Everyone's toil is for their mouth, yet their appetite is never satisfied. Ecclesiastes 6:7
In Ecclesiastes we read, "Everyone's toil is for their mouth, yet their appetite is never satisfied." On the surface, this verse teaches us that no matter how much we attain in the material realm, it will never be enough. Indeed, the Jewish sages taught that "nobody leaves this world with even half of his desires met."
The human appetite is like a bottomless pit. While this lesson is true and instructive, the sages teach that there is another way to read this verse one which leaves us with instructions on how to attain real satisfaction in life.
The sages teach that while the first part of the verse refers to the material realm, the latter half refers to our spiritual selves. While people attempt to find satisfaction through feeding the physical self, they are never satisfied because they neglect the soul.
A joke is told about a man who walks into a doctor's office with a cucumber in his nose, a carrot in one ear, and a banana in the other ear. The patient complains to the doctor that he just isn't feeling right. "Of course you aren't," replies the doctor. "You aren't eating properly!"
The point of the joke is that if we don't feed ourselves properly, we won't reap the benefits of the nourishment. This is true on the physical level, as well as in the spiritual realm. Unfortunately, I think there are many people walking around today with undernourished souls and emaciated spirits. This is because instead of giving themselves proper soul-food, they try to feed their spirit with physical substances, which the soul neither desires nor needs.
The sages illustrate this idea with the following analogy: Imagine that a commoner marries a princess. He spends all of his money in the market trying to buy her gifts that will make her happy. The problem is that nothing that he buys the princess satisfies her. After all, she is a princess who is used to the finer things in life. Only items of a higher caliber than the stuff of common folk could satisfy a princess.
In the same way, our souls are like that princess. The soul comes directly from our heavenly King and is accustomed to finer stuff than the lowly material possessions on earth. Unless we feed our souls with substance of a higher level, we will always remain unsatisfied.
The finer things that satisfy the soul aren't things at all. They are prayer and communion with God. They are acts of kindness done with love. They are meditating on God's Word and letting the messages sink in. Today, let us all pamper our soul with the nutrition it craves and the spiritual food it needs.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President