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Behar: Meshiv Nefesh: Eating to Elevate

The 5th of Iyar is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Shmuel Shmelke Gintzler, author of Meishiv Nefesh (1838-1911). Born in Ujhel, Hungary, he was appointed Rav of Oibervishe at the age of 18. He continued to serve there for 55 years.


A common theme in the Talmud and midrash is that the animals find their food easily, whereas human beings do not. This is because just above the level of the silent; Earth, rocks, and stones, there is the next higher level of existence, that of plant growth and trees. This is called “that which blossoms,” and it makes itself readily available to be eaten by the next higher level of existence; “living things,” such as animals. This is because when an animal eats plant life it raises the “blossoming” to the level of the animal, that of “living things.”

Each level of existence wants to be raised to the next higher level. However, neither the level of the “blossoming” or the “living things” desires to be eaten by the next higher level of existence; the “speakers,” meaning, human beings, because human beings can only elevate what they consume if they have proper intention. Something that is consumed by a speaker without intention is not elevated, and its existence is considered wasted and futile.

In order for the “speakers,” human beings, to create a sense of safety in the world that all they will consume will be done with great intention, with a focus on elevating all the levels of existence, is to observe the laws of the land. When we observe the laws of the Sabbatical Year we honor that which grows and it begins to feel safe. When we allow our animals free access to the food that is growing during the Sabbatical Year we create an environment for them in which they feel safe that when they will be consumed by a speaker, they will be elevated to a higher level of existence and purpose.

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