February 4, 2020

Mightily Blessed

Robert Lichtman Chief Jewish Learning Officer

There is a deep and wide and strong stream of rational thought flowing through centuries of Jewish discourse that eschews superstition, omens, amulets, and incantations. Swirling in that same stream are equally ancient and mystical currents that have introduced and carried such ideas, defying logic and capturing the imagination.

It’s a wild ride.

Today, the Tuesday of the week in which Jewish communities around the world will read the Torah portion of Beshalach, is when we find ourselves wading in this stream. Today is the day when the mystical tradition teaches that if one says “Parashat Haman, the portion about Manna,” this will help one’s personal livelihood, i.e., income.

Why this week? Well it’s this week (on Shabbat) when we will read how G-d sustained the Jews in the desert for 40 years with manna which they found outside of their tents every morning (except on Shabbat; a double portion was delivered each Friday). And why today? My guess is that traditionally Tuesdays are considered an auspicious day as God proclaimed the work on that day of Creation as “good” and God said that twice, as opposed to other days when God only said that once.

Here is my take. And frankly, I believe it’s the underlying principle of this practice. Nearly 40 million Americans live in poverty. That’s more than 1 in 10 of us. And yes, there is much we can and should do to help each and every one who is trapped there. That’s part of what we do as a Federation. But today, our tradition is telling us something else. It’s telling us that we are mightily – and literally – blessed.

If we consider ourselves “lucky” not to be poor, or if we think that we’re “accomplished” because we’re well-off, think again. Our tradition tells us that wealth is not made by us but that it’s determined by and in partnership with G-d. Reflection on these passages is a reminder – at least once a year – to be a bit humble about who we are and what we have. There is something bigger than us.