Tuesday, January 7, 2014

So What's the Manna with You?



Happiness is like manna; it is to be gathered in grains, and enjoyed every day. It will not keep; it cannot be accumulated; nor have we got to go out of ourselves or into remote places to gather it, since it has rained down from a Heaven, at our very door.
Tryon Edwards

Today, upon opening up my Facebook page, I learned that:
  • America is experiencing some of the coldest weather in its recorded history; 
  • Mt. Hua Shan in China has the scariest trail in the world; 
  • A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you today the way you are; 
  • One should not post pictures of one’s young children on Facebook; 
  • There is an anti-Israel bias in American Universities; 
  • My friend’s daughter snores; 
  • There is no bracha (blessing) on cigarettes; 
  • In Israel, women up to the age of 54 (!!!!) are entitled to free infertility treatments for up to two (!!!!) children; 
  • Kombucha is a friendly type of bacteria used to make an herbal "tea" to boost immunity and to balance gut flora (I don’t want to know what gut flora is); 
  • Scientists have found that memories may (or may not) be passed down through DNA; 
  • There is a rock band called Guatanamo Bay Watch; 
  • There are three magic ways to prevent getting sick. 

I also learned that today we recite Parshat HaMan.

At first glance, I thought this had something to do with the villain in the Purim story, but no! No villains here! 
Some infamous villians

Parshat (Episode of) HaMan (the manna) has to do with the reading in the Torah about the story of the Children of Israel miraculously receiving manna in the desert. For 40 years, Bnei Yisrael wandered in the desert. Every morning, manna fell from the sky, and every day, the people went out to gather enough for just the one day. If they collected more than they needed – let’s say to put some in the freezer for next week when they were expecting company – by the next morning, it would stink and rot in the jar. Moreover, on Friday mornings, Bnei Yisrael were instructed to collect a double portion—one for Friday and one for the Sabbath, for collecting on the Sabbath is forbidden. And on Sabbath morning, when they arose, Bnei Yisrael would find that, not only did no Manna fall that day, but the second jar would be whole and fresh. And if, indeed, they had company coming, or the grandkids popped in for a visit, the manna - which tasted like cake spread with honey - stretched to meet all the needs of the people. 

Hope company wasn't coming

This episode taught/teaches us to put our faith in G-d and that everything we have comes from Him. 

Getting ready for company

So important was this lesson, that, to continually remind us, a jar of Manna was kept in the Ark of the Covenant, first in the Tabernacle in the desert, and then in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, along with the two sets of tablets Moshe brought down from Sinai, the first Torah scroll written by Moshe, and Aaron’s rod. And no, it never stank or went rotten.

Sholom Asch, in his novel Moses, gives a wonderful description of the Manna, claiming it was a desert phenomenon, but it was the volume of it and the ease with which it was found that constituted the miracles. 
Sholom Asche
There are those who say we should recite the episode of the Manna daily. By doing so, one acknowledges, DAILY, that one’s livelihood and, indeed, everything one has comes from G-d. By reciting the story daily, one strengthens one’s trust and belief in G-d.

However, Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Riminov (1745-1815), a disciple of the Holy Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk, said that everyone should read Parshat HaMan on the Tuesday of Parshat Beshalach – twice in Hebrew, and once in the Aramaic translation (or in the vernacular), because on that day there is a special segula for one’s parnassa to read the account (Exodus 16: 4-36).  In other words, today is an auspicious day to ask G-d to provide us with a livelihood and the ability to take care of ourselves, and He will bless us with sustenance and prosperity.

For those interested, here it is 

Before the story of the Manna, Parshat Beshalach relates the story of the crossing of the Red Sea – where Bnei Yisrael cross in safety and the Egyptians drown. After their safe passage, Moses and Miriam leads the people in singing a song of gratitude, which is included in our daily prayers (Exodus 15).  Because of the song, this coming Shabbat is called Shabbat Shira (the Sabbath of Song) where we read both Miriam’s song and the Prophet/Judge Devorah’s song – after her victory over Sisera and the Canaanites (Judges 5:1-31). 

There is a custom to eat of the fruits of Israel in abundance on Shabbat Shira, so that you will be blessed with a year of abundance. And if you can’t get the fruits of Israel (they aren't even in season in the winter), it is customary to serve a bit more food than usual – to make an extra dish – on that Shabbat. 

I have a tin ear and can’t sing for love or manna. If I could request a superpower, I would ask to be able to sing (though my kids protest that this is not a superpower) so that I could sing in gratitude for what I have (and some Beatles).  I love Shabbat Shira—it is poetry at its deepest, at its most profound. It is an acknowledgement of G-d and of His mercy and His blessings. 

But I can't sing. So I have to suffice with extra fruit and cake. And I thank G-d for every bit of it. 

May it be Your will, HaShem our God and God of our fathers, that you will provide livelihood for all Your people the House of Israel, and my livelihood and that of all my household among them, easily and without pain, with honor and not with shame, in permissible ways and not in forbidden ways, so that we may carry out Your service and study Your Torah just as You sustained our ancestors with Manna in a dry and desolate land



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