A joyous farbrengen was held one evening at the humble home of Rabbi Shmuel Betzalel Sheftel (The 'Rashbatz'). For hours the group of Chassidim sat, toasting L'chayim's, singing, talking, rebuking and inspiring one another. As the clock marked the passing of the night, the meager platters of 'Farbeisen' (food with which to follow up the L'chayim vodka) ran out, so Rabbi Shmuel Betzalel instructed that the lamb being raised in his yard be slaughtered. A hot stew was prepared to fuel the Farbeisen for many an hour to come.
The next morning Rabbi Shmuel Betzalel's wife came in from the yard with the distressing news that the lamb – which constituted the whole of the 'family ranch' – had disappeared! Said Rabbi Shmuel Betzalel: "No, no, the lamb has not disappeared. The lamb is very much here, it has only changed its sound. Yesterday it said meh-eh-eh. . ., today it is saying Echo-o-d. . ., O-o-one. . . " (as in G-d is one).
“ Man does not live by bread alone, but by all that emanates from the mouth of G-d does man live.” (Deuteronomy 8:3,10.)
Chassidic philosophy elaborates upon the puzzlement of human nutrition. Why, the question is asked, does man derive his vitality from animals, plants, and minerals? How is it that the highest life form in the physical world can be sustained by these lowlier existences? The Chassidic masters explain that the vital potential contained in the so-called “lower” tiers of creation is in fact loftier than man’s own vital force.
At the heart of every being is a “spark of G-dliness” which gives it existence and imbues it with its particular qualities. The “lower” a thing is the higher its spiritual core. In the words of Kabbalah: When a wall collapses, the uppermost stones fall the farthest. Similarly, in the “collapse” of the primordial world of Tohu, the loftiest sparks of the divine creative force fell farthest from their source and were incarnated within the most mundane creations.
To our eyes, man is the most spiritual of earthly creatures, the animal exhibits a more sophisticated vitality than the plant, and the mineral shows no outward signs of life at all. In essence however, the sublimity of the spark of divine life in an object is in converse relation to its manifest spiritual status. Thus the mineral nourishes the vegetable, both nourish the animal, and all three sustain human life.
However, only man has the capacity to direct the vital energy in himself toward a G-dly end. For man alone has been granted the gift of free choice. The animal, vegetable, or mineral cannot sin; their conformity with the divine will is instinctual and inevitable, and thus devoid of moral significance. Only man can elect to do good – only man can, by the force of his deeds, transcend the creature state to achieve intimacy with the divine.
So, when man consumes the resources of the physical world, a bilateral transformation takes place. The slice of bread, piece of meat or glass of water confer their superior vitality to the person, imparting to him a spiritual potential that he does not himself possess. At the same time, if the person utilizes this vitality to perform a divine deed, he elevates the plant, animal, or mineral he has consumed, releasing its vital soul from its mundane encasement reuniting it with its divine source.
A person’s spiritual mission is then to introduce holiness and spirituality into all parts of the world subject to his influence. He must reveal the G-dly essence in all things – animal, vegetable and mineral
Should man neglect his responsibility, he negates not just his own purpose and raison d’être but that of all lower orders of creation brought into existence to serve him. Conversely, when he realizes his obligation under heaven – when he lives-up to his G-dly potential, not only does his purpose come into fruition but the entire universe does as well.
“Walking in the street one must think words of Torah,” says the Lubavitcher Rebbe. “Whether to actually pronounce the words depends on the place, if one is permitted according to Torah law to utter words of Torah there. But when someone goes about not occupied with Torah words, then the stone he treads on exclaims: "Bulach! ('clod', in Russian) How dare you trample me! How are you any higher than I am?" (Hayom Yom, 7 Adar II).