“I shall rain down for you food from heaven; let the people go out and pick each day’s portion on its day…” (Shemos 16:4).
The Talmud (Yoma 76a) relates that the students of R’ Shimon bar Yochai asked: Why didn’t the mahn just fall once a year? R’ Shimon bar Yochai answered with a parable: A king with an only son would give him an allowance for which the son would visit his father once a year. The king decided, though, that he wanted to see his son more often, so he only granted him enough provisions for one day; that way, his son had to visit him every day.
By daily receiving enough mahn for only one day, the Jewish nation had to constantly direct their hearts to Hashem for His sustenance in the midst of the desolate desert.
The Talmud gives an additional reason for the mahn falling daily – so the Jews could eat it when it was hot and fresh. With His great love, Hashem provided food that was especially appetizing. Another explanation is that giving the Jews mahn for the year would have required them to carry it from place to place as they traveled, which would have been burdensome. Therefore, Hashem gave them mahn every day.
Three times a day we say in Ashrei, “The eyes of all look to You with hope, and You give them their food in its proper time.” Our sages question why this verse reads “food in its proper time” considering that the word “food” in this verse (“achlam”) is written in the plural form. They answer that due to Hashem’s love for us, He gives food to His creations in the best way, with each individual receiving it at the proper time.
The Mechilta D’Rebbi Yishmael comments that the Torah can only be elucidated by those who ate from the mahn. R’ Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev expounds that only those who live their life like the people who ate the mahn – they depend totally on Hashem and place their faith completely in Him – are worthy to clarify the Torah.
It is told that a rich man came one Motzei Shabbos to R’ Yaakov Chizkiyah Greenwald, the Puppa Rebbe, and gave him a large sum of money. The next Motzei Shabbos he came again and again gave the Rebbe a large sum of money. When the wealthy man returned the third Motzei Shabbos with a monetary gift, the Admur refused it, saying, “You have already given me enough.”
The wealthy man said, “I have a lot of money and my gifts to you have brought me much beracha. Why can’t I give you more money?”
“If I know I can get money at any time,” responded the tzaddik, “it will wear away my bitachon, my trust and faith in Hashem.”
It’s interesting to note that when Lavan told Yaakov (Bereishis 30:28), “Specify your wage to me and I will give it,” Yaakov responded, “Don’t give me anything.” The Radak comments that Yaakov wanted his sustenance to come from the goodness of Hashem, as we say in Birchas HaMazon, “Make us not needful of the gifts of human hands…but only of Your Hand that is full, open, holy and generous….”
R’ Avraham Yehoshua Heschel of Apt, the Ohel Yisroel, would often tell of an innkeeper who became a miracle worker. It was said that whatever beracha the innkeeper gave would eventually be realized. His fame spread far and wide and reached the ears of the Ohev Yisroel.
The Ohev Yisroel was troubled, fearing that the man was perhaps resorting to black magic or secrets of Kabbalah to perform miracles and decided to travel to the city where the innkeeper lived to observe him. He stayed there for a while to monitor the innkeeper’s ways and was happy to note that nothing seemed amiss. The innkeeper seemed to be a typical Torah-observant individual.
Finally, the Apter approached him and revealed who he was. He then explained that he wanted to learn the innkeeper’s secret to having his berachos fulfilled.
The innkeeper replied humbly, “I’ll be honest with you. I have placed all my faith in Hashem. There was a time when my business failed, and we were destitute. There was no money at all, and the family was going hungry. My wife was distraught and advised me to travel to a different city and find a partner who would invest in my business. I was reluctant to do that, but my wife insisted.
“As I was walking through the forest on the outskirts of the city, I had a thought. I called out to Hashem: Master of the world, in the Grace After Meals we ask, ‘Make us not needful of the gifts of human hands nor of their loans.’ I do not want to be partners with a human being. I want You, Hashem, as a partner, and I promise that we will be equal partners. Everything will be divided 50-50.’
“I then returned home and intensified my faith and trust in Hashem. Every dollar of profit was divided, with half going to the poor people who desperately needed tzedakah. Ever since that day,” concluded the innkeeper, “my business has flourished. I cannot adequately thank my ‘partner’ for all the blessing I have in life.”
Upon hearing these words, the Ohev Yisroel blessed the innkeeper, “May there be many like you in the nation of Israel.”