The Dropping of the Manna as a Way to Rebuild the Israelite’s Trust in God
Rabbi Daniela Szuster
After the Israelites were liberated from the tyranny of Pharaoh, after six weeks of the Exodus, the people started to complain. First, because they were thirsty and then, because they were starving. God, immediately, provided them with water and food. Regarding the food, God said to Moses:
“I will rain down bread for you from the sky, and the people shall go out and gather each day that day’s portion—that I may thus test them, to see whether they will follow My instructions or not.” (Sh’mot 16:4)
The Israelites were starving, and God assured them food giving them bread from the sky. At the end of this verse it is written, “that I may thus test them, to see whether they will follow My instructions or not.” What does it mean? Did God give them manna to feed them or to test them? How did God test the people providing them manna?
Rashi explains this passage by saying that God may try the Israelites faith whether they will observe the commands associated with the manna, that they should not leave any overnight, and that they should not go out on the Sabbath to collect it. According to Rashi, God tested them to see if they followed his specific commandments related to the manna.
Sforno understands that the test persists to see if the Israelites, when receiving their food without effort, will take care to keep God’s commandments and study Torah since they didn’t have to be worried about their sustenance.
Dov Ber of Mezeritch focuses the test on the ability of the people to be grateful to God when they were assured of food to eat without any effort on their part.
Abarbanel doesn’t consider the manna as a test. He points out that God’s beneficence in providing the miraculous “food from heaven” seems like an act of lovingkindness, not a difficult challenge! What kind of test is it to provide someone with food and water that they simply collect without any trouble at all?
Abraham Ibn Ezra asserts that the test was their ability to tolerate needing God each and every day.
Similarly, Ramban (Nachmanides) writes that the people didn’t know if God would in fact provide food every day; they only received it one day at a time, with no assurances for the future. Under those circumstances, writes Ramban, the test is whether they would follow God even if they only had one day’s supply of food.
Following Ibn Ezra and Ramban’s interpretations, the test was that the Israelites would be able to trust in God that every day he will provide them with food. Maybe God, through the dropping of the manna, wanted to teach the people the value of trust.
They were not used to have confidence in anybody. It is something that they needed to learn as former slaves. God was not only feeding the Israelites but also trying to educate them.
Rabbi Shai Held says in his commentary “The Heart of Torah:” “One of the many things Pharaoh has taken from them is the ability to trust. God’s provision of manna is intended to restore that ability to the people”.
As a person who has experienced bad relationships and needed to rebuild the ability to trust in a new person, the Israelites needed to rebuild their relationship with God and have the ability to trust in him. They needed to have the confidence that his words are truth and that they will receive food every day during their journey in the desert.
I believe that this week’s parashah reminds us about the importance of having the ability to trust in God and in our beloved ones.
Relationships are hard work, and building and maintaining trust is a long-term, must-do job for both parties. Theresa Herring, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, asserts that trust is built on regularly showing up in our relationships and points out that small, consistent efforts are worth more than grand gestures.
The everyday manna God gave the Israelites was a way to show the Israelites that they really can trust in God. That He loved them and wanted to take care of them instead of oppressing them as Pharaoh did. The Israelites needed time to restore their ability to trust in God and in their fellow humans.
Without a doubt, trust is an essential part of any relationship. It is the foundation upon which all the other aspects of a relationship – like affection, intimacy, and connection is based.
Let us reflect on the importance of trusting in God and in human beings and try to build relationships based on genuine trust.