Behaalotekha III - THREE METHODS OF COLLECTING MANNA
THE TORAH uses three different expressions concerning manna--the miracle food that nourished our people for forty years in the desert. In one place it states uveredet hatal al hamachneh laylah yered haman alav "--And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it" (Numbers. 11:9).
The implication is that there was no exertion involved in gathering that staple food.
An earlier verse states, vayetzeu ha-am velaktu dvar yom he-yovzo. "And the people went out and gathered a portion every day" (Exod. 16:4). The gathering of the manna was not as easy as in the other instance, but it was done in the camp-within the reach of the people.
The third verse says shatu ha-am velaktu. "The people scattered and gathered it" (Numb. 11:8). This verse indicates effort. The people had to go far afield, beyond the environs of the camp, in order to gather the manna they desired.
The Talmud asks, ha keitzad? What explanation is there for these three diverse verses concerning the gathering of the manna? The answer they give is quite profound. They say that tzadikim yorad al petach hateihem. The righteous ones found the manna at the doors of their homes. Benomm yatzu velaktu. The average people went out and picked it up. Reshaim shatu velaktu. The evil ones had to scatter and pick the manna (Yoma 75a).
I see in this rabbinic saying an accurate description of life. Everyone wants mahn min hashamayim--a bit of heaven on earth. There are those who find it at their doorstep. They enjoy the major elements of a good and worthwhile life in their own homes. They practice the teachings of their Faith with their families at a Seder on Pesach, and at a Sabbath meal with zemirot and divrei Torah. Their homes are their castles where father is king, mother is queen and the children are princes.
Years ago there was a popular song that thrilled millions of people in our country. It was entitled "Blue Heaven." The refrain of that song was very moving. "Just Mollie and me, and baby makes three; we're happy in our blue heaven."
Such people do not have to chase after manna from heaven. They find it right at their door.
Next come the benonim--the average--who find their manna in the camp, hamachneh. They belong to those who yatzeu velaktu--who have to go a reasonable distance to find some satisfaction in life. The benonim need something more than home, family and friends to stimulate them. They seek novel experiences and thrills to chase their boredom. They go to races and fly to Las Vegas to escape the nagging feeling of being in a rut. Why do they feel that way? Because they do not put out sufficient effort and love to provide them with a life of serenity and satisfaction. You see, we get out of life as much as we put into it. It is the old law of retribution known as medah k'neged midah--measure for measure. When we are stingy with our friendships and with our contribution to the welfare and happiness of others, life becomes a bore. When we fancy that life is meant to serve only us-our curiosity and our vanity--then life becomes tasteless and stale. We have
In their unceasing quest for manna from heaven the third group goes far afield from the 'nachn'eh of their people. The mad chase after the elusive bluebird which robs them in time of their identity and roots. In their rush to quench an insatiable thirst for lust and pleasure, they end up estranged from their families and bitter against their people. They bring isolation upon themselves and end in a pool of spiritual stagnation. One finds these reshaim on college campuses and fraternities where they join groups that favor the destruction of Israel. One finds them in the ranks of authors and journalists, and even among the so-called intelligentsia, who malign and slander the name of Jews and Judaism.
If you have ever rambled among the rocks when the tide is out, you would have noticed pools of water with tiny fish in them. To those little fish, that pool is all the ocean they know. They have no dealings with their brothers in the adjacent pools, although only a few inches of sand divides them. But when the rising tide of the ocean rushes in, it brings brother close to brother again. This has happened during the Holocaust, and it could happen again in our time. It is sad that only the ocean of tragedy and suffering can break down the barriers between the pools and bring back the nidchei Yisrael into the wide and fresh waters of their people again.