How long do you keep canned or jarred goods in your pantry? That’s where we keep the non-perishables, and were it not for Pesah cleaning, some of those food items might be older than we are. But we’re generally inclined to keep things moving off the shelves. Since we prefer to eat or cook with fresh ingredients, it might startle and even repulse you to know how long Israel kept a jar of manna around.
The manna is a fascinating element of the Torah’s narrative. It was Israel’s source of sustenance in the wilderness, to be collected daily–except, of course, on Shabbat. It could be cooked or baked, and by legend, it tasted different to each consumer. But the preservation of one small unit of manna, as required by God, gives new meaning to the term pack-rat.
“Moses said, ‘This is what the LORD has commanded: Let one omer of it be kept throughout the ages, in order that they may see the bread that I fed you in the wilderness when I brought you out from the land of Egypt.’ And Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take a jar, put one omer of manna in it, and place it before the LORD, to be kept throughout the generations.'” (Exodus 16:32-33)
It’s interesting that God wants the manna to trigger memories of the Exodus and God’s benevolent care for Israel in the wilderness. But hasn’t Israel already had several symbols to remind them of the Exodus, such as the plagues, and the miracle at the Sea, among others? And doesn’t the manna fall every day for 40 years? Why set one aside to be jarred for display?
Tell me what you think on Shabbat morning!
Rabbi David Wise