Affluenza by Avi Levinson


In Parashat Eikev, Moshe recounts some of the travails Bnei Yisrael endured during their forty year sojourn in the desert.  One test described is, “HaMaachilecha Mann BaMidbar… Lemaan Anotecha ULemaan Nasotecha LeHeitivecha BeAcharitecha,” “He (Hashem) feeds you Mann in the desert… in order to afflict you and test you to do good for you at the end” (Devarim 8:16).  It is incongruous that the Mann, the heavenly food which miraculously descended daily in front of Bnei Yisrael’s tents, is a test.  How is this apparent benefit a test? Rashi suggests that the test of the Mann was whether Bnei Yisrael would keep all the difficult laws which pertained to it.  No Mann could be left overnight, yet the people could never be completely sure if more food would be available the next day.  This was a taxing test of Bnei Yisrael’s faith in Hashem.

Seforno, however, takes the opposite approach.  He maintains that the test was whether Bnei Yisrael would remain righteous despite knowing that all their food, without fail, would be miraculously provided by Hashem. Seforno states that when Bnei Yisrael were freed from the constraints and distractions of tending to their physical needs, they were charged to continue to improve themselves and not to be complacent in their comfortable positions.

Seforno’s understanding of the test of the Mann is reminiscent of Chazal’s dictum, “One who upholds the Torah in poverty will eventually merit upholding it in prosperity.  And one who ignores the Torah in prosperity will eventually be forced to ignore it in poverty” (Avot 4:9).  If Bnei Yisrael would fail to keep the Torah during the relative affluence of the idyllic Midbar existence, they would eventually be constrained to ignore the Torah due to the physical hardships of toiling for food.

Something that most people share is a lack of free time.  Our lives are hectic, with work, families, school or whatever else saps our time.  Setting aside a fixed time for Torah study seems to be nearly impossible.  However, the Mishnah enjoins us not to despair.  If we can uphold the Torah when we are “poor” in free time and show Hashem that we really care about His Torah, He will grant us additional time to continue our study.  Conversely, we must try our best not to squander free time.  For many, especially students, the summer is a time for vacation and relaxation.  There is absolutely no problem with relaxing, but we dare not neglect our sacrosanct obligation to learn Torah, so that we are not forced to neglect Torah when we have little free time.

Holy Haughtiness by Daniel Weintraub

The Jewish Shabbat by Dani Yaros