If someone was to ask you which miracle of Moshe Rabbeinu would you deem as the greatest miracle that he performed on behalf of Am Yisrael, what would be your response? You’ll be very surprised by how the Ibn Ezra responded to this question. He writes that the greatest miracle of Moshe is the manna which came in his merit and from where the Yidden in the desert were sustained. Firstly, the miracle of the manna possessed many miracles in one. For example, it would taste like any food one can desire, all the food of the manna was edible and nutritional and therefore it became totally absorbed into the body without any wastage, one could not leave it over for the next day for then it would rot and be full of worms, etc. The second aspect that makes the manna an extraordinary miracle is the fact that the miracle lasted for forty years in the desert which the Ten Makkos or the Kerias Yam Suf cannot claim.
If one wants to go even deeper than this he will discover that the miracle of the manna lasted all the way up to the time of Yirmiyahu Hanavi when he chastised the people for not learning Torah and they responded they have to make parnassah. Yirmiyah took out the jar of the miracle manna and showed it to the people and said as Rashi writes (Shmos 16,32)
לדורותיכם – בימי ירמיהו כשהיה ירמיהו מוכיחם למה אין אתם עוסקים בתורה והם אומרים נניח מלאכתנו ונעסוק בתורה מהיכן נתפרנס הוציא להם צנצנת המן אמר להם אתם ראו דבר ה’ שמעו לא נא’ אלא ראו. בזה נתפרנסו אבותיכם הרבה שלוחין יש לו למקום להכין מזון ליראיו:
There is yet another interpretation on the word of לדרתיכם that it refers to the generation of Moshiach’s arrival. Eliyahu Hanavi will display the jar of the manna in order to usher in the new providence of Hashem which will demonstrate to Am Yisrael and its nature will be miraculous and supernatural, as it was before and during the exodus of Am Yisrael from Mitzrayim. So in essence, the manna miracle has the greatest longevity of anything else.
The parsha of the manna is printed in many siddurim after the Tefilas Shacharis. The reason given is that this parsha teaches that Hashem is the one who gives parnassah and one merely makes his hishtadlus to be a vessel to receive it. Every day before we go out to work, we must remind ourselves Who is really the parnassah provider and Who already decreed upon us how much we will earn every day of the year no matter how hard we try.
We would like to suggest another reason why it is important to say this parsha at least once in a while according to the commentary of the Chasam Sofer. The passuk says:
למען אנסנו הילך בתורתי אם לא (שמות טו ד)
The giving of the manna is a test whether they will comply with my Torah or not. There is a dispute amongst the Rishonom in defining exactly what the test of the manna phenomenon was. The Chasam Sofer describes the test in relation to the manna as follows. Even during the tragic event of worshipping the Eigel Hazahav the manna still came down as usual. Seeing this, Am Yisrael could have rationalized that the making and worshipping of the Eigel was not deemed a rebellion against Hashem (as the meforshim explain that their intention was not for the purpose of avodah zarah). They could have easily reasoned that since Hashem did not withhold this “miraculous” daily treat, He must not be upset with us at all because He understood our pure motivations. Obviously, Hashem will not change nature for reshaiim by giving them the daily manna, if their avodah was undesirable.
Yet when Moshe Rabbeinu came down from Har Sinai with the Luchos and he broke them in front of their eyes, they immediately did teshuvah and they mourned. They stripped themselves of the crowns that they received for declaring נעשה ונשמע (Shmos 32,4) a statement that proclaimed that we are no longer worthy of wearing them. What could have easily blocked their response of immediate teshuvah and remorse over the Eigel, could have been the continuous flow of the manna even during the time that they sinned. The manna for them was a gigantic test whether Am Yisrael will choose Hashem and the words of Moshe even in their present state of worshipping the Eigel, or will they rather choose the testimony of the manna which was an indicator that they were fulfilling the ratzon of Hashem all along, and therefore there is no remorse for what we are doing and no reason to listen to chastisement of Moshe. Baruch Hashem, they passed the test of the manna.
Material success can be intoxicating and blinding. If the money-making deals keep coming and the income rises astronomically, one is prone to fall into a delusion that he must be finding favor in the eyes of Hashem both in his spirituality and middos, for otherwise why would Hashem go overboard with the flowing success. With such a thought process, one will fail to make a self-introspection and take inventory on his shortcomings for he feels that if Hashem would be disappointed in his values and ambitions He would for sure withhold from him the high degree of success in materialism that he achieves. However, from the manna we are taught that his extraordinary success in business is like the manna. Even if the manna keeps coming down it doesn’t mean that one is living with spiritual correctness and refinement בין אדם לחבירו ובין אדם למקום. Material success can be only a test. It is very possible that if one fails the test, the test and the money will be taken away as there is no longer a need for it.
One should read the parsha of the manna before he goes out to the business world for then he will realize that even if he succeeds in materialistic growth, it could nevertheless be like the manna. Don’t justify your poor conduct and lack of spiritual and character growth, from the barometer of your wealth and success. Your manna can keep falling even when your state of ruchniyus is also falling. It could all be a test.
Am Yisrael called it מן (Shmos 16,15). However, the מן can also stand for the acronym מזון נסיון that not only is it sustenance but it is also a נסיון a test as we explained with the interpretation of the Chasam Sofer. כי לא ידעו מה הוא the people did not know which was its primary purpose מזון, נסיון, or both. Success is a tremendous test. Take a successful person in the material arena. Will he readily accept mussar from a Rav or friend or will it fall on deaf ears since he thinks that he already has Hashem’s stamp of approval through his success in finances or his children who are exceptional Bnei Torah? It all depends on whether he views his success as a gift from Hashem, a nisayon, or a vote of confidence from Hashem that he is deserving of such reward for his impeccable conduct with Hashem. The truth is that every individual possesses his personal test with his מן. It is called מני (money) My Mon מן . After all, the gematriah of מן is 90 the letter of צדיק. A mistaken successful מן can give you the illusion that you are a tzadik. The way to avoid this trap is to make a cheshbon hanefesh frequently and not allow success to rob you from achieving the real success of life which is tikkun Adam.