Thursday, May 31, 2018

Manna, Bread From The Heavens

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The parshas of Behaalosecha and Beshalach, tell about the manna that fell in the desert, and sustained the Jewish people for forty years. 

The Talmud asks, "It is written, 'And when the dew came down upon the camp at night, the manna came down upon it.' (Indicating that the manna fell inside the camp.) And it is written, 'And they went out and collected.' (Indicating that the manna fell outside the camp.) And it is written, 'They walked and collected.' (Indicating that the manna was far from the camp.) How (are all three) possible?" 

The Talmud explains that the three verses are talking about three different groups of people. "For the righteous, it came down at the door of their homes (in the camp), average people 'went out (of the camp) and collected,' the wicked 'walked (far from the camp) and collected.'" 

The Talmud also explains the three different terms used by the Torah for the manna, "bread," "baked goods," and "ground (in a mill)," in the same manner. For the righteous, it was ready to eat, like bread, the average person had to bake it, and the wicked had to start by grinding it into flour. 

Manna is called, "bread from the heavens," or "grain of the heavens." And the blessing said before eating manna is, "hamotzi lechem min hashamayim," Who takes bread out of the heavens, or "hanosain lechem min hashamayim," Who gives bread from the heavens. 

The difference between bread from the earth and bread from the heavens, is that bread from the earth requires a tremendous amount of preparation. It starts with plowing, sowing, and all that is done in the field, then you have to wait for it to grow. Then it has to be cut, gathered, threshed, winnowed and ground in a mill, etc. etc. By the time you have a loaf of bread, much time and energy was expended. And after all that, it is not pure nourishment, part of it the body takes and the rest becomes waste. The bread from the heavens, on the other hand, depending on who you were, had little to no preparation and it was pure nourishment, there was no waste. 

This bread from the heavens nourished all the Jewish people, whether they were righteous, average or wicked. Even the wicked had the experience of pure nourishment without waste. That means that even when it became part of the body, the manna remained in its pure state. The manna, therefore, had an effect on the person who consumed it. As our sages say, "The Torah was not given to expound, but to those who ate the manna," because the manna affected us, and made us into the people right for the task. The manna affected every Jew, as each of us has a part in the Torah and a unique way of understanding it, righteous, average and wicked alike. 

The manna didn't have an immediate effect on the person, they didn't instantly do teshuva when they ate it, the wicked remained that way even after they ate it. That is why they still had to walk far from the camp to collect it, and they still had to grind it. That is also why, during the forty years that they ate the manna, some still did things that angered Hashem, as He said, "And they tested Me these ten times." Nevertheless, it certainly had some effect on them, and eventually, when they did do teshuva, it was certain that eating the manna had a part in their return to Hashem. 

This will help us clear up another oddity we find about the manna. It is said in the name of Rav Saadia Gaon, that if we find ourselves in a distant place and we don't know which parsha to read, we should read the parsha of the manna. And some say, that the reason for this, is that the parsha of the manna was said by Hashem on Shabbos. 

There are many parshas that were said on Shabbos, including the Ten Commandments, which represents the whole Torah. Why should we specifically read about the manna? 

As mentioned earlier, even though the manna reached the lowest levels, even the wicked ate it, it remained in its pure state. First it fell from heaven to earth, then it was consumed by all kinds of people, righteous, average and wicked, and throughout all the levels, it remained the same. 

Shabbos has the same quality, it is a very high and holy thing that comes down to the lowest levels, but it remains the same in all levels of existence. 

About Shabbos, the Torah says, "The heaven and the earth and all its components were completed (Vayechulu)." The word Vayechulu has an alternate translation, from the word kilyon, to go out of oneself from ecstasy, but in regards to Shabbos, it would mean to be raised up to a high spiritual level, because it didn't go out of itself, it remained the same. The verse would thus read, "The heaven and the earth and all its components were raised." And this happens every Shabbos, the whole world is raised in ecstacy, to a very high spiritual level, the level of Shabbos. 

That is why, on Shabbos, not only is it a mitzvah to eat and drink, but it a mitzvah to have pleasure from it. The actual pleasure it is a mitzvah. 

During the week, we have to eat so that we could survive and do the things we are required to do. There is no requirement to have pleasure, as worldly pleasures makes one coarse. But on Shabbos, not only does pleasure not make one coarse, on the contrary, the pleasure is a holy thing, it is a mitzvah. 

Since the light of Shabbos permeates all of existence, we have a rule, that even a completely wicked person doesn't lie on Shabbos. It doesn't mean that he does teshuva on Shabbos, rather he remains the same person, with all of his failings, however, the light of Shabbos has such a profound effect on him, that he doesn't lie. 

Now we can understand why we read the parsha of the manna. Because both Shabbos and the manna have the unique quality, that they affect all levels of existence, and yet, their holiness remains the same. So the parsha of the manna, brings to the fore, the essence of Shabbos. 

On the other hand, the other parshas, including the Ten Commandments, although they are very lofty, they don't bring out the essence of the day. 

Everything in the world, is reflected in Torah. The two types of bread, bread from the heavens and bread from the earth, are found in the study of Torah. Torah is called bread, it nourishes our essence. 

Bread from the earth, is the study of the revealed parts of Torah. It is with great toil and effort that we acquire the knowledge of the revealed Torah. And even when we understand a part of it well, it is fraught with arguments and opinions. 

Bread from the heavens, is the inner or hidden part of the Torah, "In which there is no question... and no argument." 

It is a mistake to think, that just because it is called "bread from the heavens," it is not for every Jew. On the contrary, just like the manna, the inner Torah is for every Jew, no matter where he is at spiritually. And if you teach a person who is not yet following the ways of Hashem, it will, with time, surely move him to get on the path. 

Thank G-d, as Moshiach comes closer, the opposition against teaching the inner Torah has ended. And now, there is hardly a Torah class, or a rabbi's sermon, without some inner Torah flavoring sprinkled within, specifically the teachings of the great chasidic masters. It is a blessing that we can embrace and study all levels of the Torah. 

But that is only in the Torah institutions and synagogues. What about the unaffiliated, or the unlettered? Should we teach them too? These teachings are pure, they permeate all levels, and effect the person being taught to become closer to Hashem. So why not?  

The evil inclination is clever. Now that there is no longer an opposition to chassidus, he has found a new argument. "They are not ready for it yet." However, like every argument of the evil inclination, this one is false as well. Because there is truly no reason to refrain from teaching these beautiful, meaningful and pure lessons to every single Jew. 

I have personally been teaching these teachings since I became a rabbi, and I have not found a Jew who is not ready for it, or who hasn't become closer to Hashem from learning it. 

Even more. The whole purpose of the evil inclination, is for us to strengthen ourselves against him, and do what Hashem wants. And when he sees that all his efforts to get you to do wrong, just made you stronger, he will realize that it wasn't worth it, and he will stop to bother you with his foolish arguments. 

May we bring every Jew closer to Hashem by teaching them both the revealed and inner Torah. This will surely bring Moshiach closer, especially the teachings of the inner Torah, chasidic teaching. As the soul of Moshiach said to the Baal Shem Tov, that he will come, "When your wellsprings (meaning chassidus) will spread out." May he come soon.

In honor of Rabbi Shlomo and Tovi Bistritsky and Rabbi Choni and Frumi Marozov, who married off their children this week. May you only have nachas from the new couple, and may you celebrate many more simchas. And in honor of the new couple Rabbi Mendy and Mirel Bistritsky, may your new marriage be a binyan aday ad. 

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