Food For the Soul
Manna from heaven
A month after their exodus from Egypt, the Israelites’ food ran out, and on Sunday, the 15th day of the month of Iyar, they turned to Moses and Aaron for food. That night, a flock of poultry miraculously arrived, and the next morning, a special edible substance fell from the sky, which received the name “manna”. The manna was adapted to the taste of each individual; to the adult it tasted like the food of the adult, while it tasted like breastmilk for a baby. By wishing, one could taste in the manna anything desired, whether beef, fruit or grain.
Interestingly, the Israelites later complained to Moses that they missed zucchini, watermelon, leeks, onions and garlic. If the manna could taste like anything in the world, why did they miss those vegetables? The Talmud explains that since these vegetables could be harmful to lactating women, the manna didn’t taste like them. Another explanation is that while it could taste like those foods, it wouldn’t take on their texture, as it did with other foods. In the Parsha Behaalotecha (Numbers 8:1-12:16) the people complain that they are sick of eating the manna and want meat. G-d promises to send them meat and the next day large swarms of quail come over the camp, and the Jews have more than enough meat to eat.
Every day, enough manna would fall for each person to have an omer (approximately 43 oz.), which was enough to feel satiated for one day. One was not allowed to save the manna from one day to the next—leftovers had to be discarded outside the tent, otherwise they would become wormy and inedible. This taught a great lesson in faith – even to the ever-complaining Israelites! Not having any reserves, they had to have full faith in G-d that He would provide their needs each day.
Adapted from articles in Chabad.org
Ethics of the Fathers: Chapter 2
This Shabbat afternoon we study Ethics of the Fathers (Avot), Chapter 2. Among the profound thoughts are some famous words by Hillel: “Do not separate yourself from the community. Do not believe in yourself until the day you die. Do not judge your fellow until you have stood in his place. Do not say something that is not readily understood in the belief that it will ultimately be understood [or: Do not say something that ought not to be heard even in the strictest confidence, for ultimately it will be heard]. And do not say ‘When I free myself of my concerns, I will study,’ for perhaps you will never free yourself.”
Mind Over Matter
Pessimism comes with a thousand arguments. Maybe you don’t deserve to be saved from the mess you’ve gotten into. Maybe you deserve punishment, G-d forbid. Maybe the only way to save your soul is through a dark tunnel.
That’s not called trust. Trust means you have not a shade of doubt that He will deliver—no matter who you are and what you’ve been up to—and it will all be good, every step along the way.
As for your mess-ups, He knows you regret them all, and He is a kind and loving G-d.
And so, He delivers.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Our sages tell us that “when King Solomon built the Holy Temple, knowing that it was destined to be destroyed, he built a place in which to hide the Ark, at the end of hidden, deep, winding passageways.” Ultimately, 22 years before the destruction of the First Temple, King Josiah hid the jug of manna together with the Ark in that special hidden passage. According to tradition, it is still hidden there, waiting to be rediscovered with the advent of Moshiach. The Midrash relates that this last bit of manna reminds us that just as in the desert, when the Jews were occupied solely with learning Torah, G-d sustained them with the manna, so too, in the Messanic era, we will be sustained with food from heaven as we focus exclusively on delving into the Torah. May this be speedily in our days!
From an article by Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin
Have I Got A Story
Pain or privilege?
Okay, I admit it. I’m not sure how I would have behaved if I were in the position of the Jews back in the wilderness. We always criticize their lack of faith in G-d and the rough time they gave Moses. Even as G-d was providing them with the most incredible miracles — bread from heaven and water from rocks — they were busy moaning and groaning throughout. But would I have acted differently? Who knows? You think it was easy to live in a desert, even with all the miracles in the Bible?
I suppose a lot depends on a person’s attitude and perspective in life.
Recently, I heard a powerful insight in the name of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, one of the outstanding authorities in Jewish law of our time (he passed away in 1986). He was speaking of the generation of Jewish immigrants to the United States who spawned what became known as the “lost generation.” Why was it that the children of parents who were religious, or at least traditional, moved so far away from the Judaism of their parental homes? Rabbi Moshe argued that it could be summed up in one simple question of attitude. Did those parents convey to their children that Judaism was a burden or a boon, a pleasure or a pain?
Was the constant refrain these children heard at home, Oy, it’s hard to be a Jew! or Ahh, it is good to be a Jew! Was being Jewish in those early days in America something to sigh about, or something to celebrate and sing about? Whether children grew up hearing that Judaism was a pain or a privilege would determine whether they embraced it happily or escaped from it at the first opportunity. According to Rabbi Moshe, on that hinged the success or failure of an entire generation.
Indeed, we know of many Jews who survived the Holocaust and because of their horrific experiences perceived being Jewish as a death sentence, G-d forbid. There were those who sought to run as far away as possible from Europe. Many found their way to Australia and became “closet Jews.” Some never even told their children that they were Jewish.
It was for this reason that the late Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, Rabbi Immanuel Jacobowitz argued that while Holocaust education was important, there was a danger in over-emphasizing the Holocaust in Jewish Day Schools. We want our children to see that Judaism is a blessing, not a curse. Our Jewishness should not be dark and depressing, but bright and joyous.
I remember having a discussion with a group of businessmen some years ago where we were trying to put together a slide show to promote one of our local institutions. We were looking for a particularly powerful scene. One prominent doctor suggested that, for him, the single most powerful scene in Jewish life was the Rabbi walking into the house of mourning carrying his bag of prayer books. To him, that may have been powerful, but for me — as a rabbi — I’d never heard anything as depressing. What am I, the Angel of Death?
The Jews in the wilderness had their own issues. We should try and learn from their mistakes and be more faithful and trusting in the leadership of the Moses of our own time. But beyond that, let us not whine and whimper about the challenges of Jewish life. Let us convey to our children that Judaism is a joy and a privilege. Then, please G-d, they will embrace it for generations to come.
Rabbi Yossy Goldman