The manna was the stuff of miracles, a miraculous gift from the Heavens:
"And when the layer of dew was gone up, behold upon the face of the wilderness a fine, scale-like thing, ..'What is it?' - for they knew not what it was. And Moshe said unto them: 'It is the bread which Hashem has given you to eat.'" (Exodus 16:14-15)
Regarding that Manna we also read in the book of Deuteronomy the following;
”In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end." (Deuteronomy 8:16).
What is that “Humility” and that “testing” all about?
Herein lies the test. The Manna was an item that appeared without fail every morning and sufficed the needs of every family:
If a child born during those forty years in the desert would wake up hungry, he or she would simply wait until the parents would bring in the daily portion of Manna. The question to be asked is if in fact that child perceived the Manna as miraculous or simply as the natural state of events.
Each day, the Divine promise was kept. Each day, the miracle occurred. In time, the miracle became the natural. What was different, then, for those born in the desert between picking the dates off the tree in the oasis and picking up the manna covered by the dew? Both were expected and "natural" realities.
Even more importantly, the miracle of manna came with obligations. It came with rules and regulations and it necessitated faith. That is the subtext behind their comment in the Torah portion of BeHaalotcha, “We remember the fish which we ate in Egypt freely (heenam); the cucumbers, watermelons, leeks, onions and garlic. Now our bodies are withered, there is nothing at all but the manna before our eyes.”(Numbers 11:5)
What was free in Egypt? They were slaves in Egypt and nothing was free. Rashi explains that they were referring to the fact that the food in Egypt came with no spiritual “strings attached”. They came with no mitzvot or expectations. The manna had limitations and expectations attributed to it. That was the burden that those of little faith could not continue to carry.
When the Israelites began to receive the manna from heaven, they were being taught the rudiments of faith. They were being taught to trust the promise of G-d and have the faith that the correct amount of sustenance would be available every single morning. In addition, that to be a vessel of blessing one needed to understand the power of simple obedience. They were also taught to wait upon the promise and to expect to receive what they needed and not necessarily what they desired. “..that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end." (Deuteronomy 8:16)
We then need to understand why then, the Manna ceased to appear when they entered into the land of Israel. "And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year." (Joshua 5:12).
What lesson was being conveyed with that new reality?
The land of Israel is a land where the miraculous and the natural are indistinguishable .That was true in the time of Joshua and it is even more evident in our days. To quote the first , “proudly secular” Prime Minister of Israel ,David Ben Gurion,” In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.”
In fact, the recent history of the people of Israel and the rebirth of a Jewish commonwealth in the land of Those who understand the miraculous nature of this reborn state will not tire of the long, arduous voyage of this people and this land through history.
Israel dramatically resembles a classical Biblical text. An oppressed, dispersed and maligned people ingathered to their ancient homeland. A small, beleaguered nation fighting off multiple nations intent on their destruction. A two-thousand-year-old yearning to return to their beloved Jerusalem fulfilled in a miraculous six days. An economy that began with young pioneers fighting off malaria that has soared to unexpected heights in a mere sixty years.
Miracle after miracle. Yet, they were and are all miracles clothed in the natural. As a result, some of the people who have even experienced or have been part of those miracles continue to believe in simple happenstance and coincidence.
Why or how could that be?
All the miracles of this land have been clothed in the natural. Those who have been part of the miracle had to learn to strive in the natural in order to reveal the miraculous. As a result those who understand the miraculous nature of this reborn state will not tire of the long, arduous voyage of this people and this land through history.
Those that do not understand, or prefer not to understand, will weaken and allow corruption and frailty to seep into their leadership and nation.
Yet the miracle of the land of Israel , like the manna, continues to manifest itself and be revealed.
Lerefuat Kol HaPtzuim ve Hacholim
Lerefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved and Yehudit bat Chaya Esther
Rabbi Moshe Kempinski, author of "The Teacher and the Preacher", is the editor of the Jerusalem Insights weekly email journal and co-owner of Shorashim, a Biblical shop and learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem.