Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
The Manna, Shabbat and Jacob’s Ladder
For the forty years the Jews spent in the desert, they subsisted on manna, the miraculous food that fell from heaven.
The manna has a special connection with Shabbat. On weekdays, every morning the manna would be found lying on the ground outside the camp. The people would gather it and eat it during the day; if they tried to keep it overnight, it would go moldy.
The miracle of the manna began on a Sunday morning. On the Friday of that week, when the people brought the manna back to their tents, each family found they had a double portion. Moses told them that this extra portion was for Shabbat. It would keep fresh over Friday night, and on Shabbat no one should go out to look for the manna. This was the first real opportunity for the Jewish people to keep Shabbat.
The Reluctant Partner
Before Jews left Egypt they were told to "borrow" gold and silver from their Egyptian neighbors. The Egyptians, who understood that this was to be, at best, a "long term loan," were reluctant to part with their valuables, but in the end acquiesced to the loan.
Then, just before the Jewish exodus, many Egyptians, of their own volition, offered tremendous gifts of cattle and livestock. What happened? Why the sudden change?
Did G‑d really need to Punish the Egyptians? Isn't there a Better Way?
I don't understand. If we are all G‑d's children, and G‑d's mercy extends to all His creations, why did G‑d need to bring on such great harm as blight, plague, and the death of the first born to get the Children of Israel out of Egypt? I understand the problem was that the Egyptians were wicked and needed to be punished and the Israelites were enslaved and mistreated and something had to be done to free them. But couldn't G‑d have found a better way?
The entirety of history is a process in which the world is slowly purified and becomes a receptive channel for G‑d's light. When it is still coarse, G‑dliness comes crashing in, because it is Infinite Light and the world cannot contain such a light. But as we approach the messianic times and the purification becomes more complete, miracles can land gently. The fall of the communist party was somewhat a gentler miracle -- a great miracle, but much gentler.
Today, amazing miracles are happening, far beyond the Exodus. But we all want to remain skeptics and prefer not to notice. If we open our minds and eyes, we will see extraordinary changes entering our world -- in peace and tranquility.