Beshalach – more or less
Tuesday was the day we all had a chance to ensure our income for the year. This past Tuesday, according to the tradition passed down from the Chassidic master R’ Mendel of Riminov, one should recite the passage in the Torah relating to the manna that fell in the wilderness, providing nourishment for the children of Israel for forty years. The recitation of this passage, according to this tradition, is a segula, a ‘charm,’ for earning a good living. If you forgot, or didn’t hear about this opportunity – well, its too late now, you missed the boat.
The Talmud relates that one’s income is determined on Rosh Hashanah, but apparently the sages were not aware of this ‘charm,’ the magic passage of bounty that one can recite on the Tuesday preceding the reading of Parshat Beshalach.
On the one hand, this makes fair sense. The delivery of the manna in the wilderness was the greatest display of G-d’s ability and willingness to provide for all the needs of the children of Israel in the wilderness. When reading this passage one gains an appreciation of the Lord’s providence and if one can only open one’s mind to have faith in it, it can change one’s attitude and make one a worthy recipient of G-d’s bounty. On the other hand, it is difficult for a rational person to accept that the recitation of a passage will have any effect on one’s income. Judaism being a rational religion, it behooves us to understand the point of this ‘charm.’
The key may lie in one of the verses of the passage. “One who gathered much did not emerge with extra and one who gathered little did not lack for it.” One of the elements of the manna experience was its equalizing nature. It provided exactly what was needed for the day. No one became rich off of the manna. In fact, no one ever had more than one would normally eat over the course of the day. A greedy person snatched up as much as he could while another casually picked up a handful. Upon arriving home and placing their harvest on the table both gatherings were equal. There was precisely enough for two meals, a morning meal and an evening meal.
One of the great lessons of the manna was coming to accept that what I have is enough. I may think I need more, and I may snatch up more, but in the end I have exactly what I need.
R’ Zusha from Anapoly was once confronted by a challenger: “How can you recite the blessing every morning, thanking G-d for providing all you need? You have nothing!” The questioner was right. R’ Zusha had nothing. He lived in abject poverty, with almost nothing to his name. He certainly did not have what an average person would deem enough to live on. R’ Zusha wasn’t fazed. “If this is what G-d has provided me with, that indicates that this is exactly what I need.” R’ Zusha truly felt that he needed nothing more.
Another story is told about a young man who suffered from severe depression. The doctors suggested that he might be cured by wearing the shirt of someone who feels utterly content with what he owns. A search was undertaken and eventually one individual was found who qualified. The problem – he didn’t own a shirt.
How true it is that one who has much does not necessarily have more than one who has little. In the case of the manna this was manifest physically. There is no explicit reason given for this, but it is likely that the manna was used as a tool to teach the children of Israel this discipline.
This, perhaps, is the ‘charm’ of reading the passage of the manna on the Tuesday preceding Shabbat Beshalach. Why Tuesday? I don’t know. But one can become wealthy through this attitude without a raise, in fact without any material increase in one’s salary. Maybe this was the intent of R’ Mendel of Riminov.