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Manna Complaints!

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

“But the multitude among them began to have strong cravings. Then even the children of Israel once again began to cry, and they said, ‘Who will feed us meat? We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge, the cucumbers, the watermelons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now, our bodies are dried out, for there is nothing at all; we have nothing but manna to look at.’ Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance was like the appearance of crystal. The people walked about and gathered it. Then they ground it in a mill or crushed it in a mortar, cooked it in a pot and made it into cakes. It had a taste like the taste of oil cake.” (Bamidbar 11, 4-8)

The simple interpretation of these verses is that the Israelites were tired of having the same food every single day and wanted more variety in their diets. As the common proverb goes ‘variety is the spice of life.’ Their complaint is perfectly understandable and legitimate. Why, then, are the people criticized and punished for this complaint? Furthermore, our sages teach us that while the manna had a standard taste (the taste of oil cake), the manna would taste like any food item one wanted it to taste like. If you wanted meat, then the manna would taste like meat, etc. Why would the people be desiring other food items if, indeed, the manna could taste like any food item they imagined?

The great student of Rebbi Nachman, Rebbi Natan, has a fascinating insight. It is common knowledge that much of the enjoyment of food is not simply the physical taste of the food. Seeing the physical appearance of the food and smelling the food play a big part in the pleasure of eating. Similarly, one’s mood and attitude affect the eating experience. The people filled with faith in G-d, aware that one is given exactly what one needs from God, approached the manna with appreciation and satisfaction. Their faith in God and spiritual approach allowed them to taste everything in the manna. They were satisfied, satiated, and grateful for the Divine manna. Those attached to physicality and desire wanted to see all the food types physically in front of them. They did not approach the manna with a positive and open heart and, therefore, were not capable of tasting anything but oil cakes, day in and day out. Thus, they became frustrated and complained.

Our attitude is the key to our own satisfaction! Let us wake up and smell the coffee, enjoy the blessings that G-d has given us in our lives. We will then literally enjoy everything and lack for nothing.