I’ve been thinking a lot about manna lately. For a fun project called G-dcast!, I’ve been studying the parsha in which we first read about manna – that mysterious substance that is like coriander seed but also is supposed to taste differently for everyone, based on your age (honey for small children, bread for youths, and oil for the elderly, according to Wikipedia).
But here’s my favorite thing about the manna: It might be pretty common knowledge that you’re not supposed to take more manna than you can eat in one day – except on shabbat – but have we really thought that through? If you do take extras on any regular day of the week, and there are leftovers, it gets rancid and maggoty overnight. But on Shabbat, there won’t be any manna, so you are supposed to take manna for two days on Friday morning and it won’t go bad overnight. So, that makes sense, moving on. But stop – think about it.
And then read more below the fold!The Israelites flee Egypt. The first thing they do once they’re past the Red Sea is complain about bitter water in the place they’re camping. Next, there’s the manna. Then, there’s no water at all and Moses has to make water flow from a rock. And then there’s a battle with Amalek, and then Moses is reunited with his wife, and then Moses judges the people AND THEN they go to Sinai…where they get the Ten Commandments, one of which is, of course, Shabbat.
So, before the Israelites even officially “get” shabbat, they get shabbat – through manna, through food.
If you’re reading The Jew & The Carrot, you’re probably already into food, but whoa, I think this is big. It’s all about the food.
Last week, over here at the Hazon offices, we had a conversation about healthy food. We all shared our food weakness (which, for the record, was a term disputed by some) and one person named Shabbat as a food weakness: “You sit down at the shabbat table, and you eat EVERYTHING in sight. You give yourself permission to eat a ton and to eat food that you wouldn’t regularly eat, because, ‘It’s Shabbat! The calories don’t count!’
“Buuuuuut, why should we relax and celebrate by eating food that we shouldn’t, by abusing our bodies?
A lot of people seem to be talking about this:The kids over at Mixed Multitudes, the My Jewish Learning blog, are all about food today. In one post, Jeremy takes issue with an advice-column answer in the OU’s magazine that gives tips on how to continue your dieting on Shabbat. Jeremy’s response to the OU is that he loves Shabbat because of the challah! (Of course, I don’t disagree with that, and I have definitely eaten more than my fair share of challah: it’s my job!) In another post, Jeremy wonders why there’s no good, cheap, kosher bar in New York City. Anyone know of one for him? And in another, slightly food-related post, Tamar replies to a “Salon” letter about the insecurity of letting people who don’t use the buzzer on shabbat into the building.
Lots to think about!