and the Jewish people…each
level possesses a concealed dimension and a revealed dimension.
concealed dimension is neither apparent nor apprehensible. It is called “concealment
within concealment” (setima d’kol stimin); it is hidden even from the hidden.
It is not clothed in space at all. Our thoughts cannot grasp it at all.
revealed dimension [of G-dliness] is what
we see—the physical world. We see spatial reality: six-dimensions, top, bottom
and four sides.
It would seem that
one could not call this physical reality “G-dliness.”
in truth that it is how it is. For there is nothing besides Him. His sovereignty
rules over all things. Everything that we perceive in the mineral, vegetable,
animal and human aspects of the physical world contains a spiritual life force
that sustains it constantly.
even this spiritual life force is also called “space,” spiritual space. It is
part of the revealed dimension. It is nullified to the concealed dimension as
words of thought are nullified within the intellect.
Space: Spiritual space is the six “emotional” sefirot—Kindness, Strength,
Beauty, Victory, Glory, and Foundation—which are the spiritual origin and source
of the six dimensions of physical space, North, South, etc.
higher sefirot—Wisdom and Understanding and above—are beyond even spiritual space.
[Tzemach Tzedek’s gloss.])
Torah also contains a concealed
and revealed dimension.
It is known
that the Torah is called “bread.”
bread sustains the body, even though bread is of the vegetable kingdom, which
is lower than man. It seems bizarre (neged hasechel) that the human should
receive nourishment from something that is lower than it.
explanation is that in truth the spiritual root of wheat is from a truly lofty
place. But because of “the shattering” these lofty sparks fell and became the
life force for wheat.
[The Shattering of course referring to the
shattering of the vessels of Tohu, the World of Chaos that precedes our world
of Tikkun, and whose shards fell into the physical world. Thus man who stems from
Tikkun is lower than wheat, which stems from Tohu. For more on The Shattering,
same thing is true of Torah, which is called the bread of the soul. The secrets
of the Torah descended and manifested themselves in physical matter, the forbidden
and permitted, the pure and the impure, etc.
of this took place because of the shattering of the First Tablets, which caused
the Torah to descend into physical matters.
When I brake for you the staff of bread.…
staff of bread refers to the Tree of Life—the concealed dimension—and with the
shattering of the Tree of Life, i.e., the Tablets, the Torah fell and became clothed
in physical matter, etc.
[In its original form, the Torah does not
discuss earthly reality; it describes the spiritual realm. This is what the Midrash
means when it tells us that the Torah “preceded” the creation of the world—even
the concept of a world—by “2,000 years.”
Similarly, the Torah studied by the souls of the departed and the not-yet-born
in the Garden of Eden does not address physical reality. The Torah we see is a
dim reflection of that Torah, a translation of its sublimity in earthly terms.
fall took place when Moses broke the first tablets. When God gave the Torah at
Mt. Sinai, we were cleansed of the spiritual impurity the world fell into because
of Adam and Eve’s sin with the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Had we not
sinned, the Messianic era would have commenced then, and reality would have been
elevated to the spiritual plane of the Garden of Eden before the Fall. Since we
would have existed on this higher spiritual plane, the Torah would not have had
to descend and become couched in terms germane to physical reality. We would have
been able to understand the Torah as it is written “in heaven.” But when, because
of the sin of the golden calf, Moses had to break the tablets, the world descended
to its present, materialistic state, and our consciousness suffered a concomitant
fall. The Torah “fell,” too—that is, its sublime meaning became couched in physical
terms in order to address the physical realities of our world.
break for you the staff of bread thus refers to the breaking of the tablets,
which caused the Torah to descend and become garbed in a physical context. The
term the staff of bread alludes to the Tree of Life of the Garden Eden,
the source of the Torah. The “breaking” of the staff refers to the descent of
the Torah from its spiritual context as the Tree of Life into its present, fallen
[These words shed light on the Admonition as a whole. Our perception
of the Admonition as a frightening prophecy is a result of the “breaking of the
staff,” the disguising of Torah in the vocabulary of earth. In its heavenly form,
the Admonition is all blessing; in heaven, there is no need for admonition.]
advantage of the Torah being couched in physical terms is that we can understand
it. The disadvantage is that because we perceive the Torah in its earthly form,
we may find it difficult to internalize it, to assimilate its teachings into our
spiritual bloodstream. The Torah therefore tells us how to avoid the pitfall of
storing the ideas of Torah in a theoretical corner of our mind. (From The Rebbe’s
TEN WOMEN WILL BAKE
The Torah is
called wheat-bread. Chitah (chet-tet-hei—8-9-5), wheat, is numerically
equivalent to 22, alluding to the 22 letters of the Alef Bet with which the Torah
Now, if one eats unbaked
dough it is not digested by the intestines at all, nor is it absorbed by the limbs
to create blood for the soul. But when one eats baked bread it is digested by
the intestines and is absorbed by the limbs becoming blood for the soul. The bread
becomes literally one with the person.
it is with the food of the soul, Torah.
it is not “baked” (as we shall explain), it does not become one with the person
who studies it even if he studies an abundance of Torah. The Torah remains in
its own realm and he in his own. He receives no nourishment from it like physical
bread that has not yet been baked at all.
when the Torah is “baked” within the person it becomes absorbed by all of his
248 limbs. He and the Torah become one.
understand the concept of “baking”:
is a fire that is hidden and concealed within the heart of every soul. It is a
fierce love of G-d and a desire to cleave to Him even when the person is overwhelmed
by mundane affairs. His heart is burning constantly with love for G-d.
heart cries out silently in its desire to cleave to Him. This is called love-sickness.
In the flames of this hidden, fiery
love one can bake the bread of wheat, the Torah. And thus can the words of Torah
be absorbed into his “intestines.” They can become one with him.
They will bake your bread—the Torah—in one oven [or “the oven of oneness”]—in
the heat of the love that is revealed through meditation upon Oneness, the Oneness
matter of the ten women is that each soul contains ten levels: three mothers and
seven doubles. The baking must permeate these ten attributes.
author uses the terminology of Abraham’s Sefer Yetzirah, where the ten
sefirot are described as three mothers—referring to the three intellectual faculties,
Chochmah, Binah, Da’at—which “give birth” to the seven emotions, which are called
In its original context, Sefer Yetzirah divides the Hebrew Alphabet
into three divisions: Mothers, Doubles and Elementals. The mothers are the letters
Alef, Mem, and Shin—the first, middle, and penultimate letters of the Alphabet.
The seven doubles are the letters that have two sounds, plosive and fricative:
Bet, Gimmel, Dalet, Kaf, Pei, Reish, and Tav. (Only four of these letters—Bet,
Kaf, Pei and Tav (in the case of Ashkenazic Jews) are still pronounced as doubles.
The Gimmel and the Dalet have a double sound only for Yemenite Jews. The double
sound of the Reish has been entirely lost.)
The other twelve letters are
referred to as the twelve elementals and correspond to the twelve months of the
year, the twelve tribes and the twelve constellations of the Zodiac.]
this must be done by women, i.e., with a “female,” receptive consciousness.
He must know that in truth this fire is not the fruit of his efforts. Rather:
Master of Truth has given him truth.
is through this receptive and humble consciousness that the person can achieve
the “baking” of his Torah study.
they will bring back your bread in a scale,
means that the Torah will be returned through the “baking” from below to above,
to the level of “scale,” as in the verse (Isaiah 40:12): “[Who measured
the waters in His palm…] and with a scale weighed
the mountains [the hills with a balance.]”
I.e., the scale is beyond the level of mountains, for it is with the scale that
G-d “weighs” the mountains. This is called mitkala [like the Hebrew
mishkal] in the Zohar (Terumah 176b).
[MOUNTAINS: “Mountains” refer to love. (Aharon (Aaron) the
high priest, for example, epitomizes love. His name therefore contains the word
har, mountain.) The mountains and hills referred to in this verse from
Isaiah correspond to two levels of love, the hills being lower than the mountains
and receiving from them. (Elsewhere, Rabbi Schneur Zalman explains why the mountains
and hills are measured with different types of scales.)
scale, refers to Binah, understanding (Meorei Or). Thus “scale,” Binah,
is beyond “mountains,” love. (See Likutei Torah Nitzavim 45a.)
The Rebbe’s Chumash: When one arm of a scale goes down, the other goes
up. Similarly, by integrating the Torah into our beings, by bringing it down and
allowing it to reach even the most mundane facet of our lives, we cause a reciprocal
reaction and “elevate” the Torah back to its primordial form, as it was before
it “fell” into its present material context. The spiritual dimension of the Torah
begins to open up before us, and we become privy to deeper and deeper insights
into its infinite meaning.]
eat and not be sated—just as “He
who loves money [will never have enough money]” (Ecclesiastes 5:9). Similarly,
in his great love, he returns again and again, countless times, and each time
the words of Torah are literally new to him—his soul can never be satisfied by