|In this week’s portion, we read about the complaining of the people concerning the manna = bread from heaven, which was provided to them daily by God. Starting out in Numbers 11 we read of this wilderness episode. “Now the people complained…[and] the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept…and said: ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!’”|
This is exactly the same problem we read of in the Garden of Eden story, dissatisfaction with the provision of God. God had given Adam and Eve, even as He had given the nation of Israel, food to sustain them. But they weren’t satisfied. Adam and Eve wanted forbidden food, while the nation of Israel wanted, what should have been, forgotten food. The Rabbis say that Manna had the ability to take on the taste of any food a person could desire. If someone was thinking about a healthy salad, or a juicy steak, or a chocolate cake, the Manna itself would conform and take on the taste and texture of whatever a person wanted to eat.
|The only food Manna didn’t taste like was the food of Egypt. There are several reasons for this, as told by the various Sages of the Ages. However, after reading through the different ideas, I would like to propose my own thoughts. Why didn’t Manna taste like any of the food the Israelites had eaten in Egypt? Exactly for the reason that it was the food they had once eaten in Egypt. God didn’t allow Manna to taste like the food of Egypt, because it would have most likely turned the Israelites back to Egypt. In other words, had Manna tasted like the food of slavery, in the end, it would have led Israel back into slavery. Yet, the children of Israel loathed the Manna from God and desired the food of their former life. As the 17th Century Poet, Jean de La Fontaine wrote, “A hungry stomach cannot hear.” However, the nation of Israel wasn’t hungry. They had everything they needed from God. They were ungrateful and discontented, but they weren’t hungry. They had forgotten the sting of the whip, the hot sun and the backbreaking labor. They had forgotten why they had even been freed from Egypt. In Hosea 11, God says, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son. But the more I called Israel, the farther they departed from Me…” God had called His people out of Egypt to be His nation; yet, the more He called, the farther Israel seemed to stray.|
Rav Shaul (The Apostle Paul) warned us in his epistle to the Philippians of the many people who walk as enemies of Messiah, “whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.” There are people who live in this world who are guided by whatever their flesh craves. They walk in the lusts of this world instead of setting their eyes on the glorious reality awaiting everyone who purifies them self by walking according to the will of God’s Spirit.
One of the ways we walk in God’s Spirit and recognize His goodness is by being thankful to Him. As it says in Deuteronomy 8, “When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you…” After this verse it goes into what will happen to those who are not thankful to God for His many blessings. It is from these verses where the idea behind “Birkat HaMazon—Grace After Meals” comes from. Prayer before a meal is good, but the Bible specifically states that blessing God should happen once “…[we] have eaten and are full…” Why? The same reason the children of Israel in this portion should have blessed God once they were satiated. As it says in 1Timothy, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.” Satisfaction with God’s provision keeps us from desiring to go back to the places God has saved us from. Dissatisfaction always leads back to slavery; and many return because it’s comfortable, in the sense that, it is what we know and understand. God’s blessings, we don’t understand; and if we are unwilling to receive them or we loathe them as the Israelites loathed the Manna from God, God will give us what we want. As the old adage goes, “Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.”
Chazal (Chachamenu Zikronam Liv’racha—Our Sages, may their memory be blessed) speak of three daily miracles, with which God took care of the Children of Israel in the desert. The three miracles were, 1. The Pillar of Cloud that guided Israel through the desert. 2. The Heavenly Bread = Manna from God. 3. Enough Water for the people and livestock. Psalm 78 sums up the daily miracles quite poetically as it says, “…In the daytime also He led them with the cloud, and all the night with a light of fire. He split the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink…He had commanded the clouds above, and opened the doors of heaven, had rained down manna on them to eat, and given them of the bread of heaven. Men ate angels’ food…”
Yet, the people didn’t care about daily miracles, instead, they wanted meat. They complained and weren’t satisfied with God’s provision, instead they were yielding to their fleshly cravings. They didn’t see the miracles anymore. The miracles had become commonplace. All the Israelites saw were the problems and mini-trials they were facing and allowed these discomforts to turn their hearts against God, the Ultimate Provider of all their needs. Can you imagine what would have happened in this situation, if instead of complaining about their discomforts, instead, the Israelites would have started praising and thanking God for the multitude of His blessings and kindnesses?
Often, even in our own lives, we forget the daily miracles of life that come from God. Everyday is another miracle from God. Every breath is a miracle from God. When we begin to look at life through the wonder of God’s goodness to us, there is no room for complaint. We have everything we need! Because God is our Shepherd, we lack nothing!
|If we viewed everything in life as a test to bring us closer to God, then nothing would shake our resolve to follow Him. Granted, He gives us the strength to bear troubles which otherwise would crush us. But life comes from Him. The question we must ask ourselves is this…Can I/Do I trust God to bring about the best in my life? I say I believe that He is good, but am I willing to live a life that reflects what I say I believe. As Abraham Lincoln quoted “Actions speak louder than words,” and Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” We must all ask ourselves the question posed by Del Tackett in “The Truth Project.” He said, “Do I believe that what I believe is really real?”|
If we honestly asked ourselves this question, I believe it would forever change the way we live. Because if what I believe is really real, then that means God is Sovereign and everything, no matter how crazy, sad, disturbing or traumatic; it is all in His control. And when we let go of our life and our “rights” and our control, that is when the Creator can step in and say, “Let me show you ‘the thoughts that I think toward you…thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart…’”
How does this start? When we “Let go and let God.” And be happy about it! Just recently I read something called “God said ‘No.’” In it a person was asking God different questions. The person’s name was “Me” and it went like this… Me: “God, give me happiness.” God: “No. I will give you blessings. Happiness is up to you.” It is up to us to recognize the daily miracles from God and to always walk in joy for His bountiful blessings! Learn to live in the moment, even as Yeshua, our Rabbi, taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Don’t worry about tomorrow. Each day has enough trouble by itself. Learn to take each day and be grateful for everything God has given! Learn to say even as King David said, “Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation! Teach yourself to recognize everything as blessings or blessings in disguise from God. Nothing happens in life without a purpose. I bless all of us to see the daily miracles from God and may He give us the ability to say, “Gam Zu L’Tovah—This too is for Good.” Because truly, when we look back at life, I believe we will be able to see/say, God was always good to us. And when we only see one set of footprints in the sand, know that those were the times He carried us, in His everlasting arms.
Grace and peace from God’s bondservant,