Manna from the Heavens

What a stupendous spectacle! Food from the sky. Did you ever stop and speak to your neighbor about how Hashem sent us food every day for forty years?

HaRav Avigdor Miller zts"l

Judaism Challot
INN:Toras Avigdor

The Stupendous Spectacle

The manna is the most unusual story of antiquity; you can search but you won't find anything like it in the history of our people, or l’havdil in the annals of the nations. That a nation of millions should be fed every day with lechem min hashamayim, food that falls from the sky?! It was something to remember!

The Rambam declares the falling of the manna to be the most unique miracle of our past. He says that “the greatest of the miracles described in the Torah is the stay of the Am Yisroel in the wilderness for forty years with a daily supply of manna” (Moreh Nevuchim 3:50).

The stupendous spectacle of a mysterious food falling from the sky and descending upon the camp for forty years was such an outstanding miracle that it never occurred to the falsifiers to even attempt such a claim. None of the prevaricators ever dreamed of concocting such a story — they wouldn't dare.

False Religions and Their Claims

You know, liars have to be very careful. They can’t be reckless with their claims, because they want to build a system, a castle in the air, that will last for a little bit at least. And therefore they say things that you can’t disprove. הָרוֹצֶה לְשַׁקֵּר יַרְחִיק עֵדוּתוֹ – It's a saying, “If you want to tell lies, make sure tell of far off things.”

That’s why when ‘that man’, the one they call the Nazarene, when he was asked by the chachomim: “Show us miracles,” he said, “I don't show miracles to wicked men!” “Wicked men,” you know, means people who have brains, seichel. This happened once and it happened again. They asked him to prove himself: "Look, your followers are claiming you did miracles.” Two harlots and some people who couldn’t read or write – those were his witnesses! And so the sages came and said, “Look, such witnesses are not reliable. We’re here now – show it to us.” So he said, “To wicked people, to a wicked generation, I will vouchsafe, I will show no signs.”

Because he knew to whom to show signs – to a few gullible people, to the lower element of society who will believe anything.

And if you’ll ask me about Mohammed?! Mohammed also “produced” many miracles – only that there was nobody around to see them. In his tent, all by himself with nobody to see, that’s where he was a great miracle worker!

Miracles for illiterates, and miracles in tents – that’s all that the falsifiers would dare claim. But nobody among the nations of the world even try to invent such a story like the manna; because the more witnesses you have, the more you have to be careful if you try to put something over on people.

Tasting the Magic

But not only is the manna unequaled in the annals of the nations; l’havdil it's unequaled in our own history. There never was anything remotely resembling it – the manna stands out as the miracle of our history. The manna was witnessed not just by a few people and not even l’havdil by the seventy ziknei Yisroel. It was witnessed by a few million peopleAnd not only they witnessed it but everybody got a sample too. Every man and woman, every boy and girl, approached the manna and tasted it.

You know, there's an old Indian trick whereby a conjurer takes a rope and he throws it up and the rope remains stiff. And then he climbs up the rope and disappears at the top; and then he comes down again. It's a famous Indian trick. Only that the magician is very careful that nobody should approach that rope – no sampling allowed.

Sometimes you might go to a performance and they have a magician for an entertainer. So when he wants to show a trick he might take something out of a hat; let’s say he takes an apple out of the hat. So it would be a good idea to taste the apple to see if it's a real apple. It could very well be some sleight of hand, or some optical illusion.

But the manna was something altogether different – it was a demonstration that was witnessed by millions and it was eaten by them too – they picked it up and put it in their mouths. And it didn’t happen once. It happened every day for forty years. וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אָכְלוּ אֶת הַמָּן אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה – For forty years, day after day, the people ate the manna (Beshalach 16:35).

It Cannot Be Kept Secret

And therefore you can be sure that they became so excited over the manna – it was something never to forget. Let's say, suppose you got up tomorrow morning and you looked out into your backyard and you saw a white fluffy frost on the ground – in the summertime.

So you went out and you said, “manna?! What's this business?” manna means, “What is it?” Imagine you wanted to know, so you pick it up. You take it in your hands and it doesn’t smell bad, so you decide to taste it. (Of course you wouldn't do that, because it needs a hechsher on it – you don’t know who left it there). But imagine you tasted it and it tastes pretty good: טַעְמוֹ כְּצַפִּיחִת בִּדְבָשׁ — It tasted like a tzapichis in devash. Whatever a tzapichis is we don't know but tzapichis b’dvash – it’s something dipped in honey. And if you take it inside to your kitchen and you make a latkeh out of it, so טַעְמוֹ כְּטַעַם לְשַׁד הַשָּׁמֶן – it tasted like a pleasant latkeh, a sweet pancake.

Now, when you discovered that, you wouldn't keep the secret to yourself. You’d rush into the shtibel, or into the yeshiva, and you'd tell everybody what happened. Even the janitor you’d tell. Of course they'd think you're crazy, but you'd continue shouting, “Come and see it yourself,” and you wouldn't stop until they followed you.

We Need manna In Our Heads

Now, a tremendous experience like that, when it happens to a whole nation together, doesn’t go away without leaving a lasting effect. The manna left an impression that was stamped on the character of our nation forever. You can't have a nation that eats lechem min hashamayim for forty years in such a mannaer and it should just pass by. Oh, no! The neis of the manna still reverberates among us to this day. And therefore, we're going to study this subject just a little bit. We won't do justice to the subject at all but at least something we'll try to speak about it.

The first thing is to understand that Hakodosh Boruch Hu gave the manna not only for that generation. קַח צִנְצֶנֶת ... וְהַנַּח אֹתוֹ לִפְנֵי הַשֵּׁם לְמִשְׁמֶרֶת לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם. They were commanded to put away some of the manna in the Mishkan as a mishmeres for future generations (Beshalach 16:32-33). And not just anywhere in the Mishkan – it was placed in the holiest part of the Mishkan, right near the aron in the kodesh hakodoshim. So we see that the manna was given as a testimony for all generations so that they should remember this remarkable phenomenon that happened to our people – that food fell from the sky every day for forty years for a nation of millions.

Now, the fact that the manna was kept as a testimony demonstrates that Hashem wants us to think about that neis — we see that it’s a system of the Torah to put the manna into our heads; that it’s our duty to remember the manna. Hashem wants us to think about the manna and to talk about it.

Tell All Your Neighbors

Now that’s a new idea to most people – to talk about the manna?! Yes! We’re expected to be aware constantly of the manna that our fathers ate in the wilderness. Actually, one of the most important reasons the manna fell was so that we should talk about it!

Every day we say it: הוֹדוּ לַהַשֵּׁם קִרְאוּ בִּשְׁמוֹ הוֹדִיעוּ בָּעַמִּים עֲלִילוֹתָיו – Praise Hashem; proclaim in His name, and make His deeds known among the people. It means that Hashem’s miracles are given to us primarily for the purpose so that we should constantly reiterate them in our minds. And not only to think about them, but קִרְאוּ בִּשְׁמוֹ – we should speak about them as well. We're expected to speak about the wonders that Hakodosh Boruch Hu did. קִרְאוּ בִּשְׁמוֹ means “Call out in His name." To whom should you call out? Anybody who will listen!

Did you ever stop and speak to your neighbor about how Hashem sent us food every day for forty years? Almost fifteen thousand days of manna! You’re embarrassed to talk to your neighbor about it?! So speak about it with your wife! At least to your children you should speak about it! It’s so important to speak about how Hakodosh Boruch Hu fed our forefathers for forty years with food from the sky, that you should search out people who are willing to listen.

Reminders of the mannaa

Now, we have certain things that are intended as reminders, but it's a pity that we don’t utilize them enough. Even those symbols of the manna that we do practice become meaningless when they are ignored – we go through the motions but we don’t put our minds to think about what we’re doing.

Let’s say when you come home on Friday night and you see the two challos on a white tablecloth, and they’re covered also by a white cloth on top. So you should stop and use this glorious opportunity. It’s like that for a good reason — it’s intended to be a symbol of the manna. The manna fell between two clean white tablecloths. That’s how it fell every day. There was a שִׁכְבַת הַטָּל, a hoarfrost — it means a layer of frozen dew on the ground, and it was white, white as linen. And on top of the manna was another layer of white frost; and the manna was in between the two sanitary cloths, and it was preserved nice and fresh.

That’s why we put a white cloth above the challos and a white table cloth underneath the challos. That’s the significance but nobody thinks about it – or they rarely do.

Why don’t you try it next time? Don’t just go into the table without thinking about this symbolism – when you come to the Shabbos table and you see the two challos that are covered with a cloth, why don’t you stop for a few seconds and think about that. Better yet, tell your family about it too.

Don’t worry if your child laughs at you – say it anyhow. Say it anyhow!

And not only once – every Shabbos you can say it. Don’t think that it doesn’t go into their heads – even little children who seem to ignore what you’re saying, they’re human beings, so it goes in. I still remember what was said to me when I was two years old. You’ll be surprised; it’s not a waste of time at all.

Those  seeds of emunah that you plant in other people's minds are going to remain there and someday they might bear beautiful fruit.