Manna From Heaven
The One Who feeds you manna in the desert…in order to test you. (Devarim 8:16)
Everyone knows that life is a test. We struggle to make a living, to raise our children, to build up our communities. Nothing comes easy, and our test is to deal with the hardships and frustrations in the best way possible.
But what if our livelihood were served up to us on a silver platter? How wonderful that would be! No more worries about how to pay for the children’s tuition or the new roof. What if everything we needed came to us like manna from heaven? Would we consider this a test? Hardly. We would consider it a blessing. The Torah, however, seems to say otherwise. No sooner had the Jewish people come forth from Egypt that they complained (Shemos 16:3), “If only we had died by the hand of God in the land of Egypt when we were sitting beside the fleshpots, when we ate our fill of bread; now you have brought us out into the desert to let the entire congregation starve to death.”
“Behold, I will rain down bread from the heavens on you,” Hashem replied (ibid. 16:4). “The people shall go out to collect their daily portion every day, in order to test whether or not they will follow My Torah.” The commentators wonder what kind of test this is. What could be better than having everything you need delivered to your doorstep every day? This is a test? This is a blessing!
Rashi explains that Hashem was referring to the laws that govern the manna. One could not store away any manna for the next day. One had to collect a double portion on Friday. And so forth. This was the test. Would the Jewish people observe the laws of the manna scrupulously?
This test is also mentioned in Parashas Eikev, “The One Who feeds you manna in the desert…in order to test you.” Sforno explains that the test is to see if the Jews would still follow the Torah when they do not have to worry about their livelihood.
Yes, there is a great test in “bread raining down from heaven.” Affluence without effort is a dangerous thing. It comes with a great amount of leisure time and freedom of action. What do we do with that leisure time and that freedom of action? Do we use our leisure time and freedom of action to taste the forbidden? This is the great test of the manna. We are all aware of the test of poverty. We are all aware of the trials and tribulations of being poor. However, says Sforno, affluence also comes with great temptations. It puts a tremendous responsibility on a person. This is the test of the manna, and it is the test for many Jews in these affluent times.
The Chovos Halevavos writes in Shaar Habitachon that one of the reasons people, unlike birds and animals, must make a great effort to earn their livelihood is to control the yetzer hara. If we had too much time on our hands, we would be unable to resist the temptations he puts before us. As it is, we are either too busy or too tired most of the time. And even then it is a struggle to resist temptation.
The Maggid of Mezritch once said that when people face troubles, sickness or mortal danger, Heaven forbid, they all become religious. They all come to shul. They pray fervently. They say Tehillim with tears streaming down their cheeks. They give charity generously. But when things are going well, when they are going wonderfully, do they give much thought to the Almighty? This is the test of the manna.
RavFrand, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Yissocher Frand and Torah.org.