Friday, August 26, 2016
From Rabbi Kelly Levy
In our Torah portion this week, there is one line that has become very familiar to many of us, found in chapter 8, verse 3: “[God] subjected you to the hardship of hunger and then gave you manna to eat, which neither you nor your ancestors had ever known, in order to teach you that a human being does not live on bread alone, but that one may live on anything that the Eternal decrees.” Translation from Plaut Torah Commentary, 2006.
We often take only a portion of this verse to convey the message, that “human beings do not live on bread alone,” suggests that we require more than materialistic objects to be satisfied in life. However, the rest of the verse leaves the true meaning behind the passage open to a broader interpretation. How do we understand the last portion of the text, that we “may live on anything that the Eternal decrees?”
If we take the words at face value, we could interpret this text to mean that other than food, the gifts that God bestows upon us may also allow us to live. Or, we could understand this text as a way for God to choose how to give a person life, as a means of pre-determining what would happen to that individual. Finally, the Hebrew indicates that this happens by “God’s mouth,” or in other words, by God’s word. Therefore, we can receive satisfaction in life through God’s spoken word, just as the world was created.
Of course, this makes our understanding of the text even more complicated. Because there are so many different possibilities of interpreting the passage, perhaps the simplest explanation is that human beings require a multitude of things in life, all of which lead us back to God. There may not be a clear answer for how to be satisfied in life, but part of the answer lies in knowing God.
May you all find the bread that fills your hunger and the connection to God that fills your soul, bringing you abundant joy, gladness, and a full life!