If a man takes a vow to Hashem…to prohibit something to himself, he shall not desecrate his word. He shall do according to all that comes from his mouth.
The world and everything in it came into existence through the word of Hashem. Moreover, the existence of anything, without exception, is predicated on that word’s constant sustaining of it. At the core of everything must reside a spiritual core that bears G-d’s word as hidden sparks.
In our broken world, these sparks also exist in a broken state. They come to us garbed in kelipos/shells of physicality that mask their presence. But it is crucial to realize that these sparks are behind our interactions with the material world.
When we are pleased by the taste of food, we must realize that the real source of the pleasure is these sparks/nitzotzos of kedushah. When the body digests food, it processes what it can use, and expels the unusable. This mirrors exactly what is happening on a spiritual plane: we make use of the nitzotzos, and reject the kelipos.
If we focus properly on what we are doing, and fully believe that it is the nitzotzos that sustain us, rather than the tissue in which they are garbed, we effectively return the nitzotzos to their holy place of origin. This provides us with a simple statement of the purpose of life: the gathering of nitzotzos and returning them to where they belong.
Food is simply an example. Nitzotzos are hiding everywhere. They are encountered in all the pleasures of this world, and in all of a person’s interactions with his surroundings, including the practice of making a living. Furthermore, the nitzotzos that he comes upon are determined by his shoresh neshamah. No one else can substitute for him; it is part of his individual life’s mission to elevate those nitzotzos. Divine Providence will guide him through the vicissitudes of life to run into the nitzotzos that he is charged to elevate.
Navigating the material world is no less an avodah than the performance of identifiable mitzvos. A Jew must believe that everything he does – without any exception – is part of avodas Hashem. How he acts is always governed by Torah.
Further, we recognize that not everyone acts with this kind of intention of elevating the ordinary to its Heavenly source. Not everyone keeps this in mind when he davens or learns. Yet we recognize that davening and learning without this perfect intention is still significant! It is still davening and learning! Similarly, when a person engages the world without this focus on the bits of ruchniyus around him, it is still a form of avodah. Minimally, he makes berachos before and after he eats, thus using the food to coronate the King. This is also a form of elevating the food. (It should be seen as an entry point to this avodah. A person must not be complacent with it, but always seek to climb to higher levels.)
We now have a different perspective on our pasuk. “If a man takes a vow…to prohibit something to himself (lit., to his nefesh),” i.e. if he prohibits himself from using something of this world, whose inner spiritual core is related to his individual nefesh, he denies himself the opportunity of elevating it. “He shall not desecrate his word:” He must see to it that he has lost the opportunity only temporarily. He must not allow His Word – the nitzotz emanating from the dvar Hashem – to remain desecrated by being trapped in kelipos. Rather, “he shall do according to all that comes from his mouth:” he shall ensure that the nitzotzos of kedushah that came from Hashem’s dibbur are properly attended to and elevated.
- Based on Meor Einayim by R. Menachem Nochum zt”l of Chernobyl ↑