Tuesday, January 26, 2021

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.

This brings to mind the saying attributed to the Satmar Rebbe, that the segulah of saying parashas ha-man only works until 8:59am; after that, the segulah is to go to work!

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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  1. Funny how things evolve.

    When I was younger, the Satmarer Rov was supposed to have said that it only works until 8 o'clock. With time, they pushed the clock an hour later (pun intended).

    1. Maybe the time for the commute got shorter.

  2. Having other people say it for you (which I agree is totally ridiculous) is a very new innovation - the criticism of that point has no bearing on the segulah of Reb Menachem Mendel.

  3. Please link to the last time you reported this with all the relevant comments.

  4. See R Elli Fisher's post on The Lehrhaus. https://thelehrhaus.com/scholarship/manna-as-a-detox-diet-on-rav-mendel-of-rymanovs-segulah-for-parnassah/

    To R Mendel of Rimanov, the lesson of mann is about frugality and living within your means. More rationalist than the MB's take.

  5. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan and Ethics of the Fathers 5:8 relates that the manna (Exodus 16:14–36) is “bread from heaven,” that was “hidden away from the beginning;” from creation.

    Should we take the rabbinical statement literally? According to Rambam's rationalist approach, the manna was part of the laws of

  6. And what's the source for the segulah of lighting a candle for 40 days for R Mendel of Rimanov?

  7. Is it ratonalist to wreak revenge with lashon hara against every group with whom you hold a grudge NS or is it a triple negative mitzvah even by the Rambam's count?

  8. Natan, seems that whatever chareidim are for, you are against. Maybe for balance you should dedicate a post to all the things that you align yourself with the chareidi position. There must be more things that you agree on than disagree.

  9. “...that you can pay others to do it for you, for even better results!“ There is something abhorrent with this, even Avodah Zorah. Anyway how do they know this ? Does it not seem self serving and a way to make money off the Torah ? I caution those people who may fall this that a fool and his money are soon parted. ACJA

  10. Proof that your conception of religious ritual as a series of childish mimes vaguely related to particular ethical virtues is be wrong can be found empirically. The puritans lost the war on Christmas, and the modern orthodox puritans lost the demographic war, and the only Orthodox Jew offended by parshas Haman is one Nathan Slifkin.

    Religious rituals are a shared experience, a powerful affirmation of the group. They represent the spiritual culture of the religion. Rituals are imbued with meaning to adherents of the religion, and that is how they provide religious meaning.

    That is the rational reality of ritual. It is a reenactment of identity.

    1. Slifkin is far from the only Orthodox Jew offended by the worldwide obsession with a segulah born out of a trivial misunderstanding....

    2. Possibly, but certainly Rabbi Slifkin is the only puritan aggravated by saying kaddish for the dead. Because he has misunderstood every segulah. There is no such thing as a less than genuine minhag. If people be do it; and they find it meaningful and draw comfort from it; then it is genuine. That is the organic reality of religious evolution.

      When you beat Arovos on the floor, you aren't attempting to precisely reenact accurately the rain dance of your bronze age ancestors. You are making a spiritual connection with the wider Jewish people, past and present. That connection is imbued with subjective meaning about how you as an individual fit into a wider tradition.

  11. Natan, do you "rinse" your eyes with the havdalah wine that has spilled over?

    1. That has been codified in Shulchan Aruch and is not a mystical minhag at all. It is a method of displaying חביבות המצוה, according to its source.
      But if someone wants to pay me to do it for them, just mail a check.

    2. Well, that seems logical. I always schmear things I wish to honour on my eyelids. Or maybe the post hoc rationalisations are not meant to be taken literally, and you experience there resonances of ritual however subjectively experience it.

    3. It's not a "rinse," it's a "dab."

      A Rationalist would say that rituals are supposed to awaken within us certain feelings. So dipping one's fingers into the havdala puddle, replete with melted wax and extinguished candle soot, and touching them to one's eyes and pockets should REMIND us that the success in the coming week - in terms of wisdom and wealth, as symbolized by the eyes and the pockets - comes from doing mitzvos. Such success comes from the "overflow" in positive feeling, attitude, aspiration, and action.

      It is not a magic spell. If it doesn't make you feel that way, then don't do it.

      (BTW does nobody else do the pockets?)


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