Weekly Manna – Parashat Toldot

“But the children struggled in her womb…..” Bereishis 25:22

The battle was between Ya’akov and Esav, who are the physical representations of good and evil.  The battle continues ladies, and we are all participants!

If we are to have any hope of victory, we must recognize that there is a battle raging.  Without this understanding, we have zero chance of victory.  And it is also important to understand that the enemy never rests!  Therefore we must remain constantly on guard and always be ready for battle.  We cannot afford to let our guard down!

So, you might be asking, what is this battle?  And who is the enemy?  We are our own worst enemy and the battle is within us.  It is the battle of our inclinations.

“You shall love Hashem your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”  D’varim 6:5

How do we serve G-d with our all?  We must learn to serve Him with both of our inclinations, the “good” and the “bad”.

Everything has two sides.  On the surface the ego may appear to be a negative thing, but a person without proper self-esteem (lacking an ego) will find it difficult to muster the energy or desire to make any efforts, in physical or spiritual matters.  Without an ego we have no desire for achievement.  The ego is only negative when we allow it too much freedom.  If our ego tells us we are superior to others, or if it is constantly demanding recognition from others, in need of appreciation, applause and complements, then we need to rein it in.  But when we have proper self-awareness and self-worth, our ego is what helps us to appreciate and recognize our strengths and talents.  Every single one of us are capable of accomplishing amazing things!   But only if we realize there is a battle raging, and we stay alert to the attacks of the enemy.

Just like the human body, our evil inclination needs nourishment.  Nourishment comes in the form of energy.  Everything contains energy – positive or negative.  Negative energy feeds the evil inclination within us.  And the more we feed it, the hungrier it gets.  Don’t let your evil inclination become a glutton!

“The belly of the wicked always feels empty.”  Mishlei 13:25

If your evil inclination has already become a glutton, it is time to take it to fat camp.   Time for a strict diet!

“Craving for food is a sign that one has enemies.  By breaking one’s cravings for food one can gain peace with one’s enemies.”   Rebbe Nachman  – Likutey Moharan (hereafter referred to as L.M.) I, 39

A calorie is a unit of energy.  We tend to associate calories with food, but they apply to anything containing energy.  In the world we live in, people are constantly counting and cutting food calories.  Look at any label in the supermarket and somewhere it will list the calories per serving.

1 piece of cherry cheesecake contains enough energy to light a 60 watt lightbulb for about 1 ½ hours.

If you eat 217 Big Mac’s you will have consumed enough energy to drive a car a distance of over 80 miles.

We need energy to survive.  It takes energy to breathe, to move, to pump blood through our bodies, etc., and the needed energy comes from the food we consume.  Our bodies then “burn” the calories through a metabolic process.

How many calories do we need for our cells to function properly?  The number is different for every person.  But if you take in more calories than you use, it will be stored as fat.  And excess fat causes severe health problems.  In “Anatomy of the Soul”, Rebbe Nachman teaches that G-d fashioned everything in creation with two potentially opposing or potentially complementary energies depending on man’s use of them.  The body has the potential to either reveal the soul and radiate it holiness, or to conceal and smother the soul.

The world is full paradoxes.  They are built into the system G-d created:

  • Good and evil
  • Heaven and earth
  • Male and female
  • Revelation and concealment
  • This world and the World to Come
  • Mercy and justice
  • Sun and moon
  • Daytime and nighttime
  • Body and soul

And yet, these paradoxes only exist from the point of view of the system G-d created. From our point of view.

“The intention (of the Talmud) is that the universe was created according to the principle of opposites. The unity of the Blessed Name, however is utterly unique.”  Maharal of Prague (Derekh Chaim, page 14b)


“An honorable man can be discerned by the way he uses his mouth.” – Rebbe Nachman

Our own internal organs can enslave us.  When we eat out of lust, we eat like animals.  Yet, when we eat with the intention of nourishing the body so that we can develop spiritually, we elevate even the mundane act of eating.

“Gluttony brings a person to a loss of honor and favor.” (L.M. I 67:2)

Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom #143:

“There are two ways in which one can eat like an animal.  Some eat human food but with an animal’s appetite.  Others eat like humans but their food is not fit for human consumption.  For there are sparks of holiness contained within the food we eat and if these sparks are not properly rectified, both through observance of the mitzvot related to food and through eating with all the proper attitudes, that food is fit only for a beast, not for humans.  Eating “like an animal” in either of these two ways can result in illness.”

“Eating can cause confusion.  Immediately after eating, one often feels confused, because the forces of the kelipot (the other side) also receive their nourishment from the food one eats.”  (L.M. I, 17:3)

“The mind develops through the nourishment it receives. When one eats unnecessarily, the superfluous food mars one’s sense of judgment.  If the body is free of excesses, one is able to experience a clear understanding of how to direct one’s life.”  (L.M. I, 61:1)

The mind is powerfully affected by the food we eat.  Rebbe Nachman also teaches that one’s personality traits are dependent upon his diet (Alep-Bet Book, Da’at A:4).  Food affects our mind through the energy it receives.  This is true both physically and spiritually.  Healthy food will help develop the mind.   Unhealthy food will have the opposite effect.  This is not just a matter of kosher vs. non-kosher, or nutritious vs. “junk” food, but applies equally to eating with a proper or improper attitude.

“One’s lust for food testifies to one’s distance from truth [i.e. godliness] and because of a person’s lust for food, G-d, as it were, hides His face from him.” (L.M. I, 47).

“I will hide my face, and he will be devoured….” D’varim 31:17;

This, Rebbe Nachman explains, means that our “devouring” causes G-d to hide His face.  And this explains why, when troubles come upon the Jewish nation, it is customary to fast.  Fasting indicates a breaking with one’s desire for food, thereby reversing the process and causing G-dliness to be revealed.

When we eat improper food, we are drawn toward material pursuits, even if our conscious desire is to find G-d.  Negative eating patterns have a consciousness-lowering effect that subsequently prevents one from growing spiritually.

Overeating (consuming excess energy) causes emptiness.  We might feel full, but we are never satisfied!  There is no end to the problems that are caused by gluttony.  Medical, financial, spiritual and emotional.  A person who overeats must go on a diet in order to regain control of his habits, his health and his life.  Likewise, if we have lost control of our evil inclination, we must put it on a diet and regain control.  We can only then hope to improve our spiritual, physical and emotional health.

We need strength to serve G-d!  But how often do we stop to contemplate the effect of the food we are consuming on our spiritual progress?  We need to make proper decisions about what food we eat, and in what quantities.  And we need to understand the powerful influence eating has upon us.

I would challenge you know what you are consuming.  If you don’t understand the importance of making kosher, non-GMO, and organic choices, I pray you will do some research and/or seek help.  We don’t have to become nutritionists, but with a little effort we can make better choices and live healthier lives.   We are here to complete a mission for G-d.  If we are constantly submitting requests for “sick days”, it is only a matter of time before our “Boss” is going to replace us.   We must eat the proper food with the proper intentions, so that we can maintain our health and energy.  We are here on planet earth to serve Hashem.  We are not here to enjoy giant portions of whatever food our flesh desires.  If we spend more time each day planning, shopping for, prepping, cooking and consuming food (even if it is healthy, kosher food), than we do consuming the Word of G-d, then we need to make some changes!

“There is nourishment for the body “(food) and nourishment for the soul (e.g., the sense of smell, prayer, the awe of G-d).  Partaking of food for the body weakens the soul.  How, then, are we permitted to eat?  We can nourish the soul by focusing on the spiritual.  The more spiritual our motivation when we eat, the more spiritually nourishing our food becomes.”  (Reb Noson, Likutey Halakhot, Ma’akhalei Akum 2:1).

“Anyone who is thirsty, come and drink.  If you are penniless, just come and eat.  Come; it is all free.  Come, drink wine and milk; it is all on the house – free.  Why waste your money on that junk food?  Why spend money stupidly?  Listen to me carefully and eat nutritious food.  Let your body grow with lots of healthy food.” (Yeshayahu 55:1-2 – taken from The Book of Haftarot – an easy-to-read translation with commentary by Sol Scharfstein.)

Be blessed, be healthy and be a blessing,



About the author
Rhonda has traveled from Utah to Toronto in what seemed to be a season of wanderlusting, which ended up being a relocation in the making. Using her life experiences, Rhonda teaches from the heart and is a perfect example of what it means to follow your heart and dedicate yourself to your spiritual community. Join Rhonda every week as she gives us our Weekly Manna on the Torah Portion for Women.

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