Our Gemara on Amud Aleph discusses Adar 7, the auspicious day that Moshe was born and passed away. On that day we are also taught that the Manna ceased. Yet the Gemara Kiddushin (38a) tells us that though it stopped on that day, the Jewish people continued to be sustained by the leftovers until the 16th of Nissan. The Gemara similarly tells us that the dough-cakes the Jews took out of Egypt also tasted like the Manna. What is the significance of this? Is the Gemara just telling us history?
Shem Mishmuel (Shelach 10) offers an explanation that speaks to the importance of making allowance for human developmental process. Living off the Manna was an extraordinary experience and the human body could not easily manage a transition from regular food to this heavenly sustenance, and then back to regular food. Therefore, the dough-cakes prior to entering the wilderness tasted like Manna, as well as the rations at the end of the journey, which were Manna leftovers. This was to ease the transition from a physical state to heavenly, and vice versa.
Related to last week’s parasha, the Rambam (Guide III:32) makes a similar point. He interprets the verse (Shemos 13:17) that God did not lead the Jews directly via the land of the Philistines, “Lest they encounter war and return to Egypt.” God would not “”download a “courage subroutine” into the minds and hearts of the Jews, as He does not directly interfere with human thought. Therefore, God engineered circumstances that helped harden and prepare the Jewish people for the challenges ahead. The vicissitudes of a lengthier travel in the wilderness would toughen their spirit. The Rambam explains this as part of his theological stance on what a “test” from God represents. It’s not a test in the sense that God is checking up on you. Instead it is a way of bringing out something inside you. Likewise, Avraham’s Ten Tests were not to prove his loyalty to God, but to BRING OUT his loyalty through the challenges. It was to teach Avraham how much he can do and accomplish. This is similar to how two people show love, but also develop greater love, by going through difficult times together.
A final thought. Both the Manna and the splitting of the Red Sea and Exodus were grand miracles. Even so, God does not insert Himself miraculously into our personal development and formation of character. This is a powerful lesson for parents and teachers. We must allow for transition and development, act as facilitators, but make space for the individual’s personal choice and growth.