Complex Carbohydrates

Friday, 3 August, 2018 - 1:06 pm

One of the core philosophical principles of Chassidic thought is the Baal Shem Tov’s notion that the universe requires constant and ongoing creation in order to exist. Since the universe is “creatio ex-nihilo” (something from nothing), which is an “unnatural” state of being, ongoing creation is an imperative. He takes it a step further in that each act of creation is anew, meaning that it is as if the world is being brought into being for the first time. There is nothing compelling the existence of the universe, but for the continuous new infusion of creative force from the Creator. As such, there need not necessarily be a continuity between the world as it existed a moment ago to the world as it exists in the current moment. It is just the kindness of the creator that allows the new creation of the universe every moment to come along with history, thereby giving our lives within that continuum a sense of retention. A symptom of that perceived continuity is that the universe does not recognize itself as being constantly created. Rather it sees itself as having existed for as long as its “history” remembers.

There are phenomena in the universe that serve to remind of the true nature of its existence. One such example is the Manna that fell for the Jews in the wilderness. The parsha describes the Manna as imposing hunger and affliction. What was so afflictive about having your meals delivered to your doorstep fresh and delicious for free?

There are two elements within the Manna that were very strange. The first is that it had to come each day anew. Every morning fresh Manna fell and was collected. So much so, that when they didn’t consume it entirely, by the next morning, yesterday’s Manna was completely rotten and inedible. Part of the Manna experience was that it had to be experienced anew each day. The second element is, that while each portion of Manna looked the same, the taste could be whatever a person imagined (with a few exceptions). These elements were simultaneously the cause of the affliction as well as wondrous reminders of faith in the Creator.

A person who is eating his last morsel of food without having a plan for the next meal, cannot truly be sated. The worry about from where the next crust of bread will come, leaves him feeling empty even while the current meal is filling. With the Manna, each day required an act of faith to finish off the food without having the food in the pantry for tomorrow.

Furthermore, the sense of sight is a central component of the gastronomic experience. The inability to see what you are eating leaves you somewhat unsatisfied. With the Manna, the inability to see what you were tasting, even though it had the potential for a broad range of flavors, left you somewhat wanting.

Both of these elements are indicative of the Manna being of an ethereal nature. The falling of the Manna each day anew is a hint of the world’s true existence – the dependency on ongoing renewal of creation. The capacity for diverse flavors despite the Manna’s plain appearance, is reflective of it not being limited to the finite properties of physical existence. An entity that is recreated every moment is not limited to tasting the way it did a day ago or even a minute ago.

When we recite grace after meals – Birkat Hamazon, we use the very text that Moses composed for recitation after a meal of Manna. We are meant to contemplate, that although our food appears more predictable, it is inherently the same blessing from above as the Manna. It should help us recall our absolute ongoing dependency on Hashem for every aspect of life down to the very existence of life and the universe itself.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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