Parshas Eikev: All From Hashem

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Eikev, the eloquent speech, and impactful teachings, of Moshe Rabbeinu continue.  Among the many topics in the parsha, we learn that not by bread alone does man live, but rather from the Emanations of G-d’s Mouth does man live (8:3); that our clothing did not grow old or too small, nor did our feet swell, for all forty years of desert wanderings (a tremendous miracle indeed!) (8:4); of the bountiful and delectable shivas ha’minim by which the land of Israel is blessed (8:8); the mitzvah d’Oraisa of birkas ha’mazon (8:10); the warning not to believe that the might and power of our own hands brings us our success (8:17); the only thing that G-d asks of us (10:12); Hashem’s love and desire for Eretz Yisrael (11:12); the “second paragraph” of the Shema (11:13-21); the mitzvah to cling to talmidei chachamim and Torah scholars (11:22, see Sefer ha’Chinuch 434).

Amongst the many important and beautiful lessons, the pasuk tells us: הַמַּאֲכִלְךָ מָן בַּמִּדְבָּר, אֲשֶׁר לֹאיָדְעוּן אֲבֹתֶיךָלְמַעַן עַנֹּתְךָ, וּלְמַעַן נַסֹּתֶךָלְהֵיטִבְךָ, בְּאַחֲרִיתֶךָWho fed you with manna in the desert, which your forefathers did not know, in order to afflict you and in order to test you, to benefit you in your end (8:16).

It is surprising that the Torah refers to the manna as a test.  After all, what was the test?  Every single day they received an omer la’gil’goles – an omer per head count – which was exactly what each person needed to live!  Food was provided for the nation, day in and day out, for forty years.  A nation of 2.5 million people received enough food, per person, for forty years.  Was this a test?  Was this not one of the greatest miracles, revealed blessings, and ease in life, that one could hope for, and find?

Rabbi Yissocher Frand writes, “Everyone knows that life is a test.  We struggle to make a living, to raise our children, to build up our communities.  Nothing comes easy, and our test is to deal with the hardships and frustrations in the best way possible.

“But… what if everything we needed came to us like manna from heaven?  Would we consider this a test?  Hardly.  We would consider it a great blessing!

“The Torah, however, seems to teach otherwise.  The manna that G-d sent to provide for the nation is referred to repeatedly as a test from Heaven (Shemos 16:4, Devarim 8:2-3, 8:16).  The commentators wonder what kind of test this is.  What could be better than having everything you need delivered to your doorstep each and every day…

“The Sforno explains that the test is to see if the Jews would still follow the Torah when they do not have to worry about their livelihood.  Yes, there is a great test in ‘bread raining down from heaven.’  Affluence without effort is a dangerous thing.  It comes with a great amount of leisure time and freedom of action.  What do we do with that leisure time and that freedom?  Do we use the time to ‘taste’ the forbidden?  This is the great test of the manna.

“We are all aware of the test of poverty.  We are all aware of the trials and tribulations of being poor, chalilah v’chas.  However, says Sforno, affluence also comes with great temptations.  It puts a tremendous responsibility on a person.  This is the test of the affluence and comfort of the manna… And it is a test indeed for many Jews in these affluent times.

“The Chovos ha’Levavos, in Sha’ar ha’Bitachon, writes that one of the reasons people, unlike birds and animals, must make a great effort to earn their livelihood is to control the yetzer harah, the evil inclination.  If we had too much time on our hands, we would be unable to resist the temptations the yetzer harah puts before us.  As it is, we are either too busy or too tired much of the time.  And even then it is a struggle to resist temptation.

“The Maggid of Mezritch once said that when people face troubles, R”L, sickness, or mortal danger, they all become religious.  They all come to Shul to pray.  The cry fervently.  They say Tehillim with tears streaming down their cheeks.  They give charity generously as a merit for healing and good news.  That is all well and good… But when things are going well, when they are going wonderfully, do they give much thought to the Almighty?  This, indeed, is the test of the manna” (Rabbi Frand on the Parashah, p.257-259).

The test of the manna is that when life becomes ‘too good’ and ‘too easy’, do we recall that there is a RS”O?  The test of life – manna, and otherwise – is to recognize and remember that all that we have, and all that we lack, is from Hashem.  We must remember Him and bless Him in the good times, and  remember Him and bless Him in the challenging times.

“Often the Machlis’ had no money to buy food to cook for their hundreds of guests who would be coming for the Shabbos meals.  Friday morning would arrive with both their coffers and their cupboards empty.  Henny would encourage her worried husband, ‘Mordechai, did we ever cancel Shabbos?  Do you ever remember it not working out?’

“Once on Friday at 12:30pm, they hadn’t shopped yet!  They had no money and their credit cards were maxed out.  Fearing the worst, Mordechai said, ‘Even if we get the money, all the supermarkets will be closed.’  Henny refused to give in to anxiety.  ‘I should spend the whole Friday worrying about how we’ll make Shabbos? C’mon Mordechai, it’s going to work out.’  She quoted Rebbe Nachman m’Breslov.  The same way you can borrow on future money that you know will be coming to you, you can borrow on future happiness… Standing in an empty kitchen at 12:30pm on a Friday, Henny borrowed on future happiness.

“‘This happened not only once or twice,’ Mordechai remembers.  And rescue always came.  Either someone lent them money or former students donated funds to sponsor that Shabbos.  Mordechai then rushed to the supermarket, and as they were getting ready to close, he would run through the aisles, tossing Shabbos supplies into his cart.  On Friday night, he recalls, Henny would smile at him, as if she was saying ‘Why did you have to be so nervous?’  And as the guests walked in, R’ Machlis related, no one would have believed that a few hours before, there was nothing (Emunah with Love and Chicken Soup, p.190-191).

For not by bread alone does man live, rather, by all that comes from Hashem does man live (cf. Devarim 8:3).

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


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