Jewish Soul Journey

THE MANNA — HEAVEN’S NOURISHMENT FOR THE SOUL

         

                “He who recites
the chapter of the (Manna) ‘Heavenly bread’, written in Torah section (Parshas
Beshalach)  (16: 4-36) every day is
assured that he will not lack food” Talmud (Gem. Yerushalmi). The commentator (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 desert (Dor
Hamidbar), who only received their nourishment from the “heavenly bread,”
entered the land (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
G-d’s (Hashem’s) miraculous governance of the world –  a Divine providence (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 desert (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
(faith) emunah and trust (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.

          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. The amount of time spent in
excessive preparation is time lost from its potential supernal enjoyment.

             Now
perhaps we can understand why Chazal teach us  that those who recite the section (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.

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