Whatever We Decide
Yael Eckstein | January 27, 2021
When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.
Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat.” — Exodus 16:15
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Beshalach, which means “when he sent them away,” from Exodus 13:17–17:16.
One of the most interesting places to visit in Israel is the Jaffa flea market. For me, I find it entertaining to look through the layers of history embedded in the eclectic items. But I have a friend who sees so much more. She looks at the items, which other people discarded as trash, and sees treasures. She buys things that I wouldn’t give a second glance and when I see them next in her home, they look like priceless pieces of art.
My friend’s ability to see the beauty in otherwise strange-looking or unattractive items inspires me. It reminds me that so much of life is determined by how we see it.
In this week Torah portion, we read about manna, the miraculous food that fell from heaven during the years when the Israelites were in the desert. The first time that the manna appeared, the Israelites were puzzled and asked, “What is it?” In the original Hebrew, they asked, “Mann hu?” — which is how manna got its name.
Life Is Whatever We Decide
According to Jewish tradition, manna could taste like whatever the Israelites decided they wanted it to taste like. It always looked the same, but the taste could be anything their hearts desired.
Based on this idea, the Jewish sages offered the following teaching. God sends us what we need every day in the form of the experiences we have, the people we meet, the weather outside, and everything else that happens — or doesn’t happen — that day.
Like the Israelites, we look at what God sends us and ask, “What is it?” Is it good or bad? But the answer is always: Whatever we decide. Just as the Israelites could decide what the manna would taste like, we get to determine the flavor of our lives.
What a powerful lesson! It’s not what happens to us in life that matters; it’s whatever we decide to feel about what happens to us. If we make up our minds that life is terrible, then we will experience it as just that. But, if we are determined to believe that everything is ultimately for the best, then everything will be for the best and we will experience everything in life as God’s great blessings — even when we don’t immediately recognize them.
Today, no matter what comes your way, decide to see it as a blessing from God. Then see what difference that makes in your life.