Weekly Share

Food For the Soul

Amalak

One of the most traumatic events in early Jewish history was the ambush by Amalek on the newly liberated people, fresh out of Egypt. Amalak was the first nation that dared attack the Jews after G-d miraculously redeemed them, and in their vulnerable state, this attack was particularly devastating. In the Parsha Ki Teitzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19) we find a curious mitzvah: Remember to forget Amalek. You shall remember what Amalek did to you on the way, when you went out of Egypt . . . You shall obliterate the remembrance of Amalek from beneath the heavens. Do not forget! How do we keep such opposite thoughts in mind at the same time?

When the Jews asked this of Moses, he answered, “The glass of spiced wine is not to be compared to the glass of vinegar! One ‘Remember’ is in order to observe and to sanctify the Sabbath day, and the other ‘Remember’ is in order to destroy.” Vinegar on its own is excessively sour and not fit to drink. Mixed with other foods, however, it adds flavoring, and even has health benefits. What this means in spiritual terms is that even an experience as sour as our encounter with Amalek has a source in holiness. In fact, the very existence of an entity that “knows its Creator and intentionally rebels against Him” is a testimony to G-d’s omnipotence. G-d created a world with dueling, conflicting powers to give us the opportunity to vanquish the evil and channel its energy to good.

Adapted from an article by Chaya Shuchat


Shabbat Shalom

Elul Observances

As the last month of the Jewish year, Elul is traditionally a time of introspection and stocktaking — a time to review one’s deeds and spiritual progress over the past year and prepare for the upcoming “Days of Awe” of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.

As the month of Divine Mercy and Forgiveness it is a most opportune time for teshuvah (“return” to G-d), charity (before and after Shabbat), prayer and increased Ahavat Yisrael (love for a fellow Jew) in the quest for self-improvement and coming closer to G-d. Chassidic master Rabbi Schneur Zalmanof Liadi likens the month of Elul to a time when “the king is in the field” and, in contrast to when he is in the royal palace, “everyone who so desires is permitted to meet him, and he receives them all with a cheerful countenance and shows a smiling face to them all.”

For specific Elul customs visit Chabad.org.


Mind Over Matter

Destiny or DIY?

One may ask, is it not an expression of faith to leave it all to G-d? To put our trust implicitly in Him that He will provide? The answer is that it is a Jewish belief that “G-d helps those who help themselves.” That’s why it is a commandment of the Torah to safeguard our health. Likewise, we are not to live dangerously by leaving roofs unenclosed, swimming pools unfenced or our doors unlocked. A few chapters before the command to erect fences on roofs, the Torah states that “The L-rd, your G-d, shall bless you in all that you do.” Meaning that to succeed in any endeavor, we need G-d’s blessing, but He blesses us in all that we do. In order to merit His blessing, we must first lay the groundwork and create the opportunity for G-d’s blessings to be realized.

From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman


Moshiach Thoughts

Beit Hamikdash

At the end of the Messianic battle, the people of Israel will find restored all the precious spoils that fell into the hands of the nations of the world during the time of the galut, and which the latter have kept all these years. This means essentially the Beit Hamikdash (the Holy Temple of Jerusalem). The nations pursued the Jewish people throughout the times, and their primary objective has always been the dwelling-place of our spiritual center, the Beit Hamikdash. They did indeed achieve their goal, in fact twice, by the destruction of both the first Beit Hamikdash and the second Beit Hamikdash. For as long as the third Beit Hamikdash (to be restored by Moshiach) is not yet rebuilt, the Beit Hamikdash remains in their hands! When Moshiach will succeed with his battles, we shall regain the enemy’s capture by the restoration of the Beit Hamikdash.

Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

Towards a Torah-observant life

The road to a Torah-observant life is long and the path uncertain for someone brought up without Jewish observance. Everywhere I looked, there was more than one direction in which to go, and I could not start the journey on my own. In the beginning, as my neshama, my Jewish soul, awakened, I most longed just to belong—to be a Jew among Jews, not the person raised by a Jewish mother who converted to Christianity. I had always felt like a fraud in a church, quite torn, but didn’t know how to begin to live life as a Jew. So I slogged along, well into middle age, not knowing where to begin. In fact, I didn’t really understand what my own dissatisfaction meant until I was “given permission” to be the Jew who dwelled inside me.

My road became clearer with a signpost in the form of a visit from Rabbi Yosef Goldwasser, the Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to the city of Mobile in Alabama. He helped me understand that my birthright as a Jew was legitimate, that my Jewishness was valued, and he encouraged me to move forward in whatever direction my heart and soul yearned.

Rabbi Goldwasser, and his incredible wife, Bina, were and are patient and always willing to explain further what G-d wants of his children. I began to feel a need to incorporate Jewish practices into my life. One of my first decisions was to try keeping kosher. Although my nearby family—none of whom practice Judaism—tried to discourage me, I began in fits and starts to eat mostly kosher foods, scouring the grocery store for them.

At one point, I became overwhelmed and discouraged, and was even crying with worry that I could not actually do the things necessary to keep a kosher home with no family support. But the rabbi and Bina continued gently encouraging me to go slowly and do what I felt comfortable with. I am working on it.

On a recent Shabbat, I decided to turn off my cell phone, to which, like so many others, I am absolutely tethered, constantly checking messages, Facebook and emails. I can’t say it wasn’t difficult, but it turned out to be another signpost, pointing the way to a Shabbat of peace, restfulness and reflection. I also made the decision to turn off my television and computer for the duration of that Shabbat. Instead, I read chapters of Mendel Kalmenson’s Positivity Bias, drinking in the thoughts and perceptions of the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.

The power of the Rebbe’s worldview has become another signpost to teach me to move straight down the road of Jewish observance, veering neither to the right nor left. I am learning that I must consider what I say and what I do because my thoughts, words and actions have a ripple effect, and the consequences can be exceedingly far-reaching. This is a hard lesson to learn and one in which I am sure to stumble. But the signpost is clear and points in only one direction.

I also began reading Tanya, which Bina has generously offered to help me with. I am reading it in English, and it is difficult reading for a Jew so newly brought back to the fold. But it’s satisfying, too, to take this extra step in the learning process—something I can feel proud of struggling with.

I “chanced” upon an article on Chabad.org that pointed out to me this insight: “It is our duty, the Rebbe says, to stand at life’s crossroads with a large arrow sign and loudly proclaim to all, ‘This is the way to refuge. Here’s the Torah. Here’s how you live it. Here’s how you find peace and tranquility.’ ”

“We need to be signs,” the article continues. “For our chance acquaintances, for our friends, for our children.” I am so fortunate to be directed by the signposts provided through the mentoring of the Goldwassers and the power of the Rebbe’s guidance.

And so, I move forward in my journey—preparing my kitchen to be completely kosher, ordering kosher meats through the rabbi, learning to cook and serve kosher foods, and remembering not to mix meat and dairy. I am still taking deep breaths and worrying a little about getting everything right, but I know I am moving in the direction my soul is telling me to move.

Feeling gratitude for the joy of my blossoming Jewishness is a daily affirmation that G-d has chosen to touch my life in continually unfolding and personal ways. And my small gift to him is teaching myself to say the “Modeh Ani” prayer in Hebrew via transliteration. It is my way of praising and thanking the G-d who gently but firmly has set me on the right path and provided signposts to keep me there.

By Rachel Leah Fry in Chabad.org

Food For the Soul

Can you be objective?

The Torah portion of Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9) includes a prohibition for judges against taking bribes. The Torah then explains the reason for this commandment: “For bribery blinds the eyes of the wise.”

Now, you’re probably thinking, “No kidding, that’s the definition of a bribe! What kind of reason is that?” Good point. But, actually, the Torah is not trying to explain what’s wrong with paying off a judge; it’s obvious that corrupting fair judgment is immoral. Rather, the Torah seeks to clarify a fact. Often, people say, “I can be objective in this case, despite my connection to it.” Recognizing the difficulty of proper judgment when personal concerns are involved, we may nonetheless convince ourselves that we are immune to bribery, intellectually and emotionally capable of separating fact from feeling.

Yet the Torah cautions us that the danger of bribery is not merely a possibility, nor even a probability. It is an automatic effect. Bribery—monetary or otherwise—skews one’s perception, literally “blinding” him to reality. No one is immune.

We are all judges, all of the time. There are important decisions to be made constantly, and these require clear thinking and examination of facts. But often, we may be swayed by bribes—personal concerns, interests and feelings. We may have the best of intentions, yet the possibility of a purely objective decision is technically out of our reach, “for bribery blinds the eyes of the wise.”

For this reason, it is crucial that every one of us have a mentor, an objective individual upon whom we rely to help us make decisions. Before signing on the dotted line, run it by someone out of the picture. It’s a sort of reality check, a way to make sure that we are aiming towards the target, rather than adjusting the goal to suit us.

From an article by Rabbi Mendy Wolf


Shabbat Shalom

Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 6

This Shabbat we read Ethics of The Fathers (Perkei Avot), Chapter 6: One of its passages states: Rabbi Meir would say: Whoever studies Torah for Torah’s sake alone, merits many things; not only that, but [the creation of] the entire world is worthwhile for him alone. He is called friend, beloved, lover of G-d, lover of humanity, rejoicer of G-d, rejoicer of humanity. The Torah enclothes him with humility and awe; makes him fit to be righteous, pious, correct and faithful; distances him from sin and brings him close to merit. From him, people enjoy counsel and wisdom, understanding and power, as is stated (Proverbs 8:14) “Mine are counsel and wisdom, I am understanding, mine is power.” The Torah grants him sovereignty, dominion, and jurisprudence. The Torah’s secrets are revealed to him, and he becomes as an ever-increasing wellspring and as an unceasing river. He becomes modest, patient and forgiving of insults. The Torah uplifts him and makes him greater than all creations.


Mind Over Matter

G-d knows you can be a good parent

We must raise G-d’s children as He would. Presumably G-d wouldn’t just give His children life; He would also give them love. And He would give them moral direction so they could be worthy custodians of His world. G-d drafted us for the task. Our job is not only to love our children, but also to teach them. To guide, mentor and direct, showing them right from wrong. Don’t be bashful and don’t feel insecure. It is true that you had no experience when you first started out. But you know you will succeed because G-d gave you His vote of confidence. If He didn’t think you could do it, He would have found a different custodian for His child. But He chose you. It takes time, work, patience and sleepless nights, but in the end, G-d knows you can be a good parent.

From an article by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow


Moshiach Thoughts

Counsellors, not officers

Of the era of the redemption it is said: “I shall restore your judges as at first, and your counselors as at the beginning” (Isaiah 1:26). This verse mentions “judges” but not “officers.” Instead of “officers” there will be “counselors.” The task of the counselors is to explain and clarify to litigants the words and decisions of the judge so that they will understand and realize how those decisions are in the peoples’ best interest and for their own benefit. Thus the people themselves will want to follow the court’s judgments. It follows, then, that in the Messianic era there will no longer be a need for officers to enforce the law, for all shall willingly live up to their obligations. In fact, even before the actual redemption, in the present era when everything is already ready for the redemption, we no longer need “officers” forcing us to carry out our duties and obligations. Even now all is ready to carry out the word of the “judge” willingly and voluntarily.

Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

What you don’t know

I had popped into a Jerusalem synagogue for minchah (afternoon prayers). A few rows in front of me there was this man, sitting with his four kids. The fellow in front of him had his arm over the back of the bench, and the fellow behind him was also disturbing him in some way. He kept snapping at his kids. What a jerk, I thought to myself. Ok, you’re nervous, you’re rude, that’s fine, there are lots of nervous and rude people in these stress-ridden times, but does the whole world have to know it? I’m really a live-and-let-live kind of guy, but this fellow was impossible to ignore. His ill-will and discontent filled the room. Yes, I thought, your kids are a rowdy bunch, but do you have to yell at them all the time? Why don’t you leave them home if they get on your nerves so much?

At the conclusion of the service, his four kids—the twelve-year old, the nine-year old, the eight-year old and the six-year old—stood in a row and recited the mourner’s kaddish. What a jerk, I muttered—meaning myself of course—my face hot with shame.

Since there’s so much that we’ll never know about another person, any attempt to pass judgement on him or her seems doomed to failure. In the words of the Talmud, “Do not judge your fellow until you have reached his place.” What the Talmud is really saying, I suspect, is, “Don’t judge your fellow, ever,” since “his place” is a place where you can never truly be. The problem, however, is that there are times and circumstances in which we have to judge others, or at least appoint people to do the job for us. We call these people “judges,” and without them, no society could function.

Indeed, the Torah instructs, “Judges and officers you shall appoint in all your [city] gates.” But the Torah also sets down numerous rules and regulations which delimit the judge’s power to judge, and ensure that when he does judge, he does so with utmost caution and sensitivity.

A case in point is the law of the “indefensible criminal.” This is how it works: Under Torah law, capital crimes are tried by a tribunal of 23 judges called a “Minor Sanhedrin.” After hearing the testimony of the witnesses, the judges themselves would split into two groups: those inclined to argue for the acquittal of the accused would serve as his “defense team” and seek to convince their colleagues of his innocence; those inclined to convict would make the case for his guilt. Then the judges would vote. A majority of one was sufficient to exonerate, while a majority of two was necessary to convict.

But what if all twenty-three judges form an initial opinion of guilt? What if the evidence is so compelling and the crime so heinous that not a single member of the tribunal chooses to argue in the accused’s favor? In such a case, says Torah law, the accused cannot be convicted and must be exonerated by the court.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains the rationale behind this law as follows: No man is so utterly evil that there is nothing to be said in his defense. There is always some explanation, some justification, some perspective from which the underlying goodness of his soul can be glimpsed. This does not mean that he is going to be found innocent, in the legal sense, by a court of law: at times the “mitigating circumstances” result in a verdict of acquittal; at times, they do not. But if not a single member of the court perceives the “innocent side” of the person standing accused before them, this is a court that obviously has very little understanding of who he is and what he has done. Such a court has disqualified itself from passing judgement on him. But that’s a lesson for judges. The rest of us have neither need or cause to pass judgement on anyone. Which is fortunate, because there’s so much that we don’t know.

Rabbi Yanki Tauber

Food For the Soul

Re-eh – See!

The Parsha Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17) means “See!” as in the opening verse of our Torah reading: “See! I am placing before you today a blessing and a curse.” What, exactly, is the Torah demanding in asking us to “see” G-d’s blessings and curses?

Broadly speaking, a person’s observance of the precepts of Judaism could fall into one of three categories:

Plain obedience. At this level, a person is willing to observe the precepts of the Torah because he is aware of a higher authority. However, his observance is not inspired by an understanding or appreciation of the Torah; he simply “accepts the yoke of heaven.”

Intellectual appreciation. A higher level is where a person not only observes the precepts of the Torah out of deference to a higher authority, but also has an intellectual appreciation of the importance of observing the precepts, and understands the rewards that mitzvah-observance brings. However, even this person has not yet reached perfection. For intellectual conviction alone—while immensely powerful—still leaves room to explore other avenues, so it does not represent an absolute commitment.

Thus, the highest level of mitzvah observance is:

Vision. At this level, one does not merely appreciate the value of keeping the Torah’s precepts, one sees it. Meaning that the necessity and positive results of observing the mitzvahs become as clear and self-evident as seeing a physical object with one’s eyes. And it is this third level which our Torah commands—and spiritually empowers—every Jew to reach, with the words: “See! I am placing before you today a blessing and a curse.”

Rabbi Chaim Miller


Shabbat Shalom

Bless New Month

This Shabbat is Shabbat Mevarchim (“the Shabbat that blesses” the new month): a special prayer is recited blessing the Rosh Chodesh (“Head of the Month”) of the upcoming month of Elul, which falls on Sunday and Monday of next week. Prior to the blessing, we announce the precise time of the molad, the “birth” of the new moon. See molad times on Chabad.org

It is a Chabad custom to recite the entire book of Psalms before morning prayers, and to  conduct farbrengens (chassidic gatherings) in the course of the Shabbat. This Shabbat, we also read chapter 5 of the Talmud’s Ethics of the Fathers (“Avot”). 


Mind Over Matter

Will the real prophet please stand up?

There are false prophets out there; there always have been. Why then would G-d allow a false prophet to make a miracle or do wondrous things that are really impressive? The answer, says the Parsha Re’eh,  is that G-d is testing us. If we really and truly love G-d with all our heart and soul, then we won’t be impressed by any fancy wonders or miracles. The acid test will always be: does this would-be prophet encourage us to follow G-d’s laws, or to ignore them? And if this “prophet” is not faithful to the word of G-d, then he is no prophet, but an imposter.

From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman


Moshiach Thoughts

Bringing the Moshiach

Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet wrote: “The literal translation of lehavi liyemot haMoshiach is to bring the days of Moshiach. This expression, then, has another significance as well. All the days of your life, that is, every day of our life-time, must be imbued by the single and profound objective to bring about the Messianic era. We must always bear in mind that any one good deed, every single one, hastens the coming of Moshiach. When the actual redemption will occur, therefore, we will not feel that we are benefiting from a gratuitous gift. We ourselves can-and did-make an effort and contribution to bring the days of Moshiach…”


Have I Got A Story

What we’re up against

A rabbi once placed an order with the town tailor for a new pair of trousers. Time schlepped; the tailor missed deadline after promised deadline. Finally, months after the delivery due date, the pants were ready. True, they were a great fit, but the rabbi, piqued by the delay, decided to gently point out his displeasure. “Explain something please. G-d took just six days to create the world, and you’ve taken nearly six months just on one pair of pants?”

“Achh, how can you compare, just look at what a mess G-d made… and look at this gorgeous pair of pants!”

To be Jewish is to complain about G-d and to be secretly convinced that, given the chance, you could have done a better job.

Here’s my question on G-d. In [the Parsha Re-eh] we start off with the immortal choice:, “Behold I place before you today the blessing and the curse,” i.e., good vs. evil, life vs. death. My Question: Don’t give me the choice; don’t create evil. You relax, let us relax and we’re all happy.

The great Chassidic master, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, had a parallel complaint: “G-d, it’s not fair. For a Jew to be confronted by evil, all he has to do is walk down Main Street and he’ll discover temptations by the wagonload, decked out in all their attractive permutations. Try to scare him onto the straight and narrow, and you have to direct him to some musty old book which details harrowing descriptions of the punishments of Hell…”I promise you, G-d, if you shoved the sights and sounds of Gehenna in plain view, and buried earthly temptations in some dusty old tome, nobody would ever be enticed to sin. It’s all Your fault!”


A few years ago, some of those bright sparks we employ to sit in the Education Department and issue amusing directives came out with a beauty: from now on no scores were to be kept when umpiring kids’ sports. Losing, competing and all those other nasty vices went against the latest political correctness manifesto. I remember arguing at the time that if they were serious about the initiative they should abandon the goal posts (encourages short-term, selfish-oriented behavior), and, to develop it to it’s logical conclusion, put all the kids on the one team.

The only problem was that the kids didn’t buy it. Sports, by definition, are competitive. Without a method of keeping score, with no winner or loser, the exercise becomes pointless.

It’s the same with life. G-d could have created all the angels he wanted, behaving in an exemplary fashion and scoring perfect 10’s every time. Instead he made us. We strive; we try. We win some; we lose some. When we get it right, we get advanced up the board a few spaces. Get it wrong and you’ll find yourself at the bottom of the slide, looking for a ladder to climb back up again.

The rewards of life are predicated on our defeating evil. For us to change, to grow, we need an opponent to wrestle with and ultimately defeat. In the great game called life, evil represents the black pawns coming at you. Vanquish them, reach the end of the board, and you’ll be crowned a Queen.

Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum

Food For the Soul

Half an Hour a Day

Part of the Torah portion Eikev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:250) deals with the Shema.

Shema is a fundamental prayer – the only part of the daily prayers, in fact, whose recitation is biblically mandatory – because it contains many fundamentals of our religion, such as belief in G-d’s unity and the precepts of love and awe for G-d. A number of the more well-known mitzvot such as tefillin and mezuzah are also mentioned, as is the commandment to study Torah and teach it to our children. In fact, these mitzvot are so important that they are mentioned in both the first and second paragraphs of the Shema. However, there is a seemingly superficial difference.

In the first paragraph we are told: “teach [words of Torah] to your children” and then we are told: “bind them… upon your arm”; while in the second paragraph we are instructed: “bind them… upon your arm” and only then are we told: “teach them to your children.” What is the significance behind this change in wording?

The mitzvah of educating our children in the ways of the Torah begins as soon as they are born, well before they are obligated to put on tefillin. However, the Torah does not stop there. While the first paragraph of Shema puts the education before the tefillin, the second paragraph mentions education after tefillin. The moral? Even after children reach maturity, even after their Bar/Bat Mitzvah, it is still the parents’ responsibility to teach them Torah.

Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch once said: “Just as it is incumbent on every Jew to put on tefillin every day, so too it is an unequivocal duty on every individual, from the greatest scholar to the most simple of folk, to set aside a half-hour each day in which to think about the education of their children.”

Edited from an article by Rabbi Eli Pink


Shabbat Shalom

The comfort of G-d’s love

Haftarot are portions from the books of prophecy, read after the Torah portion. This week’s haftarah is the second of a series of seven “haftarot of Consolation.” These seven haftarot begin on the Shabbat following Tisha B’Av (called Shabbat Nachamu) and continue until Rosh Hashanah. The haftarah offers comfort when we don’t always feel G-d’s presence in our lives; when we call out “G-d are You there? Have you forgotten me? I need your embrace!” G-d reassures us that He has not forsaken us. He compares His love to that of a mother to her baby, a relationship expressing the most intense love and compassion. G-d promises us, too, that very soon, we will witness a different time. “For the L-rd shall console Zion, He shall console all its ruins, and He shall make its desert like a paradise and its wasteland like the garden of the L-rd; joy and happiness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and a voice of song” (Isaiah 51:2-3) May it happen now!

Edited from an article by Chana Weisberg


Mind Over Matter

Don’t be impressed

Remember that the first step in leaving the exile is to stop being impressed by it. In order to redeem our land and our people, we must first redeem our own souls and our own self-respect. May we never forget where our true strength lies. When we remember who took us out of Egypt and led us through the wilderness, and who is truly the great and awesome Being of Beings, then we will be able to truly walk tall and stand proud forever.

From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman


Moshiach Thoughts

Challenges and impudence

Eikev, the name of the parshah, is also the term that describes ikveta de’Meshicha, the period right before the coming of Moshiach. Our sages foretold that in this period, “each day’s curse will be worse than that of the preceding day.” Why would they tell us so somber a prophecy? If we had not been foretold about this situation, the Jewish people might have become dispirited and lost hope. The Torah thus informed us that the final stage of the galut will be terribly perplexing and frustrating, in order that we take heart, keep faith, and strengthen our service of G-d with greater effort in the full knowledge and conviction that the redemption is about to happen! We are also foretold that in ikveta de’Meshicha impudence (chutzpah) will increase. Chutzpah should be utilized in a positive way: persistently asking and demanding of G-d that Moshiach should appear and redeem us. There is no doubt that G-d is pleased with this kind of “impudent” demand and will respond to it accordingly.

Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

Manna: Food of Starvation

A family friend once told me that she would notice a peculiar quirk whenever her father-in-law, a Holocaust survivor, would stay at her house. Every night before retiring to bed, Zeide would wander into the kitchen and unobtrusively check out the contents of her pantry. If there was bread on the shelf, he’d relax and head off to his bedroom. But if there was none, he would invariably leave the house to buy a loaf. He never made a big fuss about it, and she does not remember whether he ever explicitly said that he could not go to sleep unless there was bread in the house, but that was his custom.

Obviously, his war experience influenced this behavior. We who have never been really hungry cannot possibly fathom the effect of the years of privation that he and his generation suffered in the ghettos and camps. But I can imagine, in an abstract sense, the anxiety of never really knowing where one’s next meal is coming from.

We find a parallel concept in this week’s Torah reading. The manna that fell from heaven throughout the 40 years in the desert is referred to by the Midrash as “starvation food.” On the face of it, this doesn’t seem to make sense. The manna was the food of miracles, falling every day and feeding the nation. Every single person received an exact portion, sized to satiate one’s hunger, and it had the miraculous property of tasting like whichever food one desired. What could be more satisfying than that?

However, on reflection, it’s understandable that if you had to rely on a daily miracle to eat, you’d always feel hungry. Imagine going to bed every night for 40 years nervously wondering if G-d would send food again the next day. You might have been fed today, but how confident would you be of the next day’s sustenance? You’d always be thinking about food.

It is interesting to note, however, that in the first blessing of Grace After Meals, we quote the words “You shall eat, be satisfied and bless the L-rd your G-d,” which according to our tradition is a reference to the manna.

Now, that’s really strange. Is the manna satisfying or not? Is it the bread of starvation or the food that fills you up? How can one foodstuff, miraculous as it may be, be variously described in such different ways?

Because the feelings a person has towards the manna are influenced by his perspective on life and his relationship with G-d. From one perspective, the food you buy with the money you’ve earned is far more satisfying than the potential manna still to fall from heaven. Your resources are measurable and quantifiable, and you can relax in the knowledge that you have enough to eat today. However, from another perspective, the money you’ve got right now and the food that you can buy with it is limited. There is only so much that you will ever be able to achieve on your own.

G-d, however, is infinite and has unlimited resources to share. No matter how difficult it is now and how tough your current circumstances, you can feel confident that things can and will improve. Even in times of loss and suffering, you can look forward to a better tomorrow, with hope and confidence that G-d will provide the resources for your salvation. The manna that comes to us as a gift directly from G-d is the truest and most satisfying food one can possibly receive. And the sprinkling of G-dliness that falls in our life is the daily bread of faith that sustains our body and spirit forever.

Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum

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