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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Ekev

The Mhan Of Affliction

Will we accentuate the positive, the blessings of here & now that Hashem gives us, without dwelling on what we might be missing? And can we finally learn to see beyond the superficial trappings, to perceive the inner soul & the holiness of the people & the things that surround us?
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"Hashem fed you Mahn in the wilderness….in order to afflict & to test you." (Devarim 8:16).

The Mahn, says Rav Dessler, was the greatest miracle – ever! It fell each day at one’s doorstep; it could taste like almost anything one imagined; & it was completely absorbed into the body, with no waste material at all.

So then what was "the affliction?" What was "the test?!"

One possible answer is that davka because it was so satisfying, so easily attainable, one had to be careful not to get TOO used to having everything handed to him on a silver platter! The nation would eventually have to enter Israel & work for a living, they would have to plant their seeds & grow their own food. While Hashem took extra-special care of us in the desert, His plan was for us to ultimately fend for ourselves & put in a hard day’s work to merit our Heavenly-sent parnasa.

The Gemara (Yoma 74b) gives two other reasons. Says Rav Ami, because the Mahn lasted for only one day (except for Shabbat) & then it deteriorated and became inedible, one had to trust that tomorrow a brand new miracle would occur, & the Mahn would fall yet again. This was a test of our emuna (or E-Mahn – A!), our faith in Hashem, as well as the ability to bless the Almighty for all that we currently have; rather than obsess over what might be lacking in our lives.

Rav Asi gives another explanation: Altho Mahn had a wide variety of tastes, it always looked exactly the same (like coriander seed with the color of crystal). The people saw the same food, day after day, & this bored them. They wanted the feel of food, the different colors, the different textures. Their test was to go beyond the visible, beyond the superficial aspect of the Mahn, & appreciate it as a miraculous "bite of Kedusha" that was a gift of G-d.

We don’t have Mahn anymore. But it seems to me that the tests engendered by this desert delicacy remain with us to this very day. Will we, who live in such luxury, still embrace the joy of honest work, the inner pride that comes from doing our fair share to contribute to society? Will we accentuate the positive, the blessings of here & now that Hashem gives us, without dwelling on what we might be missing? And can we finally learn to see beyond the superficial trappings, to perceive the inner soul & the holiness of the people & the things that surround us?
This, I suggest, is the test of every Mahn & woman.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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