This series is dedicated to the loving memory of Rabbi Moshe David Averick, l’illui nishmas Moshe David ben Naftali Yosef HaLevi v’Leah. May his neshama have an aliyah.

וְאַחַר כָּךְ רָמַז וְהִשְׁלִיכוּ לָהֶם מַאַכְלֵי אָדָם מֵהַשֻּׁלְחָן, וְאָמַר לוֹ ‘אַתָּה חוֹשֵׁב שֶׁאִם אוֹכְלִים מַאֲכָלִים טוֹבִים כְּבָר לֹא יְכוֹלִים לִהְיוֹת הִינְדִּיק, אֶפְשָׁר לֶאֱכֹל לְהַמְשִׁיךְ וְלִהְיוֹת הִינְדִּיק’ וְאָכְלוּ

After this, he signaled [to an attendant] and they threw human food to them from the table. And he said to him, “Do you think that if we eat decent food we are not able to be turkeys? It is possible to eat and continue to be a turkey.” And they ate.

At this point, the prince’s education takes a turn inwards. Having patched the crucial holes in the prince’s behavior which were preventing any internal absorption of wisdom, the Wise Man can now begin introducing the prince to “human food”. This represents the lessons and insights which contribute to the building and strengthening of a person’s spiritual essence.

Until now, the prince has been subsisting on the “crumbs and bones” from beneath the table. This would represent the cheap and ultimately unsatisfying philosophies of the broader secular world – mere shells of their original concept. Interestingly, these ideas are not described by Rebbe Nachman as worthless in and of themselves. Rebbe Nachman could just have easily described the prince as eating garbage or other waste matter. The symbolism of “crumbs and bones” ostensibly having fallen from the table itself, speaks to the higher source of even these plagiarized ideas and desires. As our sages teach, every untruth, in order to be believable, must have a kernel of truth.

As Torah Jews, we do not demonize material wealth, recognition, freedom of individuality or other valid ideas. On the contrary, we recognize the ultimate source of each truth and the purpose for which they should be utilized. It is only the leftover shell of these ideas, taken out of context and twisted around, which can lead to a person’s downfall. Material gain for its own sake, self-aggrandizing honor, and directionless expressions of one’s base nature are all the scrap remnants of what were, originally, lofty and holy pursuits.

The prince has been pecking away at these ideas, ultimately never feeling satiated with the diluted and corrupt ideas he has been consuming. Now, the Wise Man invites the prince to taste some of what he has been craving all this time. The foodstuffs and ideas that the Wise Man has to offer are not foreign or intimidating. On the contrary, the prince is familiar with them, since he has been eating the “leftovers” the whole time! This echoes the encouraging words of the Torah that, “It is not beyond reach. Rather, it is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it.” (Devarim 30:11-14). Presented in their original, ideal form, these concepts are now experienced as a rich and full dish, satisfying and complete.

Interestingly, it is only after Noach exits the year-long servitude of the teivah that he and his family are permitted to freely consume meat. As the Torah records, “Every creature that lives shall be yours to eat.” (Bereishis 9:3). Similarly, here, too, only once the prince has clothed himself, removing himself from the beasts, may he now consume human food.

It is noteworthy that when prince consumes human food, he removes himself from the crumbs and bones. In a way, this parallels the first portion of meat the Jewish people are commanded to eat. As codified by the Rambam, the leftovers of the Korban Pesach cannot be consumed, nor may its bones be broken (Sefer HaMitzvos, Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei 117 and 121).

This idea is expressed in Rabbi Baruch HaLevi Epstein’s commentary on the Haggadah:

“And if the Holy One, Blessed be He had not taken out our forefathers from Egypt, we, our children, and our children’s children would be slaves for Pharaoh in Egypt.”  It requires that we explain the necessity of the statement, “In each and every generation, a person is required to see themselves as if they went out from Egypt” (Shemos 13:8), for this would seem to already be implied in the opening passage of the Maggid, which states that had G-d not taken us out of Egypt we would still be enslaved there. Since we would still be slaves had G-d not taken us out of Egypt, it seems obvious that we should see ourselves as if we were personally liberated from Egypt. Therefore, these two statements must each teach a distinct message. The first statement, “Had G-d not taken us out… we would still be subjugated to Pharaoh,” speaks about recognizing our former status – our having been slaves – but not that we were freed. The second statement, “In every generation each person is required to see themselves as if we personally went out from Egypt,” expresses the recognition of each of us as being a “Yotzei Mitzraim” – one who went out of Egypt.”

Baruch SheAmar Al Haggadah Shel Pesach, “ואלו לא הוציא הקב״ה את אבותינו ממצרים”

In

In this vein, the prince similarly experiences a personal Yetziyas Mitzrayim from his shigaon, as
he takes his first steps towards acting with the royalty of his pedigree. Just like the consumption of the Korban Pesach, the prince consumes the meal in a dignified and respectable fashion, leaving the bones intact. At this point, enjoying a sumptuous dish of human food in a humane manner, he never looks back.

Rabbi Nachum Aaron Kutnowski
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