Free, nutritious, miraculous, tasty, low-maintenance, delivered to your door for your convenience every morning. Manna – the miraculous food that sustained the children of Israel throughout their desert wanderings – should have been as innocuous as the air we breathe.
It served as an equaliser – ‘he who gathered much had no excess, he who gathered less had no deficiency’, and the double portion was God’s way of indicating it was Shabbat.
Of course, the story did not go like that: from the day that it first fell for the Jews, the ‘Bread from Heaven’ was a source of constant strife.
Some struggled to keep to the simple instructions not to deliberately save over from one day to the next; some complained it did not taste or feel like real food. God even frames the manna as a central test of faith: “Each person should collect their daily portion in order to test if they will walk in My ways or not.”
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The manna narratives are enwrapped in multiple layers. A verse in Ekev summarises the issue: “He fed you manna you did not know, and your forefathers did not know, to teach you that not by bread alone does man live, but by the mouth of God”.
The key component is that of faith, but there is the hint to an underlying psychological challenge: it was that which your forefathers did not know.
Something new – even if it is a tailor-made, Divinely modified organism to cater precisely for our nutritional needs – creates a natural aversion, whether through fear of change, anxiety about the unknown or the inertia of not wanting to do things differently.
The world needs much healing now: some of that healing will, in most likelihood, come through scientists using their Divine gifts of intelligence to create a tailor-made modern-day manna that will, we pray, give the body its strength to fight off Covid.
We must pray humanity accepts this gift, without being held back by it “not being known by our forefathers”.
- Rabbi Garry Wayland is a teacher and educator for US Living and Learning