The Faith Diet

“…Who fed you with manna in the desert, which your ancestors did not know, in order to afflict you…” – Devarim 8:16

הַמַּאֲכִלְךָ מָן בַּמִּדְבָּר אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָדְעוּן אֲבֹתֶיךָ לְמַעַן עַנֹּתְךָ – דברים ח, טז

The Talmud (Yoma 74b) interprets this verse quite literally, saying, the manna was a food that left you feeling hungry and afflicted.  According to one explanation in the Talmud, this was because it could not be saved from one day to the next, and one had to constantly rely on it falling anew the next day. Therefore, even after filling themselves on the manna, the people still felt vulnerable.

In terms of the manna’s spiritual qualities, however, the vulnerability and hunger associated with the manna was in fact its praise. For the manna’s lack of shelf life reflected its transcendence of the physical reality, due to which it never assumed a “life-span” (defined by the passage of time) as all other created beings have. Also, as a result of its transcendent nature, the manna was visibly reliant on G-d bringing it into existence each day, unlike the rest of creation whose continued existence appears to be automatic.

The Faith Diet

Consequently, for a person seeking a sense of self-sufficiency and independence, the manna was a source of anxiety and affliction. For the humble man of faith, however, to receive his nourishment from the manna was the greatest source of delight for in the manna he could constantly sense G-d’s influence. In addition, his humility made him worthy and capable of being sustained by the infinite goodness contained in the manna, which transcended the natural limitations that all other forms of sustenance have.

This explains the Talmud’s statement (Berachos 48b) that Moshe composed the text of the first blessing of Birchas Hamazon when Bnei Yisrael were given the manna. The blessings of Birchas Hamazon are recited in fulfillment of the Biblical command, “[when] you will eat and be satisfied, you shall bless G-d” (Devarim 8:10). Now if the manna left the people feeling hungry, how could eating the manna be the basis for a blessing that is recited upon feeling satisfied?

In light of the above, however, we can understand how the manna provided the satisfaction required for the recitation of Birchas Hamazon. For the truest satiation came from the manna, in which one sensed clearly that his sustenance came from G-d, and through which he became a worthy recipient of G-d’s infinite benevolence.

—Toras Menachem, Sefer Hama’amarim Melukat, vol. 4, p. 186


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