1) If the food a person eats is pure in accordance with the dietary laws and he eats it with dignity, without swallowing it hurriedly, the powers of his mind will be restored and grow and his foolishness will be subdued. But if he eats like a glutton, then he will be overwhelmed by foolishness. He will lose his intelligence and the light of the Tzaddik will be concealed from him. He will no longer be able to learn the love and fear of God from the Tzaddik (17:2,3).

2) If you are conscious that your eating habits are bad, the remedy is to give charity to the Tzaddik and to poor people who are genuninely deserving. The Tzaddik has the power to draw people who are far from God closer, even if they were sunk in idolatry. Eating greedily causes the light of God to be darkened in the world. But through this charity, God's light is spread through the world. The powers of your mind and soul will be restored and you will see the light of the Tzaddik and learn the love and fear of God (Ibid. 5).

3) When a person attains perfect mastery of the Holy Tongue and guards the Holy Covenant in purity he has the power to stir up the sparks of the letters which exist throughout the Creation. All the pleasure he has from eating and drinking and other enjoyments comes only from the sparks of the letters. His heart is illumined and his face becomes so radiant that people are moved to return to God simply by seeing it. Everyone who looks at his face sees his own reflected there as if in a mirror -- and sees, in contrast, how far sunk in darkness he is. Without a single word of preaching he will want to be released from his darkness, all through seeing this person's face (19:7-9).

4) Whenever you feel a sudden strong impulse to eat it is a sign that there are forces which hate you. This sudden appetite for food is caused by the animal part of your nature. You must break the animal impulse. Then you will be free from the clutches of those who hate you (39).

5) Gluttony leads to divisiveness and strife. The glutton is an object of contempt. Other people look down upon him: they have no wish to help him, on the contrary they put all kinds of opposition in his way. But a person who succeeds in breaking his greedy impulses will find peace. And peace will also reign in the realms above. A profound and wonderful contentment will reveal itself in the world (Ibid.).

6) When a person is sunk in the desire to eat greedily it is certain that he is far from truth. A person like this is under the force of the Divine aspect of severe justice. Greed is a sign of impoverishment to come, and will subject him to contempt and embarassment (47).

7) When a person manages to break his desire for food, God works miracles through him (Ibid.).

8) There are people who sleep away all their days. Some of them have fallen into their sleep because of their desires and wrongdoing. There are other cases of people who possess genuine goodness and beauty of character. But their fall came through food. Sometimes a person may eat food which was not sufficiently purified to be fit for human consumption. Then his mind falls into a `sleep'. When a person eats in holiness and purity, his face, and the inner `face' -- that is his soul -- becomes radiant through his eating. But when he eats without holiness the food damages his heart, and the result is that he loses that inner face and he falls into a `sleep'. He may still think that he is serving God, occupied as he is with Torah and prayer. But he is `asleep', and all his devotions remain below in the lower worlds. God has no pleasure from them. It is vital to arouse him from his sleep. But the only way it can be done is if he stirs himself a little first. The tales and stories told by the Tzaddikim have the power to rouse those who are asleep so that their days will not be wasted. It is a great thing to be privileged to find a Tzaddik like this who can stir you from your sleep. Otherwise you could sleep away all your days, God forbid (60:6).

9) The food, physical and spiritual, of the Jew must first undergo purification until not a trace of the forces of the Sitra Achra, the Other Side, remains. Food which still contains a trace of them can cause one to sin. All the impulses and desires which people experience are aspects of the kelipot, the `husks' which surround the spiritual fruit. The husks are characterized by excess and superfluousness. The body can survive without these gratifications. When desires and impulses press in on a person, this is the battle of the kelipot against holiness. The principal desires are for food and drink. All the other desires are derived from them. When a person is in their grip, they send his faculty of speech into exile. As it says in the Psalms: `My throat is dry' (69:4). He finds himself unable to say a single word before God. But by fasting he can overcome the power of these desires. Then he will be able to speak. Through this he will be able to draw those who are far from God closer. As more people come to acknowledge God, His glory is revealed over the whole Creation, and our faith in God becomes complete. When a person who is master of his desires eats, it is precious indeed because of the unification brought about between the Holy One, blessed-be-He and the Shechinah face to face (62:1,2,5).

10) When a person eats greedily it is a stain, as it were, on the honor which is due to God's holiness. The more disrespect that is shown to God, the more the arrogant start to assert themselves. The nations of the world abrogate to themselves all the glory that is due to God. They flaunt themselves and boast, and receive the world's respect and deference for it. God hides His face from the world and the Divine aspect of severe justice prevails. But when we break the desire for food, God shows favor to the world. The aspect of severity is withdrawn. The honor due to God's holiness is restored. The arrogant are humbled and lose their power and influence (67:2,3).

11) Never eat more than you need. If you eat unnecessarily it can be very harmful. Even the food which the body needs is then joined with the extra food and causes great damage (257).

12) A person who eats excessively is like an animal. To be human is to eat only what is necessary. Excessive eating brings on fever. Another cause of fever can be if a person eats food which is insufficiently pure for human consumption (263).

13) Greed for food is one of the three lusts which destroy the heart's capacity for awe and reverence for God. The other two are the desire for wealth and the sexual appetite. Each of the three festivals of the year has its own spiritual influence which counters one of these desires. Pesach counters the desire for wealth; Shavuot the sexual impulse. The greedy desire for food is broken through the influence of Succot. Celebrating Succot fittingly will bring an illumination which can help one to control one's appetite for food (II, 1:4,5).

14) The food one eats can affect one's dreams and even cause one to have a `dream sent by a demon' (Berakhot 55b). This can bring about a wasteful emission. The tikkun for this is to be always happy (5:10).

15) One of the highest of all spiritual experiences is the revelation of Desire which comes at the time of eating. But before one can attain this level one must first find a wise sage for a teacher, one who possesses the wisdom and understanding of how to awaken the radiant light of the Jewish people. If a person finds such a sage and is firm and disciplined in his own spiritual path, then he will be able to experience this revelation of holy Desire when he eats. He will feel an overpowering yearning and longing for the Holy One, blessed-be-He. This Desire is boundless, beyond all understanding. He scarcely knows what it is he desires. It is pure Desire -- the yearning of the soul for God (7:10).

16) The bodily sustenance we take in can harm the spiritual sustenance of the soul. Eating and drinking can harm our capacity to experience the awe of God. Awe is the `sweet savor' which sustains the soul. The Tzaddik understands how to guide Israel. By learning from him and following his guidance, we give strength to the spiritual and counter the effects of our physical sustenance (Ibid.).

17) The act of eating plays a vital part in refining and purifying the Creation. The food we eat is refined and elevated when it is transformed into the beautiful words that we speak: the blessings we make over the food itself, the prayers we offer, our words of Torah, and all the other devotions we are enabled to perform by the nourishment we derive from the food. One should keep this in mind as one eats. Then one's food becomes `incense' as it were. One will find true joy and make a crown of lovingkindness and mercy for the King of Peace, as it is written: `Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion and gaze upon King Solomon' -- Shlomo, he to whom peace, Shalom, belongs -- `even upon the crown wherewith his mother hath crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart' (Song of Songs 3:11) (16).

18) Every Jew, even the greatest Tzaddik, necessarily undergoes a certain measure of pain and suffering every day. The deeper his understanding and attachment to God, the greater the pain he must endure. But eating in holiness and with the fear of Heaven can help to sweeten this pain somewhat and prevent it from becoming overpowering (77).

19) One who eats in holiness and with the fear of Heaven is worthy of the status of Adam, Man, the pinnacle of Creation. His mouth is the mouth of Adam. The Shechinah herself speaks from his lips. But when a person eats without holiness, God forbid, his mouth is the mouth of a mere animal (Ibid).

20) The time when we are eating is especially suited to working on ourselves to develop the fear of Heaven. We should be careful to take advantage of the moment and cultivate this fear in our hearts (Ibid.).

21) Never eat a fruit before it has become fully ripe on the tree. Unripe fruit can be very harmful. It can damage the very soul. So long as the fruit still needs to grow it has the power to draw to itself the life-force it requires. If somebody eats it before it is ripe it will suck the vitality it requires from him. By making the blessing over fruit with intense concentration and with a sense of true fear of Heaven you can avoid the dangers of unripe fruit. In fact, you should be careful with all the blessings over food, drink, spices and so on, but especially with the blessings over fruit. Many lost objects are actually present in the fruit of the tree. Deep mysteries (such as the transmigration of souls) are involved here. These lost objects need to be refined and elevated. Cooking unripe fruit in order to make it fit for eating will not help if the fruit did not ripen on the tree. However if unripe fruit is left for a time after it is picked until it ripens by itself, it does help and the fruit may be eaten (88).

22) Be careful not to gulp your food down hurriedly like a glutton. It was Esau who said, `Let me swallow some of this red pottage' (Genesis 25:30). Get into the habit of eating at a moderate pace, calmly and with the same table manners you would show if an important guest were present. You should always eat like this, even when you are eating alone. Happy is the one who achieves this! (Chayey Moharan, Avodat Hashem, 69).

Online English translation of Likutey Etzot
A compendium of Rabbi Nachman's practical teachings on spiritual growth and devotion.
© AZAMRA INSTITUTE 5766 / 2006