Questions for discussion:
1. What is the nature of the manna?
2. What do the Israelites learn (or not) from the manna?
Mekhilta d'Rabbi Yishmael 16:14
וַתַּ֖עַל שִׁכְבַ֣ת הַטָּ֑ל וְהִנֵּ֞ה עַל־פְּנֵ֤י הַמִּדְבָּר֙ דַּ֣ק מְחֻסְפָּ֔ס דַּ֥ק כַּכְּפֹ֖ר עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃
"When the fall of dew lifted, there, over the surface of the wilderness, lay a fine and flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground" (Exodus 16:14).
R. Tarfon says: It descended, as it were, on the palms of the Lord ('pas' means 'palm'). The Holy One Blessed be God stretched out God's hand and took the prayers of our forefathers buried in the earth and brought down the manna which is like dew for Israel, as it says in Job 33:24, 'Then God will be gracious to him, and will say, "Redeem him from descending to the pit, for I have found his ransom ('kofer,' as in the description of the dew, 'dak hakfor').'
Sifre Bamidbar 89
R. Shimon says: Why didn't the manna descend once a year?
A. So that their hearts would turn to their Father in heaven. An analogy: A king decreed that his son be fed once a year — and he visited his father only on the day of his stipend! Once he decreed that he be fed every day — and he visited him every day. So with Israel.
B. If a man had five sons or five daughters, he would sit and worry, thinking: If the manna does not fall tomorrow, we will all die of hunger! — So that they all turned their hearts to their Father in heaven.
C. (It did not fall once for a long period of time) so that it would not be a burden on the road.
Question for discussion:
1. What is the presumed relationship between God and the Israelites in each of these three explanations/parables?
Seder Eliyahu Zuta, Chapter 2
A king had two slaves whom he loved intensely. He gave each one a measure of wheat and a bundle of flax. The intelligent one wove the flax into a cloth and made flour from the wheat, sifted it, ground it, kneaded it, baked it, and set it (the bread) on the table on the cloth he had made before the king returned. The stupid one did not do a thing (with the gifts the king had given him). After some time the king returned to his house and said to them: “My sons, bring me what I gave you.” One brought out the table set with the bread on the tablecloth; the other brought out the wheat in a basket and the bundle of flax with it. What an embarrassment that was! Which do you think was the more beloved? . . (Similarly) when the Holy One, Blessed be God, gave the Torah to Israel, He gave it as wheat from which to make flour and flax from which to make clothing through the rules of interpretation.