The people are in the wilderness, transitional or liminal space between slavery and having land. And, as in the Native American vision quest, perhaps learning what they need to learn for their future responsibilities. These days’ readings: the “whatsit,” a.k.a. “manna” (our transcription of the Hebrew word that might translate as “Whatsit?”). I wonder if the whatsit doesn’t turn out to be about divine generosity and human stewardship, passable themes for Earth Day + 1.
Most days—we meet the other days in tomorrow’s reading—they gather what they need for the day (an omer, or about two quarts, per person). The divine generosity: the whatsit’s there. And the generosity extends to the gathering process: “…some gathering more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed.” The weak do not go hungry.
Human stewardship: it resists hoarding. “And Moses said to them, ‘Let no one leave any of it over until morning.’ But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul.”
After a long stretch of slavery and its distorting effects, the whatsit is a reintroduction to this G-d’s creation: there is enough for everyone, it is dependable, hoarding is counterproductive.
Fast-forward several centuries: how much of the societal sickness diagnosed by Israel’s prophets came from not having learned from the whatsit?
Fast-forward several centuries: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal… do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:19,-25) Same G-d, same creation, same lesson to be learned.
“Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins.”