Hello and Shabbat Shalom all dear readers!
I hope that this week’s parsha post will be a merit for a refuah shelema for Dov ben Tovah, and a speedy and safe delivery for Rochel bas Yehudis.


In this week’s sidrah, we recount a good share of prominent tragedies that occurred for the Jewish People in the Midbar (Wilderness).  Pirkei Avos states:  “Asarah nisyonos nisu avoteinu et Hakadosh Baruch Hu bamidbar, shen’emar vay’nasu Osi zeh eser p’amim v’lo shamu b’Koli – With ten trials did our ancestors test the Holy One, Blessed be He, in the wilderness, as it is said:  ‘They have tested Me these ten times and did not heed My voice.” {Avos 5:6}
Today, we’ll look into the surprising rebellion and complaints of the Bnei Yisroel about the manna.
The manna, we are taught, fell daily (However, with the exception of Shabbos– on Friday, the Bnei Yisroel received a double portion.  The  two challahs at our Shabbos tables commemorate that.), was easy to collect, provided spiritual and physical sustenance, and had a delicious taste.  Yet, there were a few individuals that wanted to mix things up, negatively influencing the whole people.  These complaints had absolutely no validity.  Hashem was providing with abundance, and it was wrong for the Jewish People to wish for the ‘comforts’ of Egypt, when they were so blessed to have escaped the prison!
“Zacharnu et-hadaga asher nuchal b’Mitzrayim chinam ais hakishu’im v’ais ha’avatichim v’es hechatzir v’es habtzalim v’et hashumim – We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge, the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic.” {Bamidbar 11:5}
This was the wistful reflection of the Jewish People.  Seems kind of like selective memory, no?  Were they not thinking of the iron vice Egypt enslaved them with?  This realm of human psychology extends far beyond the scope of this article.
You could argue that a diet of proteins like fish, and produce, even superfood onions and garlic, that made up their menu in Egypt, would create a better diet than 40 years of crystalline manna that tasted like “dough kneaded in oil”.  But, are you considering the cost of each of these cuisines?
The Bnei Yisroel said, “the fish that we ate in Egypt, free of charge.”  The term used for free, is “chinam”.  Rashi argues, how could the Bnei Yisroel think they were being treated well, getting their food for free in Egypt, when they weren’t supplied with straw or building materials, let alone fine foods!
They were ‘sustained’ on just enough to power them in their struggle to complete their arduous labor, under the hand of the Egyptian taskmasters.  Rashi expounds on a verse from Mishlei (Proverbs), that of:  “The tzaddik knows the soul of his beast, but the mercies of the reshaim are cruel.” {Mishlei 12:10}  Rashi’s explanation, is that righteous people know what they require to nourish their bodies and health, and are cognizant of the fine line between sustaining themselves as necessary, and the temptation to indulge.  In contrast, degenerate people stuff themselves sick, but this ‘kindness’ to the body and physical lusts, just disguises the reason why it’s done– to work the body more than it can handle.  This was the true intent of Paroh, according to Rashi– he let the Jews swarm over the foods allowed to them, free as the wind…  but this  ‘mercy’ was only in order that he could work them to death!  Someone who truly values their health will eat in moderation, as the righteous man does, consuming enough to give them the energy to carry out their tasks and mission in this world.  They will not overeat, and suffer from both lack of restraint, and increased burden.
The Bnei Yisroel wanted to go back to Egypt, for food, even to their detriment?!  Fine, let them, maybe they’ll get a better understanding of the food pyramid!  (I’m sorry, I know– that was awful.)
Commentators have different suggestions for what circumstances or mentalities could prompt such a response.  Ibn Ezra states that fish in the Nile,  and vegetables in the field, were so incredibly plentiful in the fertile land, that it was no big deal, and certainly not costly, to gather these foods.  Ramban explains that permission to acquire fish from the fishermen, and pick from Egyptian farmers’ fields, was a ‘privilege’ granted by Paroh to his slave-workers.
Chazal, the Sages, teach us that the word they used for “free”– “chinam”, on a deeper level implies ‘free from mitzvot’!  When the Bnei Yisroel were slaves in Egypt, they scrounged for their sustenance, slipping and falling in the dark abyss of Egyptian culture and persecution.  They certainly toiled for their bread, whatever they could get, but not in the ideal way set down for us by the Torah.  With their current wistful words, they to a certain degree spurned the eternal mitzvos Hashem had charged them with, the commandments and connections that truly uplift and reward.  They craved culinary delights, but without having to make the spiritual efforts.
This is not healthy for a Jew…  It is our essential mission, to bring the Divine into this lower world, through our mitzvos!  The Bnei Yisroel hungered, and were considering a merely physical menu, but we must be nourished with the spiritual too.  This is our balanced diet.  We bring the best of both worlds together.
The Messenger Bird