The true test of a Jew’s Divine service is seen precisely when he encounters trials and difficulties. The trial serves to reveal his hidden abilities, and his service of G-d is strengthened by the experience.
The 40 years of wandering through the desert were a trial for the entire Jewish people, a preparation for their service in the Land of Israel. In general, there are two types of tests a person may face: the trial of wealth, and the trial of poverty. The Jews’ trial in the desert consisted of both elements, and this was reflected in the phenomenon of the manna.
This week in the Torah portion of Eikev we read about the manna – a G-dly food, “bread from the heavens.” In the desert, the Jewish people did not have to worry about where their next meal would be coming from; the manna fell predictably from the sky each day. It was entirely digestible, and had whatever taste a person wished. In addition, the manna was accompanied by gemstones and pearls. Thus the manna was symbolic of the epitome of wealth.
At the same time, however, the manna also embodied an element of poverty. Eating manna, the only sustenance the Jews were offered, was not satisfying like regular food. Moreover, the Jews received only enough manna for that particular day; there was never any extra. It is human nature that when a person’s house is stocked with food, he becomes sated after eating very little; when there is nothing in his cupboard, he is never fully satisfied.
Thus we see that the manna was extremely contradictory. On one hand, it was the richest sustenance a person could ask for; on the other, it was poor and unfilling.
When a person looked at the manna he saw only manna, and not the other foods whose taste he was experiencing. This in itself caused a feeling of deprivation. And because the Jews only received enough manna for one day, they had to have faith that G-d would cause it to fall the next day, too. So although the manna was the epitome of abundance, from the Jews’ standpoint it was a trial of poverty, as the coarseness of their physical bodies prevented them from fully appreciating its G-dly qualities.
In truth, the manna teaches us a lesson in how to overcome both types of tests we may encounter throughout life:
When a Jew is blessed with wealth, he shouldn’t think that it is the result of his own efforts. Rather, he must always remember that it is G-d Who has granted him these riches. And if, G-d forbid, a person is faced with the test of poverty, he must likewise remember that “no evil descends from on High.” His suffering is the consequence of his own misdeeds, and he must accept it with love. For G-d bestows only bounty and beneficence, despite the limitations of our physical eyes. Moshiach NOW!!!