Saturday, Jul 20, 2024

You’re Eating What?

What if you were hungry and had no money with which to buy something to eat? You're too embarrassed to beg, you aren't on anybody's list as a chessed recipient, and whatever finances you thought you would have simply never materialized. It sounds almost unreal for today's day and age, but you're actually hungry and have no honest idea where your next meal will come from. Seeking a bit of fresh air to clear your head, you open the back door of your home, take a step out - and stop dead in your tracks. This is not happening. Not in the year 2013 (lemisporom). Before your very eyes, soft white doughy clusters are falling from the sky right onto your back porch! Food? From the sky?!

Tentatively, you stretch out your hand. You pick up some of the still-warm fluff and bring it to your lips for a taste.




Knowing all the Medrashim about how the monn in the deserttasted like whatever food its eater thought about, you concentrate for a moment, picture a juicy steak dripping with pungent sauce, and sample another bit of fluff.




Can this really be happening? Is your hunger playing tricks with you? Do open miracles still happen in this day and age?


Just to make sure, you give it another try. You also wonder if miracles work with 21st century taste buds as well. You conjure a bright image of a piece of sushi in your mind and taste yet another piece of fluff.


Wow. This is beyond anything you could have ever imagined Hashem doing to stave off your hunger. Of course you knew Hashem would help. We’re believers, after all. Still, to do so in such an openly miraculous way leaves you speechless with wonder and feelings of gratitude, closeness and awe.


– – – – –


While we all know that Hashem is guiding every step of our lives – and hopefully we recognize His ever-present Hashgacha Protis, His individualized attention,as well – one would think that most of us, if not all of us, look upon our lives as guided by Hashem, but basically in a pretty natural manner. Miracles, especially mouth-dropping – and mouth-watering! – miracles such as the one describes above, simply do not happen to us. At least not on a day-to-day basis.


Picture a man, though, who grew up with that very most-amazing miracle. Say someone was two years old when the Jews left Egypt. As he grows up and becomes cognizant of the world and events around him, he knows that the food they eat falls from the sky. In much the same way as we see rain, this little boy sees how the food falls each morning from the heavens. His parents go out and gather it in, and as sure as day there is food to eat. True, the look and texture are the same day in and day out, but the taste is just wonderful. The boy can hardly imagine anything better.


Thirty-eight years later – forty years after the Yidden left Mitzrayim – the nation finally makes its wondrous entrance into the Promised Land. Excitement abounds. Everyone is on a heightened level of existence. Our boy, now a grown 40-year-old man, is on the same “high” as everybody else. Everything about Eretz Yisroel, just being there, is almost magical.


Disappointment and worry are not far off, though. Our friend wakes up on his very first day in Eretz Yisroel, a song of praise on his lips. Humming cheerfully, his heart overflowing with happiness, he makes his way outside – like they’d been doing for forty years now – to bring in the daily monn. Jug in hand, he bends down to scoop it up – but what’s this?!


No monn?


Such a thing has not happened in all his cognizant years even once! On weekdays, in the same manner that the sun rises and the tides rise and fall, the food comes down from the sky. It is simply the way of life. Can you imagine waking up and the sun has not risen? How can the monn not have fallen? Besides, what will they eat? The man has an entire family to feed.


Slightly bewildered, our friend decides to wait a bit. Perhaps the timing is a bit different in Eretz Yisroel. Blame it on jetlag. (Okay, so they didn’t exactly fly there or travel that quickly. It took them forty years. We just wanted to make sure you were paying attention…) In any case, and lacking a better alternative, the man decides to check again a bit later.


Nothing doing. Afternoon passes, then night, but the sky remains clear and the ground empty of anything remotely resembling monn. What will be? Will they starve here, after finally reaching the holy and Promised Land of our fathers?


His stomach rumbling with growing hunger and his mind empty of ideas, our friend feels a tap on his back. Someone tells him to follow him into a field. There, he is told, is food. All sorts of delicious foods to fill his family’s hungry bellies.


They arrive in a field and our friend is directed to a cluster of trees. Trees? You gotta be kidding! What good are trees? Trees are hard, wooden and completely inedible. How will trees help him come up with food?


“Look,” he is told. “On the trees is food. Sweet foods in appetizing colors and of delectable tastes. Eat them, bring them home to your family, and you will be happy and sated.”


The man doesn’t appreciate the joke. Whom is his guide trying to kid? How could a hard piece of wood be expected to put forth a soft, sweet, colorful fruit?


Yet, on further inspection, this is exactly what our friend, to his growing surprise and excitement, finds. Juicy oranges, succulent apples, pungent pomegranates and buttery dates abound! What miracles has Hashem wrought! What an open manifestation of His love for His creations! Look how nature defied itself, how hard tasteless wood brought forth such amazing and varied fruits, simply because Hashem wants His people to eat heartily and happily.


Further afield, the man is shown stalks of wheat waving in the wind. This hard “grass,” he is told, contains seeds that can be ground up, mixed with water, and baked into the most delectable loaves of filling bread. Stalks and hard seeds, it seems, can become soft loaves of warm bread.


Had he not seen this field with his own eyes, the man would never have believed that Hashem would choose such an openly miraculous way to feed His creations, and on a daily basis to boot!


– – – – –


We, today, as we chew our “normal” foods, marvel at the monn that fell for ourforefathers in the desert. No doubt, they marveled at the miracle and the completely unexpected way that Hashem chooses to feed us today.


Often, when faced with a crisis, hardship, difficulty or seemingly impossible situation, we feel as if the cards are stacked against us. “Even if Hashem wanted to help us,” we think, “there is no real way out short of an open miracle.”


“Open miracles,” we find ourselves ruefully thinking, are not exactly the norm.


We forget that while it is true that Hashem runs things in a way that passes for “nature,” nature itself – hard logic and clear notions – is like putty in His Hand. We can’t picture, for the life of us, how we could be helped, and the next thing we know the very problem can disappear, and in the most seemingly “natural” way of all.


Now, after Pesach, when the monn – food from the sky – began falling for our fathers in the midbar, is a good time to remember that not only can Hashem help us, but He doesn’t need our ideas or “assistance” either. He can bring us monn – in fact He does so each and every day! -and we go around thinking that this food which comes from dirt, wood and grass is the most regular, natural thing in the world.


Nope. Hashem definitely does not need our suggestions.


In the same vein, Rav Mordechai Schwab zt”l once spoke at Yeshivah Gedolah of Passaic (the shmuess can be found in sefer Maamar Mordechai), where he quoted a transformational observation made by Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz zt”l. Rav Boruch Ber noted that during the times before the cheirem deRabbeinu Gershon (which prohibited Ashkenazi Jews from marrying two wives) was enacted, there were more women than men of marriageable age due to a gender inequality in mortality rates.


When Rabbeinu Gershon enacted his cheirem and men were suddenly only allowed to marry one wife, the Jewish Ashkenazi world faced a potential crisis. What would become of all the single girls who suddenly found themselves without any natural possibility or hope of ever finding a husband? The Ribbono Shel Olam saw what the chachmei Yisroel had decreed, says Rav Boruch Ber, and nature, birth and mortality rates simply changed to conform to the new reality. There were now an equal number of men as there were women and what was before “impossible” suddenly wasn’t even an issue.


(As an aside, while Rav Boruch Ber was addressing the greatness of Hashem and how nature itself bends to His Will and for His people, the example he gave is quite telling. In all the hype surrounding today’s “shidduch crisis” and many of the propaganda-laden campaigns where nothing is sacred anymore and terms like “igun olam” are bandied about like catchy soda-pop slogans, some basic Jewish fundamentals seem to have been dropped by the wayside.


Whatever one’s solutions, ideas or approach, our job is to deal with our reality according to our Torah. The reality itself is G-d’s issue – and He does not need our help, thank you very much.


Gedolei Yisroel in years past have dealt with all sorts of issues, and shidduchim was almost always high on their list. Their focus, though, was always on how to deal with the issues and realities they were presented with. They worried about this specific issue, this shidduch, this father of five single girls, this orphaned bride, this penniless groom, etc. The reality itself was never something our gedolim involved themselves with in any form or manner, because the Jewish people, ma’aminim bnei ma’aminim, never dreamed to involve themselves in what is exclusively G-d’s domain or to try and “help” Him run the world..


Torah gives us free choice and a responsibility to choose in our situations as per G-d’s Will. Worrying and proclaiming and getting into hysterics about the situation itself, as well as behaving not necessarily in the Torah’s best interests but in the interest of how we think G-d needs us to act in order to help Him fix His world, falls into the same secular/liberal/ludicrous categories as saving the whales, protecting the ozone layer – what our irreligious brethren refer to as “tikkun olam” – and is a direct derivative of those campaigns and ideas.)


Rav Boruch Ber’s words should change our very perception of reality. It reminds us that the only reality is G-d, His Will and His Torah. We need never worry or obsess about how Hashem will help us out of our situation, whatever it may be. We need only turn to Him, tread His path, and trust in His salvation.


Sounds impossible? Think about it the next time you find yourself eating monn – the kind we pick from trees and think to be so normal and possible.




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