Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Shirayim: Divine Leftovers, Soul Food

Sherayim: (“Leftovers”). Food, usually bread, which has been blessed and set aside by a righteous man is a spiritual treasure and much sought after.

The significance of sherayim is derived from several sources. It is consciously understood to be a leftover, based on Deut. 28:5, where the word mishartekha ("your kneading bowl" - "blessed be...your kneading bowl") is interpreted to mean "your remainder."

It is also modelled on the old custom of the peyah, the corner of a field left unharvested and intended for the needy (Lev. 19; B.T. Ervuvin 53b; Orah Chayyim 170:3). The spiritual potential of consuming such remainders is illustrated in this Talmudic maaseh:

After the meal of the day to celebrate the New Month, R. Yohanan would go to the synagogue in the morning and would collect the crumbs and eat them, saying "May I spend my life in the next world together with those who ate here last evening." (J.M.K. 2:3. Also see Sanh. 92a).

The only component missing in the pre-Hasidic tradition is the special role of the Rebbe. This is elaborated from another Talmudic passage which talks of a family experiencing blessing through food distributed by the head of the household (Berakhot 51b). Among the Hasidim it is eaten in the belief that their tzadik’s touch is a "unification" of divine energies and he has released its holy potential (birur ha-nitzotzim). As mentioned in earlier entries, there is a belief that fit food actually contains the sparks of transmigrating souls. Consuming it allows them to move on and blesses the one who ate:

The point of eating and drinking is to locate the sparks, and to locate and restore the migratory souls that are reincarnated in everything that requires tikkun.

Why did God make man feel hunger and thirst?...for this reason it is said "Hungry and thirsty, their souls fainted in them" (Ps. 107:5)...so that he could raise the sparks of the divine, those souls who are 'fainted' in the food. (Taamei ha-Minhagim, pt. 2:3 and Sefer ha-BeSHT 2:24, as translated in Werthheim, A., "Traditions and Customs in Hasidism," p. 386).

Despite this, however, some will keep it as a relic or a segullah charm (inspired by Ex. 23:25). Whatever its fate, it is not unusual to see a scramble by the nearest Hasidim to gain a small bit of these remnants.

Zal G'mor: To learn more, consult the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism:


Post a Comment

<< Home