Tu BeShvat celebrates the natural world and its produce. This week’s Parsha, on the other hand, celebrates the supernatural sustenance Hashem provided in the desert: Manna. Manna, as we may know, is famous for its strangely subjective quality: It tasted however one wanted it to taste (Sifri).
Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (the “Chofetz Chaim”- who we discussed in Legends & Lessons) once asked a young Rabbi Shimon Schwab a simple question: What if someone ate the manna without desiring any specific taste? What was its ‘default’ taste? After neither he or anyone in the crowd answered, the Chofetz Chaim explained: “If one gave no thought, then one got no taste”.
The message is perhaps most applicable to our generation. In a world saturated with access to information, we have developed into a society which is over-educated but under-intrigued. We often speed through articles, actions and relationships with the most efficient strategies, yet fail to pause and give critical thought to their significance. The same is true by our faith. If we approach our spiritual pursuits as thoughtless activity, then it is surely no mystery why it might provide little pleasure. To feel the fullest extent of the Torah’s sweetness, we must remember that it isn’t just functional, it’s meaningful. But in order to taste it, we have to want to.