Who will Give us Meat?

Friday, 1 June, 2018 - 3:13 pm

m.jpegWho will Give us Meat?

Only three days had  passed since the Jewish people left Mount Sinai, beginning their journey toward the Land of Israel, and already there was a stunning setback. The people who experienced Divine revelation, the people who merited to see the cloud of glory rest upon the tabernacle they built for G-d, began complaining. They cried out that they wanted meat!

As the Torah[1] tells us:

But the multitude among cultivated a craving. Then even the children of Israel once again began to cry, and they said, "Who will feed us meat?

How is it possible that the people so quickly abandoned the spirituality which they had cultivated at Sinai and demanded meat?

Every story in the Torah is multi layered, and can be understood on many levels. According to the Chassidic interpretation, the people’s desire for meat was, in fact, a positive desire. Upon closer reading of the story we discover that the people complained not because they wanted meat, but because they wanted a  desire for meat (the literal translation of the verse is “they desired a desire”, meaning they desired to experience desire). After almost a year of intense spiritual experience, they departed from Sinai and  realized that they had ceased to feel any craving for materialism. The lack of desire troubled them because they felt that the purpose of life is to experience challenge. They craved the challenge of overcoming temptation. They said:

We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge, the cucumbers, the watermelons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now, our bodies are dried out, for there is nothing at all; we have nothing but manna to look at.

They wanted fish, cucumbers and watermelons, because they wanted to experience desire, to be challenged by passion, and then channel the desire. They desired  to feel the natural craving for delicious food and transform that desire to a craving for G-d. At Sinai, they did not experience passionate love to G-d, which is predicated on feeling the self and feeling how the self desires to cleave to G-d. At Sinai they experienced complete devotion and humility before G-d. The humble person does not focus on himself, instead he is devoted to and focused on someone or something outside of himself.

Moses responded with  despair. Moses turned to G-d and cried:

Where can I get meat to give all these people? For they are crying on me, saying, 'Give us meat to eat.' Alone I cannot carry this entire people for it is too hard for me.

Moses, was  the humblest of men. Moses is referred to as Moses our  teacher. According to Kabbalah wisdom is synonymous with humility, for wisdom is the ability to separate oneself from his or her own subjective emotions and point of view, and focus on the objective reality that is greater than the self. Moses, therefore told  G-d that he, Moses, was incapable of leading the people who craved a desire. He had no common language with people who wanted to experience passionate love. As the Torah continues:

Moses said, "Six hundred thousand people on foot are the people in whose midst I am, and You say, 'I will give them meat, and they will eat it for a full month'?

Moses said “these are the people in whose midst I am”. Moses said to G-d, that he, Moses had invested much time and effort in order to impart within the people a spark of Moses, a glimpse of his own selfless humility and devotion to G-d. Now that they wished to experience desire, argued Moses, they were disconnecting themselves from Moses and his unique spiritual lifestyle!  

G-d, however, did  not share Moses’s concern. He told Moses:  

"Is My power limited? Now you will see if My word comes true for you or not!"

G-d gave the Jewish people meat. He allowed them to experience desire and to transform the desire and passion for meat to a passionate love to G-d. Because, as G-ds told Moses, “is my power limited?” The message of Judaism is that G-d can be found not only in the humility of Moses, but, perhaps even more importantly, in elevating our craving and channeling our passion to bring us closer to G-d.[2]



[1] Numbers 11.

[2] Adapted from Arvi Nachal and Lekutey Torah Bihaaloscha 31:3.


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