Jewish Soul Journey

THE MANNA – HEAVENLY NOURISHMENT FOR THE SOUL

 

“He who recites the chapter of the (Manna) ‘Heavenly bread’, written in Parshas Beshalach  (16: 4-36) every day is assured that he will not lack food” (Gem. Yerushalmi). The Levush explains that this chapter teaches that G-d provides each day’s substance – just as He provided the manna each day in the wilderness.

Would that we could see with the pure eyes of a child for whom the world is filled by Hashem with wonder and delight. Imagine the reaction of the younger members of the generation of the Dor Hamidbar, who only received their nourishment from the “heavenly bread,” entered Eretz Yisrael and saw agricultural produce growing from the ground, they no doubt considered it a supernatural event.  We, on the other hand, see our food as common place taking it for granted, but consider the life support system that provided food, water, and protection to 3,000,000 men, women and children along with their herds and flocks in the desert for forty years that was truly an open miracle.  Yet, both systems are part of Hashem’s miraculous governance of the world –  a hashgacha that can be perceived by us as miraculous if we but choose to take the opportunity to do so.

The Mann was a wondrous source of nourishment. The sustenance provided to us in the midbar did not require the expenditure of physical effort, nor were needed any of the labor intensive tasks ordinarily associated with the growth and production of food and its preparation.  We might, therefore, be tempted to think that the generation of the midbar was not only freed from the obligation of earning a living but absolved of all of the challenges related to this endeavor.  However, such is not the case.

The unique challenge of the Dor Hamidbar lay in the fact that they had absolutely no physical control over their food, water or protection. Thus they were simultaneously confronted with the test of feeling vulnerable to the elements while at the same time experiencing complete dependence upon the benevolence of the Creator.

In fact every single necessity upon which their physical well being depended was not in their “hands”.  They had no fertile land, no rivers teaming with life, no reservoirs filled with water or towering forests to provide timber and game.  They had no homes and no sense of permanency. Although a tremendous surplus of manna fell each day, each person was allowed to collect only what he or she needed for that day alone. With the exception of the extra portion that was allotted for Shabbos, the manna was not permitted to remain for even one extra day for if additional manna was gathered, it would immediately spoil.  Thus they were never able to establish any “physical security” or feeling of independence.

Though it would seem that they were able to obtain  manna without effort or exertion, that is far from the truth. The efforts that the Dor Hamidbar had to make in order to “earn” their food, was a constant “exercise”  in emunah and bitachon at the highest level, as the Sages inform us: “Who is strong? One who surrenders his inclination to the will of Hashem.”

The reward for these efforts was a “spiritual food” that nourished the body by feeding the soul. Like all things spiritual it had no physical limitations or boundaries and was not the subject of the natural laws of cause and effect.  Each person received the same size portion regardless of size or weight and yet each person felt satiated .The message to be found within this phenomenon is very profound in that at the level of pure soul we are all equal and therefore each individual received the same sized portion.  However, there were certain differences that each person experienced dependant on their spiritual level. If the Mann was left close or far away, and the need of preparation and flavor were based on the level of one’s righteousness.

The more virtuous found their portions ready to eat at the entrance of their tent, while the less upright had to search further a field and then prepare it according to their needs. These distinctions served as a daily “bench mark” of one’s spiritual level and thereby served as an incentive to constantly improve.

The whole creation exists within a five dimensional continuum, consisting of the three dimensions of place together with time and soul.  Using these concepts of place, time and soul, we can analyze the distance, placement and preparation of the manna connecting them to specific objectives of spiritual achievement.

 

The three dimensions of place and their directions, North–South, East-West and above-below are measured in terms of distance or closeness to a given point.  The absolute and constant reference point for place is reflected through Hashem’s Holy Name, HaMakom which means The Place. This conveys the idea that Hashem is that  eternal and unchanging reference point. Distance or closeness to Hashem is reflected in our ability to see Him as everywhere. With this in mind, perhaps we can say that the placement of the portion of the manna at a specified distance from the recipient reflected that individual’s level of awareness of Hashem’s governance, the hashgacha pratis within that person’s life.          The degree of preparedness of the manna can be understood as reflecting the dimension of time.   Moving  along the place-time-soul continuum from the most concrete of concepts—place–  to the most ephemeral—soul– time lies somewhere in between.  Every effort we make can be measured in terms of the time needed for its completion.  Our progress from birth throughout life is measured by age, which is simply another way of  expressing the effect of time.  Though we may see time as a natural phenomena whose passage is measured by the ticks of a clock, time, like distance and soul has its G-dly basis, time is and can be experienced as a function of  and subject to Hashem’s governance. Thus, the amount of time allotted to a person on this earth can be measured in terms of the number of words he or she has spoken. Needless to say words of Torah and words said in connection with the doing of mitzvoth are not included in this countdown.

The amount of time spent in excessive preparation is time lost from its potential supernal enjoyment. Those people who measure time by the inexorable ticking of  the clock will find that  their preparations will take a  “natural” course; while the person who recognizes Hashem’s control  of time can merit “super natural” intervention being able to use this Divine gift to “capture” moments otherwise lost thereby revealing the eternality within each second. We are ready on time for Shabbos, whether the Friday is long or short. All our efforts in preparation for Shabbos, yomin  tovim and other mitzvoth are  synchronized with the Creator’s heavenly clock and thus enjoy an “inspired efficiency”.

Last but not least, the amount of spicing necessary for the mann may well reflect our varying needs for excitement, stimulation and pleasure in this world. For those who have accustomed  their “diet”
to appreciate nuanced “spiritual flavors” of the perfect blend of ahavah and yirah, all of ones activities directed toward the service of Hashem  will  produce supernal joy and pleasure, being able to favorably savor even challenging experiences; while those still far from becoming  “connoisseurs” in “spiritual delights” may find themselves still engaged in a sub-optimal search for “artificial flavors”.

Now perhaps we can understand why Chazal teach us  that those who recite the Perek of the Mann every day are  assured that they will not lack food, because recitation of this chapter is our acknowledgement,  in Divine hashgacha, that it is the Creator who is the true provider for everything in its right place and proper time.