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Life's Ultimate Test

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

“The Lord said to Moses, Behold! I am going to rain down for you bread from heaven, and the people shall go out and gather what is needed for the day, so that I can test them, whether or not they will follow My Torah.” (Exodus 16:4)

The Torah describes the heavenly bread (Manna) as a test for the nation. A test, per definition, implies a level of difficulty and challenge. Surely, if we were all privileged enough to have the luxury of not having to work for a living, that would be a blessing. Where is the test? Where is the challenge? Additionally, why does the test of the Manna determine “…whether or not they will follow My Torah”?

Our commentators provide many insightful answers to these questions. I would like to suggest an answer that is hinted to in many of the commentaries. The great challenge of the Manna was relinquishing control and security. The Jewish People lost direct control of their livelihoods. The Manna could not be saved from one day to the next, and the people were left with no option but to rely on God to provide the Manna on the following day. Their financial destinies were completely out of their control and left to divine providence.

The Torah, per definition, implies that our portions in this world and the next world are linked to our observance of the Mitzvot and the resulting divine providence. We do not understand God’s exact calculations in this regard, but, nonetheless, that is the way of the Torah. The test of the Manna was relinquishing one’s control and being dependent on God for one’s livelihood. Similarly, following the Torah commandments requires submission of our own will to the will of God and an acceptance that, based on divine providence, every person will receive one’s livelihood from God. We now understand why the above verse connects the test of the Manna to Torah observance in general.

Having God in our lives requires dependence, submission, reliance, trust, and relinquishing control. The test today is the same as it was 3,300 years ago. Are we up for the test?