just to whet the appetite

Friday, 15 August, 2014 - 7:22 am


Dear Friends,


One of the things I like about restaurants in Israel is the abundance of food. Now, don’t misunderstand me – there are wonderful restaurants in Basel, in which you order tasty and nutritious food, and get it, too. But you get just what you ordered, nothing more.

In Israel, on the other hand, you barely manage to get settled before the table is covered with eighteen salads and a few pitas, “just to whet the appetite”, as they say.

This week I understood something else about this phenomenon. In the week’s Parasha, Moshe Rabbeinu describes the Mann (manna) as a food of affliction, no less. “He afflicted you and let you hunger, and fed you the manna.” But why affliction? Our Sages taught us, after all, that the Mann, which was divine food, contained all possible flavors, and that the eater could choose which flavor to taste. For the Ashkenazim in the desert, it probably tasted like gefilte fish with chrain, in addition to p’tcha. For the Sephardim, on the other hand, it tasted more like an Iraqi pita with Abu Ghosh hummous. In terms of nutrition, the Mann was perfectly suited to every human’s digestive system. So why did Moshe Rabbeinu say, “He afflicted you and let you hunger”?

Well, it appears that in order to feel satiated it is not enough to supply the body with nutrition; one must also feed the eyes, and the Mann failed to do that. That’s why, in the restaurants in Israel they have the eighteen different salads – they’re for the eyes. One eats with one’s eyes, as the saying goes.


The Rebbe explains that the Mann supplied our nation with a message for all generations. For the rich people the message is: “bread from the heavens” – even if it seems to you that you are successful and competent and almost omnipotent, do not forget that really everything you have comes from Above, like the Mann.

For the poor people the message is: If sometimes there are moments that seem to be an affliction, try to remember the Mann; it, too, looked like affliction, but after a while people discovered that it hid within it many flavors and much nutrition, and, mainly, that it was perfectly suited to the eater. Maybe your suffering is like that, too?

For, after all, who can make it to the main course after consuming eighteen different salads? …


Shabbat Shalom,


Zalmen Wishedski

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