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manna from heaven

This week’s Torah portion is “Beshalach” (Exodus 13:17- 17:16), which means “and they were sent” referring to the Jewish people’s official departure from Egypt. Pharaoh had enough, and “sends” the Jews on their way. The Jewish people are now on their way to the Promised Land, accompanied by clouds of glory by day, and a pillar of fire by night.

But Pharaoh (for the tenth time?) changes his mind and decides that he wants the Jews back. He doesn’t enjoy having to do work himself. He wants slaves! So he chases the Jews into the desert where they were encamped at the Sea. Panic broke out in the Jewish camp upon the site of Pharaoh’s chariots chasing after them, but God told them not to worry. “Proceed into the sea” He said. The sea split. The Egyptians drowned. And the rest is history.

Once on the other side of the sea, the Jewish people began what was to become forty years of wandering the desert. And what was the primary dish on their daily menu? Manna. Manna was the miraculous bread that fell every day from Heaven that the Jews sustained themselves with while in the desert. Our sages teach us that the Manna tasted like anything the one eating it wished it to taste like! Perhaps a pancake-tasting Manna for breakfast, and a hamburger and fries tasting Manna for dinner. The sky was the limit!

To this day, the Manna has been the symbol of sustenance (parnassa) and faith in Hashem that He will provide for all our needs. Manna only came once a day, and only enough for that day. The Jewish people were forced to trust in God that tomorrow too, they would have food and survive. It was probably not so easy to trust in God in the hot, snake-and-scorpion filled desert without any food. Indeed, some people tried to “sneak and save” Manna for tomorrow in defiance of God’s command not to take more than needed for that very day. Those of little faith who disobeyed found maggots all over their Manna and tent the next day. But that was the intention. God wanted to show us that everything would be ok. His word is His word. He wasn’t going to forsake the Jews now and let them die of starvation. The Manna came down every day as promised.

And so it is today. Where does our parnassa (sustenance) come from? Do you really think it comes from your paycheck? Your employer? The success of your company? Nope. It all comes directly from God. Nevertheless, we do have to go out and work for it. God helps those who help themselves! We can’t sit back in bed or on our couches all day long, saying to ourselves that God will simply send our parnassa. Indeed, even the Jews in the desert had to go out and fetch the Manna. It didn’t descend right into their stomachs.

Although the economy may sometimes look grim and insecure, we must always remember that our sustenance is under the direct watch of God above. God will decide how to ensure that we have what we need, whether it be through a pay raise or winning the lotto, God’s power is without bounds. We must remember that when it comes to our sustenance and livelihood there is only one place to look for help and assistance: Look up! He didn’t let us down back then in the desert and He won’t let us down today.

Shabbat Shalom from Israel!

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel