He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Deuteronomy 8:3
The Torah portion for this week is Eikev, which means "therefore" or "heel," from Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 49:14-51:3.
When Jews sit down for a meal, we thank God for the food that we are about to eat just as Christians do. However, in the Jewish tradition, we have specific blessings for each particular food group. There are distinct blessings for vegetables, fruit, bread, and more.
When we thank God for the fruit of the tree or the fruit of the earth, we can easily understand that it is God who created the fruit and vegetables that sustain us. When it comes to thanking God for bread, we thank "He who brings forth bread from the land." However, it's not God who makes the bread, it's actually humans! So why does our blessing imply that bread grows from the ground like a carrot?
A while back I was severely disappointed when a prominent government official spoke at a college graduation. This prestigious man talked about how science is the future. He extolled the virtues of technology, explaining how it has made the world a better place. I couldn't agree more. However, then the man honed in on the particular technology that allows produce to grow in all environments. He explained that in the past, farmers were dependent on God in order for produce to grow. Sometimes it would rain and sometimes it wouldn't. "God made us a little crazy," the man explained, so now we have technology and are no longer dependent on God.
For an intelligent man, I couldn't believe that he didn't understand that it was God who gave people the brains and know-how to create that technology. Not dependent on God? I don't think so!
This is why we acknowledge God for bringing bread from the ground. It is God who gave man the ability to take wheat from the ground and turn it into bread. God is still the source of our food.
In this week's portion we read that God fed the people manna in the desert "to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." Looking at the miraculous manna, it was easy to appreciate the food as coming from God. Bread is not as obvious. But the manna was meant to teach all generations that while it may look like all things material are what sustain us, the true source is always God.
I want to encourage us to give praise and thanks to God today for all that we have, all that we can do, and all the amazing achievements that God has allowed humanity to accomplish. Let's recognize God as the source of it all and give glory to His great name.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President