“They measured in an omer and whoever took more had nothing extra and whoever took less was not lacking; everyone according to what he eats had they gathered” (Shemot 16:18).
When the children of Israel left Egypt they barely had enough provisions to survive a short time, and certainly not enough to sustain approximately 3,000,000 people for 40 years. Hashem had planned before the Exodus to provide a daily ration of Heavenly food called manna for every member of the masses dwelling in the Sinai desert. The miraculous distribution system was designed by our Father in Heaven to teach that Hashem provides for those who have faith in Him. Rabbi S. R. Hirsch said that He limited the ration to just enough for one day and delivered a fresh portion daily to show that He is the provider for all time. He sent a double portion on Friday to teach that Shabbat observance will never be an impediment to one’s livelihood.
A peasant who had lived in the country all his life made his first trip to the city. He was totally unfamiliar with city life. His eyes and mind had trouble absorbing all the beautiful sights and he could hardly keep up with the fast-paced life to which city dwellers were accustomed. The big superstores and busy offices were things he had never seen before and he tried his best to understand all he saw.
Standing at the window of the post office, he saw a man walk in, pay the clerk a few dollars and walk off with a large carton. As the man exited, the peasant asked about the contents of the parcel.
“This box has valuable equipment in it,” advised the gentleman. “It is worth hundreds of dollars.”
Back at the window, the peasant observed another postal customer pay a small sum as the clerk passed him a bundle across the counter. Again he asked, and again he was told that the package contained merchandise worth many times the amount that the simpleton saw paid to the clerk.
He immediately entered and emptied his pockets on the counter and told the clerk, “I am here to pick up my gift worth thousands of dollars. Here is my payment.”
The clerk laughed and said, “You are under the wrong impression. The money that I receive has nothing to do with the contents of the packages and it is certainly not payment for the contents. These packages were already paid for and they belong to the people who pick them up here. The money they pay me is only for the freight charges.”
Hashem determines a person’s yearly earnings during the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. However, when Adam sinned, Hashem declared, “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread” (Beresheet 3:19), i.e., a person will work and struggle to earn his sustenance. What one must understand is that the effort expended produces nothing — it is only the freight one must pay before one can pick up his or her package from the post office. The contents of the package are already his or hers from the beginning of the year. Kohelet (9:11) says: “And also not for the wise bread; and not for the intelligent wealth.” Intelligence and expertise do not have the power to produce income, nor can they make one wealthy. Hashem determines and He provides.
When the Children of Israel went out to collect the manna, some gathered a little and others worked harder and carried home more. When the manna was weighed, however, each person found only one omer of manna for each member of the family. The extra work produced no more than what Hashem had determined each person would receive. The Heavenly food could not be stored overnight lest it spoil.
Hashem wanted to teach us that He provides for everyone; our efforts produce no more than what He decides one should have, and His provisions are supplied anew every day. It is a lesson one must keep in mind when dealing with financial pressures, which deter one from strict Torah observance, and from giving oneself the time needed to develop oneself and to train one’s children in the ways of our holy Torah.
Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He lectures to audiences all over the world. He has distributed over 500,000 recorded lessons free of charge. He is author of the book 1 Minute with Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement, Sephardic Press, 2008.