Parshat Beshalach 5781: The Miracle of Manna — Hashem’s Test of Jews’ Hearts

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parsha Beshalach is being sponsored by R’ Moshe and Marla Braun (Moshe Braun – Fine Judaic Art) and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh in honor of Marla’s birthday on 14th Sh’vat. To the Braun family, many thanks for your sponsorships and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Beshalach 5781: The Miracle of Manna — Hashem’s Test of Jews’ Hearts

by Moshe Burt

Last year, this author discussed that once free of Egyptian enslavement and persecution, Hashem led the B’nei Yisrael on a circuitous route through the Desert rather than having traveled a more direct route which would have meant a confrontation with the Philistines (P’lishtim).

We now pick up Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s Parsha Summary regarding the circuitous travels of the B’nei Yisrael in his sefer, “Unlocking the Torah Text” (Sefer Shemos, pages 99-100):

After a three-day journey without water, the nation arrives at Marah, the site of a non-potable pool of water. When the people complain, Hashem instructs Moshe to throw a specific tree into the pool, miraculously rendering the water drinkable.

As their journey continues, the people complain over lack of food and recall with regret “the fleshpots” they left behind in Egypt. Hashem, responds by granting the B’nei Yisrael daily rations from the heavens. This miraculous sustenance, which the Jews call “manna (man hu? — what is it?),” will ultimately provide for the people over a forty-year period in the wilderness. Hashem also issues instructions concernimg the daily collection of the manna and the prohibition of collecting on Shabbos.

Rabbi Goldin provides context and questions regarding the miracle of the manna (ibid, page 117):

Responding to the complaints of the B’nei Yisrael concerning lack of food, Hashem introduces the miraculous fare that will sustain the nation during their travels: “Behold! I will rain down for you food from Heaven; and the people will go out and collect each day’s portion on its day, that I may test them — will they follow My Teaching or not?” (Rabbi Goldin’s rendering to English of Sefer Shemos, Perek 16, posuk 4)

This refrain is repeated twice in Sefer Devarim as Moshe recall[s] the people’s journey in the wilderness… (Rabbi Goldin is referring to Sefer Devarim, Perek 8, posukim 2-3 and Perek 8, posuk 16)

Why does Hashem associate the miracle of manna with testing and affliction?

The Abravanel asks, “What was the nature of the test administered by Hashem through the bestowal of daily sustenance? …This was a kindness, not a test!” (Rabbi Goldin citing the Abravanel on Sefer Shemos, Perek 16, posuk 4)

As an aside, this author recalls hearing, back in the “old country,” how the effort and amount of searching for the daily manna was a measure of the type and level of each individual among the B’nei Yisrael. The Tzaddik might need look no further than the entrance to his tent, whereas the Rasha: a Dasan or Aviram may need to search long and hard for their daily manna. Also learned was that the manna took on the taste of whatever the individual sought.

Rabbi Goldin now provides understandings of Scholars regarding the meaning behind the Manna (ibid, pages 118-120):

Rashi, unable to discern a test within the manna itself, contends that the trial actually emerges from an ancillary source. Hashem grants miraculous sustenance to the B’nei Yisrael and simultaneously tests them by determining “whether they will observe the commandments associated [with that sustenance].” (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi on Sefer Shemos, Perek 16, posuk 4)

These commandments included the instruction to collect each day only the amount of manna necessary for that day, the prohibition of collection on Shabbos, and the directive to collect a double portion on Friday [Yom Shishi] in order to properly prepare for Shabbos.

Many other scholars… are unwilling to accept what they consider to be a somewhat facile [ adjective for: easily done, performed, used, etc.: a facile victory; a facile method. easy or unconstrained, as manners or persons] solution to the mysterious “test” of the manna. Ramban, for example, emphatically declares, “But this [Rashi’s explanation] is not correct… [The manna itself] was a trial for them.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Ramban on Sefer Shemos, Perek 16, posuk 4)

The scholars offer, with subtle variations, three global approaches. Each of these… carries overarching lessons that move well beyond the specific phenomenon of the manna.

1/ Hashem tested and developed the faith of the Jews by depriving them of the usual forms of sustenance and survival. The Ramban, among others, champions this position both in Parshat Beshalach and in Sefer Devarim:

[Hashem] could easily have led them through the surrounding cities. He led them, instead, through a wilderness of snakes, fiery serpents and scorpions, where only bread fell from the heavens each day. (Rabbi Goldin again citing Ramban on Sefer Shemos, Perek 16, posuk 4)

And: …. to have no sustenance other than the manna which fell on a daily basis and which melted when the sun waxed hot…. Nevertheless, they did all this in obedience to Hashem’s command….. From this [Hashem] would know if they would obey His Commandments forever. (Rabbi Goldin citing Ramban on Sefer Devarim, Perek 8, posuk 2)

With this approach, the Ramban remains true to his general position concerning Divine tests. Hashem tests man to actualize man’s inherent potential. (Rabbi Goldin citing Ramban on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 22, posuk 1)

2/ By providing the B’nei Yisrael with the manna, Hashem confronts the fledgling nation with the plethora of challenges that emerge with a life of ease. Far from a test of deprivation, the manna actually constitutes a nissayon [test]…, a trial of wealth and plenty.

The Ohr Hachaim notes, for example, that the manna provides the B’nei Yisrael with the unfamiliar phenomenon of leisure time. Hashem, therefore, asks, “Will they walk in My Ways?” Will they use their suddenly available time productively in the pursuit of Torah study and observance. (Rabbi Goldin citing Ohr Hachaim on Sefer Shemos, Perek 16, posuk 4)

The Sforno… suggests that Hashem wants to determine whether the B’nei Yisrael will follow His Dictates when “they are sustained without any pain.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sforno on Sefer Shemos, Perek 16, posuk 4) Man often turns to Hashem in times of need but ignores Him in times of comfort. Through the manna, Hashem challenges the B’nei Yisrael: Will you turn to Me when your sustenance is attained with ease?

3/ As the B’nei Yisrael journey toward national independence, the manna sensitizes them to their dependence upon Hashem. This message, arguably the most basic “test”… of the manna, is reflected in the following Talmudic conversation:

The students of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai asked: “Why did the manna not descend for the B’nei Yisrael once annually?” [Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai] answered: “[In order that each Jew] would worry — perhaps no manna will descend tomorrow…. Thus they all turned their hearts to their Father in Heaven.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Yoma 76a)

Centuries later, the Rashbam, mirroring the position of numerous other commentaries, elaborates upon the statement of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai: “Since each and every day their eyes will turn to Me for their sustenance, they will come to believe in Me and walk in the ways of My Torah.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashbam on Sefer Shemos, Perek 16, posuk 4)

Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, page 120):

The miracle of the manna thus emerges, with the first footfalls of our history, as a formative crucible conveying a lesson that, to this day, we forget at our own peril: Whether we are wandering in the wilderness or living in a highly urbanized society, we are dependent upon Hashem for our sustenance each and every day.

It seems to this author that the tests and challenges of the manna necessitate reflection, even as we celebrate Shabbos Shirah.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five and a half years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.