I love how Devarim (Deuteronomy) 8:3 is quoted to sanction the indulgence of just about anything: sports, philosophy, even drugs. How can a 40 year old history teacher justify dropping $500 on a box of cigars (actually I think that might be cheap)? Because “man cannot live on bread alone!” Man can’t live on cigars either. Actually at this point in time a decision to pull out a stogie is about the same as actively deciding to socially isolate yourself for about a half hour. Everyone knows pipes smell much nicer. This is irrelevant though. Even more socially acceptable vices that would contradict the letter and/or the spirit of the rest of the book from which this quote was taken have been made permissible and even virtuous by taking this verse completely out of context.
The verse reads like this:
“G-d afflicted you and burdened you, and gave you the man (manna) that you didn’t know and that your forefathers didn’t know in order to inform you that Man does not live by bread alone, but rather Man lives by the word of G-d.”
Let’s ignore if this sounds mean or not. Basically what G-d did was take away the Jews’ base physical sustenance of meat and bread and replaced it with spiritual bread from heaven, that while it provided substance it didn’t provide enjoyment. The purpose of this exercise was to teach the Jews that there is something above and beyond this world, a non-physical reality that a person is really supposed to live by and live for.
What should excite people more: spirituality or chocolate cake? Spirituality. What actually does? Chocolate cake. Guilty as charged. This is why G-d had to take chocolate cake out of the Jews’ lives for the 40 years in the desert in order for them to be able to experience spirituality without the pull of physicality from the other side. Regardless if the Jews at the time liked this, it was actually quite successful. When the Jews entered Israel and were sent to destroy a city but not take any of the treasures, only one person violated the order. Clearly, the Jews had reached a very high level detached from base physicality.
Man cannot live by bread alone, but he can do just fine without beer. Indulgences are luxuries not necessities. That is not to say you shouldn’t enjoy luxuries. You just need to know the difference between want you want and what you need. Life is ultimately easier, and cheaper, if you understand this verse the way it was meant to be understood.