A teaching of Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezeritch, from Sefer Orach Lachaim, Parshat Behukotai.
I heard from the great rabbi, the holy spark, Dov Ber, on the verse, “And you will eat the flesh of your sons and daughters,” that this is a blessing (1). Eating is the most basic pleasure, and all pleasures are called by it. So you will eat means “you will take pleasure” — in the basar — not the “flesh,” but the “joyful tidings,” the besorot tovot that your sons and daughters bring you. And the words of the wise are gracious (2).
1) Leviticus 26:29; The verse is part of the section called Tochecha or “Verses of Rebuke,” which is a grisly description of just what will happen if the Jews don’t keep their covenant with God. This verse literally means, then, that the people will be so reduced to savagery that they will eat their own children. There is an ancient tradition, though, that in the Messianic Age all the curses will be turned into blessings: for example, since basar, the word for “flesh,” also means “meat,” one such transformation is that, instead of each generation growing farther away from Torah, each generation will grow closer, and so instead of observant parents not being able to eat in their children’s non-kosher kitchens, non-observant parents will be able to eat in their children’s kosher kitchens. So, it’s not so strange that the Maggid uses this verse in the way he does. 2) Ecclesiastes 10:12; This is a standard addition t0 a master’s teaching, often included at the end of a multisection teaching to show that it has ended. I love that the person passing this teaching on wanted to say it here.
The Maggid is one of the most cerebral and otherworldly of the Hasidic mystics, and frequently taught his disciples to try to move beyond human concerns. (One teaching of his states that a man should see his wife in the same way as he sees his tefillin — as only a vessel for God.) So I’m very glad and grateful that such a simple and touching teaching of his has come down to us, to round out the Maggid as a man. Then again, maybe such a teaching as this should come as no surprise — the Maggid often breaks from the most obscure mystical formulations to say “It’s like a father and his child…” Our prayers become baby talk before the ecstatic new parent, our theological speculations become a grammar school recital full of mistakes that the parents delight in, and all of creation becomes God’s kneeling down beside us to tell us, in the simplest words, Who God is.