Eating Heavenly Bread
For the duration of the forty years that our forefather’s wandered in the desert, God provided them with bread from heaven, or ‘manna’. Through this heavenly bread God taught Israel how to relate to one’s sustenance and livelihood, as it is stated (Exodus 16:4): “I will make bread rain down to you from the sky. The people will go out and gather enough for each day. I will test them to see whether or not they will keep My law.”
The test was that we were commanded to gather the bread everyday according to one’s daily needs, and not to leave any left over for the next day. This was a difficult test in view of the fact that man’s utmost concern in this world is the food he eats and his livelihood. As a result of his concern for survival, that God forbid, he won’t have enough food to eat and will die of starvation, or perhaps that without a house or proper clothing he’ll suffer from heat or cold, within man develops an enormous urge to eat as much as possible and to constantly accumulate money and possessions. Thus, he becomes a slave to his work and desires.
God wanted to release Israel from being slaves to materialism, and teach them the proper approach to one’s livelihood, so they would know that a Israel’s purpose is to cleave to God and His Torah, whereas his sustenance and livelihood are merely tools to reach this goal. Therefore, God commanded Israel to gather only a portion of ‘manna’ for one day’s consumption, and to trust that He would rain-down more ‘manna’ the following day. Those who failed the test and gathered a lot of ‘manna’ would find that upon returning to their tents, what remained in their possession was exactly the amount needed for one day – “an ‘omer’ (a measure equal to approximately 2 quarts) for each person.” Thus, they learned that there is life beyond being enslaved to one’s livelihood and sustenance, and became accustomed to freeing themselves from materialism. As it is stated (Deuteronomy 8:3): “He made life difficult for you, letting you go hungry, and then He fed you the Manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had ever experienced. This was to teach you that not by bread alone that man lives, but by all that comes out of God’s mouth.”
Prophets or Profits
The Torah tells us that there were people who could not overcome their worries and stashed away some ‘manna’ to eat the following day, but it became putrid and wormy. Within this lies a great lesson for generations: People who are overly concerned with the materialistic side of their life and what they eat, in the long run, their bodies decay, as our Sages said (Pirkei Avot 2:7): “The more flesh, the more worms.” This is self-evident; however, not too many people are aware that those who overly strive to hoard money while neglecting the spiritual side of their lives, in the end, the materialistic side within them defeats their spiritual aspect, and all their possessions become putrid and rotten. Not a trace of spirituality remains within them; their families fall apart, and the money is wasted on useless luxuries.
Surprise before Shabbat
And then, when the eve of the Shabbat arrived, a surprise occurred: A lot more ‘manna’ fell from the heavens, and even those who meant to gather only a little – upon arriving home, found a double portion. As it is written (Exodus 16:22-26): “When Friday came, what they gathered turned out to be a double portion of food, two ‘omers’ for each person. All the leaders of the community came and reported it to Moses. [Moses] said to them, “This is what God has said: Tomorrow is a day of rest, God’s holy Sabbath. Bake what you want to bake, and cook what you want to cook [today]. Whatever you have left over put aside carefully until morning. They put it away until [Saturday] morning, as Moses had instructed. It was not putrid, and there were no maggots in it. Moses announced, “Eat it today, for today is God’s Sabbath. You will not find [anything] in the field today. You are to gather [this food] during the six weekdays, but the seventh day is the Sabbath, and on that [day] there will not be any.”
The Blessing of Shabbat
The Sages said (Bereshit Rabbah 11:2) that the double portion of ‘manna’ which fell from heaven was due to the blessing of Shabbat. Seemingly, the question arises: What sort of blessing is this? For in actuality, the portion of ‘manna’ on Shabbat was the same amount as the other days, only that it fell on Friday. The answer is that on the seventh day, the people’s worries were removed from their hearts, for the food meant for Shabbat was already prepared the previous day. This is analogous to a person who works hard everyday under heavy pressure; his boss and clients are extremely demanding, and he always has to work overtime just to catch-up. Lo and behold, one day he gets’ a present from heaven – he successfully completes twice as much work in one day than he normally does. What a relief! What a joy! For an entire day he won’t need to work! A full day to stroll leisurely without any worries. Perhaps he’ll speak with his wife a little; maybe he’ll even notice that his children have grown-up since the last time he paid attention to them, a couple of years ago…
On that very day, he is free to think about things beyond his daily concerns. And it is precisely these thoughts which will enable him to progress later on at his job.
This is the blessing of Shabbat. We have been commanded to cease all types of work every Shabbat, thereby removing from our hearts the worries of making a living, and with this freedom and independence, to cleave to God and His Torah. Specifically because of the cessation of work on Shabbat, Heavenly blessing is extended for good livelihood during the six working days of the week.
Body and Soul
Just like the body and soul are connected, so too, the six working days of the week and Shabbat are also intrinsically bound. The six working days are the body, and Shabbat is the soul. Just as a well-rounded person is one whose soul and body work together in harmony, with the body receiving spiritual inspiration from the soul, while enabling the soul the ability to express itself, so too, a complete week is one in which the Shabbat and the six days are interconnected. During the six days of work we prepare all of our Shabbat needs and implement the ideas of the Shabbat, while from the Shabbat we draw spiritual powers for the duration of the week.
Good Money, Bad Money
From the fact that the ‘manna’ which was saved for the following day decomposed, we learned that if a person wishes to accumulate more food and money than he needs in order to take care of himself and his family, he will begin to be drawn after materialism, increase his lust for meat and other luxuries, and in the end, decay.
For the sake of Shabbat, however, it is permissible to gather more than normal, for in that case, the materialism becomes a basis for the revelation of spirituality, and consequently, does not detach a person from life, but rather, connects him even more.
In other words, for the sake of Heaven — to improve and enhance the world, to add Torah, to increase the settling of the Land of Israel – for such purposes it is permitted to gather more money than one needs, for this is similar to the double portion of ‘manna’ which was gathered for the Shabbat.
Making a Living in Israel
The forty years Israel spent in the desert, eating bread from Heaven, was intended to strengthen our awareness of the foundation of trust in God. However, after entering the Land of Israel, the participation in settling the land and earning a living becomes a mitzvah, and every individual is responsible to support himself. Nevertheless, one should do so for the sake of Heaven, in order not to become rancid and decay from greediness, miserliness, and envy; but rather, to add goodness and blessing in the world.