This week’s d’var Torah relates not only to the parashah, but also to Tu BeSh’vat, which usually falls out in close proximity to the reading of Parashat BeShalach.
The second half of BeShalach discusses the manna that the Jews ate in the desert. One of the last verses in that section states, The Children of Israel ate the manna for forty years, until they arrived in an inhabited land. They ate the manna until they arrived at the border of the Land of Canaan (16:35). R. Avraham Azulai (grandfather of the Chida) asks a very interesting question in his Kabbalistic work, Chesed LeAvraham: Why did the manna stop falling when the Israelites entered the Land of Israel? One would have thought that if God provided them with manna in an unholy land, He would certainly do so in the Holy Land, where His providence is even greater.
The standard answer is that the situation in the desert – where God protected and fed the Jewish people in a clearly miraculous fashion – was unnatural. It was meant to last only temporarily. The ideal situation, and the one which HaShem originally intended, is for the Jewish people to dwell in their Land and receive their physical sustenance by the sweat of their brows, in an (apparently) natural fashion.
The Chesed LeAvraham, however, answers the question differently. We have learnt previously (see VaYeitzei, “The Palace of the King”) that Divine Providence in Eretz Yisrael is much stronger than it is in Chutz LaAretz. In fact, it is of a completely different nature. In Chutz LaAretz, angelic ministers oversee what is happening, and they care for the needs of those who dwell there. In Eretz Yisrael, however, God Himself is directly in charge. He provides for our needs without any intermediaries. This, says the Chesed LeAvraham, is why manna did not fall in Eretz Yisrael:
Everything in the desert comes from the external, impure [forces] that grow in the lands of the nations – the domain of the [angelic] ministers. Therefore, their fruits are unworthy of receiving sacred spirituality, for an impure “body” cannot become a receptacle for sacred spirituality. And had this sanctity been implanted in the fruits and food [of these lands], it would all have come from the ministers, God forbid… Therefore, the Holy One Blessed be He gave [the Jews] manna from heaven, which has absolutely no connection to the [angelic] ministers. [I.e., during the forty years in the desert, HaShem wanted to have a special relationship with His children. He, therefore, bypassed the angels and sustained the Jews directly.] The fruits of Eretz Yisrael, however, come from holiness; and the spirituality that was fitting for the manna attached itself to these holy fruits. This is why the manna existed in the desert and not in Eretz Yisrael. (Chesed LeAvraham, Nahar 21, Ein HaAretz; quoted in Midrash Talpiot, Anaf Eretz Yisrael, Alef)
In other words, the manna did not really cease to exist once the Jews entered Eretz Yisrael; it simply changed its form. Instead of getting direct sustenance from God miraculously, we now get it naturally (or so it seems) – through the holy fruits of His Land. This is an amazing concept: The fruits of Eretz Yisrael are on the same level and serve the same purpose as manna from heaven! What a zechut to live in a Land where one gets his sustenance directly from God!
Thus, dwelling in Eretz Yisrael is so special because it enables us to get closer to HaShem. Since He alone provides our needs, we develop a more intimate relationship with Him. R. Avraham of Sochatchov, better known as the Avnei Neizer, uses this concept to explain why most of the Chassidic masters did not attempt to live in Eretz Yisrael in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. Since these rabbis had no source of income, they would have been forced to subsist off donations from Chutz LaAretz. This would have defeated the purpose of living in the Land, for their sustenance would have come through the agency of intermediary angels. One fulfills the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz to the fullest extent – according to the Avnei Neizer – only if one finds a means of support from the Land itself.
Today, Baruch HaShem, it is relatively easy to make a living here in Israel and thus achieve a greater closeness to God. In addition, we have the opportunity to eat the holy fruits of the Land and get a “taste” of the manna. I might add that next year the fruits will be even holier, because they will have kedushat shevi’it (the sanctity of the seventh year). Actually, the fruits are sanctified every year, due to the numerous mitzvot connected to the produce of the Land. The more mitzvot one fulfills through the fruits, the more sanctified they become. (This is similar to the concept that reciting a blessing before and after food sanctifies the food.)
I truly wonder why any God-fearing Jew would willingly turn down such opportunities.
Rav Lichtman’s book “Eretz Israel in the Parasha” is available at: www.devorapublishing.com