By Rav David Silverberg
The Torah in Parashat Beshalach tells about the manna, the miraculous food with which God sustained Benei Yisrael during their period of travel through the wilderness. We read that one portion of food fell from the heavens each day for each person, and manna that was left over until the following day became spoiled (16:20). The exception was Friday, when two portions were provided for each person, one of which was to be eaten that day and the other left over for Shabbat. Unlike on the other days, the manna left over until Shabbat did not spoil, and remained edible and fresh (16:22-25).
On a symbolic level, this arrangement teaches us an important aspect of the Shabbat experience. Throughout the rest of the week, it is expected that each day we will find yesterday’s food “spoiled,” that we will feel discontented with the material assets we had accumulated until then. This is not to say we may feel ungrateful, but rather that we are entitled to desire more and to go out to try obtaining what we desire. Just as leftover manna was spoiled the next morning, likewise, we are entitled each morning to look at what we have as unsatisfactory, and thus seek to increase our assets. On Shabbat, however, we may not look at anything in our lives as “spoiled.” On this day, we look at everything we have as perfect, as precisely what we need and what we want. As Moshe tells Benei Yisrael here in Parashat Beshalach, “Each man shall remain in his place; no man shall leave his place on the day of Shabbat” (16:29). On Shabbat, we have nowhere to go, because everything we want is right here with us. Whereas during the week we do not feel content with what we’ve been given, on Shabbat we are to feel that all our needs are cared for, that we have no reason to search or work for more. Just as God created for six days, but on the seventh He saw that everything was “very good” (Bereishit 1:31), we, too, work restlessly during the week but then stop on Shabbat, reflecting on how “very good” our lives are, on how the “manna” given to us the previous days is still perfect, and sufficient for meeting all our needs.
In this way, we maintain a healthy balance between ambition and contentment. We spend six days working hard, creating, innovating and developing the world in our quest for our livelihood, but then remind ourselves on Shabbat that we have enough and can enjoy the serenity that comes with contentment. We experience, on the one hand, the restlessness and dissatisfaction that leads us to meaningful work and productivity, but on the other hand, we also experience the joy and bliss of gratification and fulfillment.
Originally posted on VBM
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