Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Amazing Manna Segulah

"Manna manna."
Were you inundated today with emails about the amazing segulah of saying parashas ha-man, shnayim Mikra v'echod Targum, because it is Tuesday of the week of parashas Beshalach? I was.

It's quite bizarre. Here is something that was allegedly proposed by a single chassidishe rebbe, R. Menachem Mendel of Rimanov, two hundred years ago (though he never even put it in writing; it is only an oral tradition). All of a sudden, it is considered to be something that all Jews should do! (Though you don't even need to say it yourself - the Gedolim say that you can pay others to do it for you, for even better results!) This is especially odd in light of the fact that this is entirely inconsistent with the approach of the Mishnah Berurah, surely a much more mainstream work, as we shall see. (I am indebted to Rabbi Josh Waxman of the excellent Parshablog, from whose post on this topic much of the following was taken, with his permission.)

Some claim that the source for this is the Yerushalmi, but that's not quite accurate. The given source says כל האומר פרשת המן מובטח לו שלא יתמעטו מזונותיו, "Whoever recites parashas ha-man, is assured that his sustenance will not decrease." Early sources, such as Seder Rav Amram Gaon, explained that it was recited every day, along with korbanos and a host of other things. However, he says, only select people do so; most do not, because they are too busy working! To quote:
זה המנהג הנכון לנהג היחידים אנשי מעשה. והצבור אין נוהגין כן, שלא יתבטל איש איש ממלאכתו אשר המה עושים, ומקצרין ואומר אחר סיום, קדיש. חזק.

Meanwhile, the Mishnah Berurah gives an interesting explanation of the daily recital of parashas ha-man:
פרשת העקידה - קודם פרשת הקרבנות. ויכול לומר פרשת העקידה ופרשת המן אפילו בשבת. ואין די באמירה אלא שיתבונן מה שהוא אומר ויכיר נפלאות ד' וכן מה שאמרו בגמרא כל האומר תהלה לדוד ג' פעמים בכל יום מובטח לו שהוא בן עוה"ב ג"כ באופן זה. וטעם לאמירת כ"ז כי פרשת עקידה כדי לזכור זכות אבות בכל יום וגם כדי להכניע יצרו כמו שמסר יצחק נפשו ופרשת המן כדי שיאמין שכל מזונותיו באין בהשגחה פרטית וכדכתיב המרבה לא העדיף והממעיט לא החסיר להורות שאין ריבוי ההשתדלות מועיל מאומה ואיתא בירושלמי ברכות כל האומר פרשת המן מובטח לו שלא יתמעטו מזונותיו ועשרת הדברות כדי שיזכור בכל יום מעמד הר סיני ויתחזק אמונתו בה' ופרשת הקרבנות דאמרינן במנחות זאת תורת החטאת כל העוסק בתורת חטאת כאלו הקריב חטאת וכו':
משנה ברורה סימן א ס"ק יג
 "The parsha of the Binding {of Yitzchak} -- before the parsha of the sacrifices. And one is able to say the parsha of the Binding and the parsha of the Manna even on Shabbat. And it is not sufficient with mere saying, but rather he must understand what he is saying and and recognize the wonders of Hashem. And so too that which they say in the Gemara that anyone who says Ashrei three times every day is guaranteed that he will be a resident of the world to come, in this manner {that is, not an incantation, but understanding and appreciating this}. And the reason for the saying of all this is as follows: the parsha of the Binding is in order to recall the merit of the forefathers every day, and also to humble his yetzer, just as Yitzchak was moser nefesh. And the parsha of the Manna is such that he will believe that all his food {/livelihood} comes through special Divine direction {hashgacha pratis}, as it is written {and understood midrashically} "and the one who took more did not end up with more and the one who took less did not end up with less," to teach that increasing effort does not help at all. And it is found in Yerushalmi Berachot that anyone who says the parsha of the Manna {others have here: every day} he is guaranteed that his livelihood will not decrease. And the {saying of the} Ten Commandments is in order to recall every day the standing by Mt. Sinai, and his faith in Hashem will be strengthened. And {the reason for reciting} the parsha of the sacrifices is because of what we say in Menachot: "Zot Torat HaChatat -- Anyone who engages in the {learning of} Torah of the Chatat is as if he sacrificed a Chatat {sin offering}, etc."
Thus, this is not a magic incantation, but rather a mechanism by which one realizes certain facts about the world and reinforces his emuna. The repercussions of such an internalization of these ideas will be all these great things. Note too that none of these sources speak about reciting it shnayim Mikra v'echod Targum. The recital of parshat HaMan once a year, on a specific day, shnayim Mikra v'echod Targum, is a mystical innovation that is completely at odds with the Mishna Berura's explanation. Furthermore, according to the Mishnah Berurah's explanation, it is pointless to pay other people to say it for you.

But can any of this reconcile with Rambam's rationalist approach? That will have to be the topic of another post. Meanwhile, with regard to the nature of the manna itself, see the post Manna and Maimonides.

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11 comments:

  1. Segulot are often pretty laughable. However, while I agree with R' Natan that the inundation of social and other media implying that we somehow must recite (or pay someone else to recite) Parshat Haman is offensive and stupid, I wouldn't knock a segulah such as this one. Not because of any argument about efficacy, but because for many people this segulah is a religious act which inspires and uplifts them. Frequently they are incapable of more profound religious ra'ayonot. Given that this segulah simply consists of reciting a portion from the Torah (albeit with some bells and whistles), it seems harmless. When they start making you pour lead into a pot or tie a red string around your wrist, that's when I start mocking. Just my opinion.

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  2. So reading this post should suffice. Please keep it stuck to the top of your blog.

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  3. The Satmar Rov is known to have said that Parshas Hamon does not work unless said before 8:00 am (meaning that it is not a substitute for work). So this post is too late.

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  4. So? To what extent is this practised amongst even 'normative' Jews?

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  5. The Mishnah Berurah seems to synchronize with Rambam's approach to prayer rather well. Prayer, for Rambam is about self-improvement and character building, which is what the Chafetz Chaim seems to be getting at with the recital of the akeidah as well as parashat haman. Hence why he recommends that you say them every day, rather than only at various auspicious moments.

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  6. Oh, just an alteration of R' Slifkin's words: "Thus, this is not a magic food, but rather an act by which one realizes certain facts about the world and reinforces his emuna."

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  7. Why Pray for Tzahal-IDF:
    http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2016/04/guest-post-why-pray-for-idf.html

    How to Pray for Tzahal-IDF:
    http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2016/09/how-to-pray-for-tzahal-idf.html

    How Torah Can Defeat Terrorism:
    https://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2017/08/defeat-terror-with-torah.html

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  8. This website said almost what you are saying, but in much fewer words and with a more positive spin:
    http://www.beyondbt.com/2018/01/23/hishtadlus-and-parshas-hamon/

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    Replies
    1. Well said. Good mussar for me

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    2. "Segulah for Parnossa" - Bingo. A good reason why religions exist and persist.

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  9. While this might be more apropros to the older post NS links to, no discussion about the rationalist understanding of the Mon can be ever truly considered complete without including... The Manna Machine! Go check Wikipedia. The article I read about it (summarizing the 1978 book) discusses how this device, called the Ancient of Days, harvested algae and fed that to BY in the desert. It was kept in the Aron and needed maintenance every seven days - so it could not produce anything on the day that therefore was labeled Shabbos.

    Even the History Channel did a bit on this. If the History Channel discusses it, it must be true!

    Perhaps rationalist explanation should be in quotes for this one...

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