June 2, 2024
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“And Hashem said to Moshe, ‘Behold I shall cause bread to rain for you from the heaven, and the people shall go out and collect each day’s portion on its day, so that I can test them, if they follow my teaching or not’” (Shemot 16:4).

Following the crossing of the sea and the subsequent rejoicing, the Israelites enter the desert and we read of how they were to be miraculously sustained. Whereas mankind usually receives food from the ground and water from the sky, the Israelites received their water from the ground (Miriam’s well) and their food rained down from the sky (manna).

When informing Moshe about the manna and its rules, Hashem describes it as a test, “…so that I can test them, if they follow my teaching or not.” At first glance, this seems to be the easiest test of all time. The Israelites did not have to make the slightest effort in producing or preparing their food. They did not even have to make a living, for Hashem Himself ensured there was bread on their tables and roofs over their heads. All they had to do was walk out each morning and collect their Divine meals. In what way was the manna a test of observance? Where is the challenge in living a life of luxury and relaxation?

Or HaChaim answers:

“Because food from heaven needs no fixing, they (the Israelites) will be free of everything and then I will see if they follow… (my teaching or not)” (Or HaChaim, Shemot 16:4).

According to the Or HaChaim, it was the carefree and relaxing lifestyle created by the manna that provided the real test. Without any of the concerns of food production, preparation or livelihood, the Israelites had an abundance of free time. Therein lay the test. Free of distractions and potential excuses, would the Israelites immerse themselves in futile pursuits or would they utilize their time for learning, observing Hashem’s teachings and bettering the world?

The miraculous existence in the wilderness was never meant to be a long-term solution and we no longer rely on manna to fall from heaven. Nor do we rely on being otherwise miraculously sustained. The realities of this world dictate that there will not be food on our tables or roofs over our heads if we do not invest a significant amount of time in making a living. Nevertheless, whilst we do not have the abundance of time the Israelites had in the wilderness, the test of the manna remains true.

Once we have worked enough hours to ensure a fair standard of living, how do we use the rest of our time? Do we spend our spare time in selfish endeavors or do we give time to others? Do we fill our remaining hours with meaning? Do we set aside time for learning Torah?

By setting our priorities straight and wisely utilizing our spare time, may we successfully pass the test.

Rabbi Danny Mirvis is Acting CEO of World Mizrachi, and Rabbi of Ohel Moshe Synagogue in Herzliya Pituach.

The RZA-Mizrachi is a broad Religious Zionist organization without a particular political affiliation.

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