Beshalach–Food with Training Wheels

This is what the LORD has commanded: `Each of you gather as much [manna] as you can eat.   You shall take an omer apiece, according to the number of the persons whom each of you has in his tent.'” And the people of Israel did so; they gathered, some more, some less.  But when they measured it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; each gathered according to what he could eat.  And Moses said to them, “Let no man leave any of it till the morning.”  But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them.  (Ex. 16:16-21)

The manna that sustains Israel in the wilderness automatically redistributes itself in utopian fashion, “from each according to his ability to each according to his need.”   It is there for the taking, but it cannot be hoarded.  Manna knows neither lack nor surplus.

Where can we find such manna?  We cannot find it in our fields, in our silos, in our markets, in our refrigerators.   Manna was both a food and a lesson; you could call it food with training wheels. Once Israel entered the land, the manna ceased, and the food no longer conformed, of itself, to the ideals of Torah.   Distributive justice became a human task, a question we have yet to answer.

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