A Mitzva with Good Taste by Dr. Joel Berman


בלתי אל המן עינינו, “We have nothing to look forward to but the Mon” (11:6).

For 40 years, we were sustained by the heavenly delicacy, Mon.  According to the Ibn Ezra, the Jews would almost effortlessly gather it from the ground around their tents.  It had the ability to satisfy even the most discriminating lunchtime pallet at a Yeshiva high school by transforming its flavor into whatever the eater desired.

Bnai Yisrael had such an easy life.  How could it be, then, that they failed to appreciate this miracle?  Rabbi Shlomo Cohen explains this with a parable.  Imagine, after being born and growing up in the desert, a Mon-fed youngster peers into Eretz Yisrael.  Overcome with excitement, he runs back to the camp telling everyone who will listen of the miracle he just observed: in Eretz Yisrael, food comes from the ground!

Not only do we fail to appreciate the miracles around us, we rarely recognize the wonderful conveniences we have grown so accustomed to and dependent upon, until something like a blackout or a car breakdown occurs.

The Chafetz Chaim, zt”l, once asked the members of his Shabbat table, “If one ate Mon with nothing (no taste) in mind, what would it taste like?”  The guests offered their various opinions until the Chafetz Chaim said that just like one derives little merit when mindlessly performing a Mitzva (מצווה ללא טעם), so too Mon eaten with no taste in mind tastes like absolutely nothing.

In a curious way, the crushing poverty and anti-Semitism experienced by previous generations had one positive result: these people were closer to Hashem.  Without the conveniences, it was easier to appreciate Chesed, easier to Daven with Kavana.  American Jews have “Mon delivered to their doorsteps.”  We live on the highest material standard ever experienced in the history of Klal Yisrael.  Material wealth is the one test that everyone is willing to accept. 

Birkat Hamazon says, ואכלת ושבעת וברכת, “You will eat, be satisfied, and bless [Hashem].”  It may be that the test of our generation is in fulfilling this Mitzva; now that we have eaten and are satisfied, וברכת, we must bless Hashem properly, Daven with Kavana, and serve Him, despite the fact that life is so good

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