Manna: miracle and lesson | Parashat Beshalach

In the chapter Bshalach we learn how God interrupts the natural order to establish relationship between divine and human. One of the ways of relationship, after the rescue at the sea from Pharaoh and Egyptians, was the Manna, which played the role of everyday food and certain lesson to the children of Israel.

Martin Buber in “Moses” (p119) one of his writings that is rather the form of a scholarly inquiry, suggests certain comparison. Manna continues the story of matzah, where the last one is the bread of affliction and the first one may be called the bread of Creation. Both Buber and rabbi Plaut (Torah, p 453) see the parallels to the bread of Creation also in other traditions. The Scandinavian Edda tells us about a heavenly “honeyfall” and the Greeks knew of nectar and ambrosia as divine nourishment.

Additionally, Plaut quotes the 1935 year published book the “Religions of the Hebrew”, where manna is an excretion of two scale insects that live in symbiosis with the tamarisk. The chemical analysis of the exertions that the product is a mixture of three basic sugars with pectin. With all information from the chapter and commentaries, we do not exactly know how tasty and healthy was it.

Although the midrash (Yalkut Shimony 1: 258) comments “It was one of the miracles that manna tasted different to everyone. Whatever the Israelites liked, they found in the manna.

The lesson we learn is the fact that manna, according to Mishna “God creation among ten wonders, created in the world” is the miracle that has got scientific and theological explanations and yet remains a miracle. Beoynd being necessary food and connection, the lesson of the Manna is its individuality and motivation.

In our chapter we are in the time, when the children of Israel finished the matza in the wilderness and the ten commandments/tablets would be given later. The instruction of the manna collection in the chapter (Beshalach 16:16) is “as much of it as each of you require to eat” slightly contradiction to the fact that they all gathered of the manna amounted to one omer. And the manna they put aside to be kept to the morning had maggots in it, also gathered in Friday double portion and kept had not maggots during Shabbat. Both rabbis and philosophers Bahaya ibn Paquda and Samson Raphael Hirsh agreed that one of the lesson of manna especially for generations after Exodus is to teach us that we must do what is necessary and not really on miracles.

One of the miracles in my life was the year 1993, when the first Jewish reform community Simcha started to gather since the Tu bShvat, and after on Friday night weekly. Small rented space, no sefer Torah, no prayers books Hebrew -Russian, no rabbi and cantor, no tallits, Jewish books and some knowledge about liturgy, add to that no internet and deficit in shops as the matter concerns big amounts of products. For example, we could not find figs to eat them during the “Briya world” seder part in 1994, than I asked my friend at least to draw it, and the answer was, he was not sure how it looked like.

Our manna in the wilderness journey was support from WUPJ leaders, rabbis, volunteers and professionals, could visit us. Institutions who could help with what is necessary, rabbis, trained by the LBC, and visiting student rabbis from the HUC, seminars, schools, W. Gunter Plaut Torah translated into Russian, Sandra Breslauer Beit Simcha Center. We reach this year of 30 years anniversary having both: miracles and not relying on miracles doing what is necessary to do. 55 programs for over 3000 people in 12 communities is just statistics. Whoever was and is involved in the story of success should know that we will start our 30th Tu bi- shvat, where fruits as the manna both the food and the lesson, also with comparation of Israel parliament and Simcha community. The frist one from 1949 and the second one from 1993 and both celebrate birthday on the New year of trees.

We want to thank all of you, who helped us in planting tree of progressive Judaism in Belarus, so we all may enjoy its fruits. May Almighty gives us support to continue with His lessons and miracles as the manna, with our movement and the connection as well as our desire to develop.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ).