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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Ekev

Choose It or Lose It

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If you were given one, last opportunity before you died to speak to your family, your friends, your community, what legacy, what lasting message would you impart to them?

This is Moshe’s challenge as he addresses the nation; the entire last book of the Torah comprises his "farewell" speech. He must choose
his words carefully, and emphasize the truly important points and principles that the nation can take with them as they march into the future.

I am intrigued by one particular comment that Moshe makes:

"He afflicted you, and He made you hungry, and He fed you the Mahn that neither you nor your forefathers knew…"

For what purpose did Hashem "afflict" us? G-d, we know, is a giving, loving and merciful G-d! Why would he possibly want to afflict us? Indeed, the section in which this sentence appears is filled with all the wonderful things which Hashem did for us in the desert; and it ends by promising us a beautiful, verdant Land that will satisfy our every need. So why the affliction, and what is its connection to the Mahn and to Israel?

I suggest that the Mahn is perfectly emblematic of both Israel and the Jewish condition.

Among the many (or is it Mahn-y?!) miracles contained within the Mahn, its most famous feature was that it could taste like (almost) any
food one could imagine! Yet at the same time, the Mahn had a frustrating, annoying quality: It only lasted a day - except for Shabbat - and then it rotted and melted away. Thus, one held in his hands something that was truly unique and precious, but at the same time fragile and fleeting.

This combination was what was so "afflicting." To at once have something so amazing, yet to know that it would soon disappear, must have been terribly frustrating. But of course, this was all by design; there was a powerful method to Hashem’s "mahn-ness." You see, He wants us to acknowledge all the manifold gifts that He gives us, and human nature dictates that we "we don’t know what we have until we
lose it." And so, ironically, it was only by watching the Mahn vanish before our very eyes that we came to fully appreciate its value.

And so it is with Israel. Whether we are talking about the first 2 Batei Mikdash, or the fantastic country we live in today, we are always in danger of taking it for granted. It is more miraculous than Mahn, and yet we often lose sight of the blessing that greets us the moment we open our eyes each morning. And that is precisely why our existence is so fragile, our future so worrisome, our security so tenuous. It is all meant to conquer complacency, to amplify our appreciation, and insure our eternal gratitude to, and dependence upon the Almighty.

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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