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Parashat B’shalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16)

“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 16:114)

Parashat B’shalach open with God’s splitting the Reed Sea to deliver the Israelites from slavery to freedom. However, this peak moment of exultation (“The Lord is my strength and might; He is become my deliverance…” (Ex. 15:2)) gives way to the depths of despair relatively quickly (“…For you have brought us out into this wilderness to starve this whole congregation to death.” (Ex. 16:3)). God responds by sending manna , a substance unknown to the Israelites, to eat.

Most classic commentators focus on the gift of manna as God’s miracle and evidence of God’s chesed, or graciousness. Michael Rowland, JCC Association Marketing Consultant, though, focuses on the Israelites’ behavior. They wake up each morning, collect the manna, and measure it. And regardless of how much or how little is collected, each ends up with just enough. No more, no less (Ex. 16:17-18).

God may send the manna, but its allocation is a public, communal, human activity. If crossing the Reed Sea unites the Israelites into a people, collecting and allocating the manna identifies them as a functioning community. Measuring the manna becomes a metaphor for recognizing the diversity within the community and a statement of the obligation of the community to support that diversity. Six days each week during the forty-year trek through the wilderness, the Israelites collect and measure the manna. And each day, regardless of changes in the individual’s needs, the measure always fits the need. Being a people starts with being a community.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

David

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