B’SHALACH (Exodus, 13:17-17:16) — “Get Rich THIS TUESDAY!!!!”

Almost exactly a year ago, I received an email in reference to this week’s Torah Portion.  The email, a forwarded group mailing, offered advice on how to secure Divine guarantees of income.  The advice was to use a Segulah.

A Segulah is an action that someone does with the hope of it leading to a particular result.  A non-spiritual example might be that a Segulah for losing weight is to diet.  In the spiritual world, however, there is not as close a link between the Segulah and the desired result. [I once saw the word Segulah translated as “nostrum”, which the dictionary defines as, “a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.]

This week’s Torah Reading includes the “Parshas Ha-Mann” — the “Section of Manna,” (Exodus, 16:4-36) the verses in the Torah describing the Manna that fell from Heaven for the Israelites in the desert to eat.  The email advocated reciting these verses, twice in Hebrew, and once in Aramaic translation.  You can find the texts, in Hebrew and Aramaic, by clicking here. Supposedly, reciting these verses on the Tuesday preceding the Sabbath when it is read in Synagogue is a “Segulah,” a Divine Guarantee, that G-d will provide livelihood.

The connection, of course, is obvious.  For forty years, the Israelites in the desert didn’t have to go to work in order to provide for their families.  Every morning, G-d rained down bread from Heaven and took care of their every need.  By reciting theses passages, we “remind” G-d to provide our needs as well.

Presumably, the reason for reading it on Tuesday is that in general, Tuesdays are considered to be auspicious.  (I got married on a Tuesday!)  The reason for this is that in the first chapter of Genesis, Tuesday is the only day in reference to which the Torah says the phrase, “G-d saw that it was good,” twice. (Verses 10 and 12) On the other days it only says it once, or not at all.

This custom is attributed to the great Chassidic master, Rabbi Mendel of Riminiv.  He was a big believer in strengthening one’s faith by reviewing the story of the Manna.

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In all due respect to the great Rabbi Mendel, I am troubled by this concept.  Is it possible that a once-a-year reading of ninety-nine verses (33×2 in Hebrew +33 in Aramaic) is all we need to do to make a living??

It almost appears to be a “quick fix;” a short formula that guarantees results without too much work. (A “spiritual Amway!” 🙂 ) And Read the magical verses and the money will flow in!  No pain, big gain!

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I believe we can answer this question on two levels, super-Natural and super-Rational.

SUPER-NATURAL

The Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, in Orach Chaim, Chapter 1, paragraph 5, states that “… it is good to recite … the “Section of the Manna,” and the Ten Commandments…” in addition to other readings.   These verses should be recited DAILY.  (The Shulchan Aruch makes no mention of reading it twice or with Aramaic translation.)

The Mishnah Berura, a commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, explains that we do this…

“… in order to believe that all of one’s livelihood comes through Divine Providence, as it says, ‘He who took more (Manna) didn’t profit, and he who took less didn’t lose.’ (Ibid, verse 18)  This shows that extraordinary efforts will not help.  The Jerusalem Talmud states that whoever recites the ‘Section of the Manna’ is guaranteed that he will never lack his needs.”

Is the idea here that we can just say a few verses, and Heaven will respond with dollars floating down from Heaven?  Is it that easy to get rich?!

I don’t think so.  The Shulchan Aruch‘s suggestion takes work.  It’s not just WHAT you read; it’s HOW you read it.  The above-mentioned Mishnah Berura says: “It is not sufficient to read it.  Rather, one must delve into what he is saying, and recognize the wonders of G-d.”

I am equally certain that when the great Rabbi Mendel of Riminiv advocated reading these verses on the Tuesday of the week in which they are read in the synagogue, he referred to much more than a perfunctory recital of a few Hebrew and Aramaic sentences.  Rabbi Mendel was certainly aware of what the Shulchan Aruch says on this topic.  It seems to me that a quick perusal of those 99 verses will accomplish little if anything unless it is accompanied by an in-depth daily review and appreciation of G-d’s overwhelming generosity.

Faith is hard work.  When one recites the “Section of the Manna” with intense concentration and devotion, he becomes a new person; he becomes a “believer.”

Rabbi Bachya Ibn Pakuda writes in the Chovos Halevavos writes that when it comes to faith, G-d makes a “deal” with us.  There is a direct correlation between the amount of trust we place in G-d, and the amount of Divine assistance we receive.  If we place our faith in other people or in ourselves, forgetting about G-d’s intervention, G-d says “O.K., if you’d rather trust a human than rely upon Me, I will put you into their hands.  I’m out of the picture.”

If, on the other hand, we put our faith in our Creator, He will not abandon us.

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So, you may ask, isn’t this a bit naive?  Are we really supposed to blindly put ourselves into “G-d’s hands?”  Isn’t it shortsighted to just ASSUME that “G-d’s going to take care of it all?”  Isn’t that a bit reckless?

Rabbi Israel Lipkin of Salant (,better known as Rabbi Israel Salanter,) was of the opinion that G-d will provide EVERYTHING, even luxuries, to a person who has 100% faith that he will receive it.  (This concept is not universally accepted.  Some scholars state that this only applies to one’s NEEDS, as opposed to his WANTS.)  A disappointed disciple once approached him.  The young man had purchased a lottery ticket and lost.

“Rebbe,” complained the young man.  “I don’t understand.  You told us that if we have total faith in G-d, He’ll give us whatever we ask for.  I bought a lottery ticket.  I had total faith in G-d.  I believed with every fiber of my being that G-d was going to let me win the grand prize.  Why did I lose?!”

“Let me ask you a question,” the rabbi replied.  “How much did you spend for the ticket, and how much was the grand prize?”

“It cost me a ruble,” the young man said.  “The grand prize was a million rubles.”

The rabbi had another question.  “If I had offered you a half-million rubles for your one-ruble lottery ticket the day before the drawing, would you have sold it to me?”

“Of course!” replied the student.  “That would be a 500,000-to-one payback on my investment!”

“If that is the case,” said the rabbi, “I now understand why you lost.   You claim that you had total faith that you would win a million rubles.  Why, then, would you throw away half the anticipated prize by selling it for ONLY half a million?  You obviously didn’t have as much faith as you think you did!”

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SUPER-RATIONAL

Let us look again at the words of the Mishnah Berura:

“It is not sufficient to read it.  Rather, one must delve into what he is saying, and recognize the wonders of G-d.   … in order to believe that all of one’s livelihood comes through Divine Providence, as it says, ‘He who took more (Manna) didn’t profit, and he who took less didn’t lose.’  This shows that extraordinary efforts will not help.  The Jerusalem Talmud states that whoever recites the “Section of the Manna” is guaranteed that he will never lack his needs.”

This can be understood quite simply.

If one carefully delves into the concept of Manna, he develops a keen appreciation for EVERYTHING G-d does for us.  The idea of bread being RAINED DOWN FROM HEAVEN shows that G-d can and does provide the needs of His children.  The Israelites in the desert didn’t go to work; they didn’t even go to the store!  G-d provided everything!  For forty years in the desert, clothes didn’t wear out; they grew in size with the wearer!

One who focuses in on this concept understands that whatever we have comes from G-d.  It doesn’t have to float down from Heaven on a cushion of dew.  It can be an investment that pays off or a flood of new customers responding to an ad.

Or, it can even be a LACK of new customers!

The Mishnah Berura was written by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, better known as the “Chofetz Chaim.” (Brief biographies of the Chofetz Chaim can be found here and here.  Read his obituaries in the New York Times and Time magazine here.)

Rabbi Kagan lived in a simple home with almost no furniture.  When a visitor asked him why he had no furniture, he responded by asking the questioner, “and where is YOUR furniture?”

“MY furniture?!  I have no furniture here!  I live in another town. I am just passing through!”

The Chofetz Chaim responded, “So am I!”

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There is a story told of a young man who suffered from severe depression.  The doctors advised his father that the only cure was for him to wear a shirt belonging to a person who was totally satisfied with his lot in life.  They searched the world over to find such a person.

They finally found him.  They actually located a person who was totally at peace with what G-d had allotted him.  There was only one problem.  He didn’t own a shirt.

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When we study about G-d’s gift of Manna from Heaven, we see that He gave every person exactly what he needed; not more, not less.  Remember that quote from the Jerusalem Talmud?  The guarantee that whoever recites the “Section of the Manna” will never lack his needs?  If we study about the Providence of G-d, we can come to appreciate that the Master of the World gives us what we need.  As a result, we learn to be satisfied with whatever He chooses to give us.

Once that happens, we wake up and realize that we lack for nothing.  He has showered His Blessings upon us.

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Regardless of which of my two answers you prefer, we do a great disservice to our understanding of prayer and Torah study when we interpret it superficially.  There is more to religious life than prayers and ceremonies.  The Torah requires us to constantly strive to work on ourselves to strengthen our belief and dedication to G-d.  Living as a Torah Jew entails intellectual and emotional work!

I don’t know if there is a person alive today who has such total faith in G-d’s Providence as Rabbi Israel Salanter described.  I don’t know if anyone exists who can live a life of abject poverty and be genuinely capable of feeling total satisfaction with his lot in life.

The fact that we are not yet at that level doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to achieve it.  A major component in greatness is having gone through the struggle to get there!

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

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To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.

From the Archives

“Because Your Father Said So!!” (2008)

… The Torah says to rest on the Sabbath. What’s more restful and relaxing than going fishing and then driving out to the ball park to watch the Red Sox? (Forgive the personal bias! 🙂 ) And who feels like walking to synagogue in the rain or scorching heat? The Torah says to rest on the Sabbath.

Why can’t I rest MY way?!

Read more.
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“Don’t Leave Home Without It!” (2007)

… Men and women just don’t see things the same way. Men are practical. Women are emotional. Women pack for a trip to Mars as if they are going all the way to Venus. Men sometimes get exasperated over their wives’ lack of practicality.

… the Pharaoh has just done a political flip-flop. He is now DEMANDING that the Israelites leave. NOW!

You’re packing your bags. You can’t take much. You don’t even have time to let your bread rise. You grab your money, some weapons, all your credit cards… You’re going with barely more than the clothes on your back. Wait a second… “Honey! Where are you going with THOSE?!!”

Your wife has just packed her drum set into the back of the station wagon.

“Oh, I need these!” she responds…

Read more.
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“Sticks and Stones” (2006)

… Moses lifted his “magic wand” … This was obviously one very powerful stick. Moses had pulled it out of the ground in his future father-in-law’s garden, a feat that no one else was able to accomplish. As a result, Jethro understood that Moses was destined to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. (The origin, perhaps, of the legend of King Arthur and Excalibur???)

… This was the staff that turned into a snake. This was the staff that turned the Nile to blood and wreaked havoc and destruction upon the Egyptians. This stick had punished the Egyptians at the Red Sea… the Israelites didn’t particularly care for Moses’ walking stick. It was destructive. It caused suffering in Egypt, and at the Red Sea. It was a killer stick. It seemed only good for punishment.
Was it capable of doing anything POSITIVE??

Read more.
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“Some People Just Don’t Get It!” (2005)

Ah, they don’t make kings the way they used to! Or do they?

The king of Egypt was, to say the least, a very stubborn man. He never did seem to get it. His country was absolutely destroyed over his obstinate refusal to release his Hebrew slaves. Repeatedly, Moses told him to let the Israelites leave. Repeatedly, he refused. Repeatedly, he responded to G-d’s punishment with a contrite promise to comply. Repeatedly, he changed his mind… Sort of reminds us of most of today’s world leaders. No matter what Israel does, it’s no good. No matter what the Arab terrorists do, they are “freedom fighters,” peaceful people who have been driven from their homeland by vicious Zionist marauder. The U.N. and the European Union don’t seem to recognize the truth when it stares them in the face. They just don’t get it… Why can’t the world’s leaders be more like the king of Nineveh? …

Read more.
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“Singing the Red Sea Blues” (2003)

… It was a sacred symphony; a song of praise totally unprecedented in world history. It was such an exalted event that the angels themselves could not be silent. They too, wanted to join in and sing to G-d. (After all, that’s what angels DO. They sing praises to G-d!)

G-d silenced them…

Read more.
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“Is Democracy a Torah Concept?” (2002)

… Four-fifths of the Nation of Israel preferred not to leave Egypt. Why not? Medrash Rabbah (13,3) says that they had “Patronin” (translation: patronage?) from the Egyptians and they didn’t want to give up their wealth and honor by leaving Egypt.

This is truly mind-boggling. 80% of the Israelites preferred to remain, at best, as second-class citizens in Egypt, rather than to follow Moses to freedom. Obviously, Moses was far from universal popularity. He was not the heroic freedom fighter leading a grass-roots rebellion against the Pharaoh. If anything, he was probably considered a troublemaker, a rabble-rouser.

What would have happened if there had been a New York Times/Gallop Poll in Egypt? Can you see the headlines? “Eighty Per Cent Choose Status Quo…Moses Said to be Preparing Concession Speech.”…

Read more.
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“Restoring ‘G__’s Thr__’” (2001)

… when the nations of the world saw what G-d had done for us, they were united in their fear of the Israelites. They didn’t love us, but at least they respected us.

Only Amalek had the Chutzpah to attack… What G-d is telling Moses is that “Neither My Name nor My Throne will be complete as long as Amalek is around!”

Why would G-d’s name be incomplete with Amalek around? Is it possible that Amalek has the power to affect G-d??! How could that be?…

Read more.

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This is the weekly message at http://www.torahtalk.org. Copyright © 2000-2012 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz. May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.
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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.
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Published in: on January 24, 2010 at 11:44 am  Comments (2)  

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I think that all the negativity I’m seeing about the saying of Parashas HaMon on social media today is because they learned the Biur HaGra on that halacha in Shulchan Aruch (1:5). Ayin Sham v’timtza nachas. 😉

    • Why can’t you read that Biur HaGra as supporting saying Parshas HaMon? Isn’t that also Talmud Torah?


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