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What Does “Manna” Mean?

What Does “Manna” Mean?



We read in Exodus 16:15 that the heavenly bread fell, and “when the children of Israel saw [it], they said to one another, ‘It is manna,’ because they did not know what it was.” But what does “manna” mean?


Good question. In the original Hebrew the word is מן, more accurately transliterated as mon. So what does mon mean? There are a number of schools of thought.

Some say that mon means a portion of food.1 They did not know what it was, but they knew that it was a portion of ready-to-eat food, so they called it just that.

Others explain that mon is Egyptian for “what.”2 Over the 200-plus years that they had lived in Egypt, a fair amount of Egyptian had crept into their lexicon. Thus, when they said, “It is manna,” what they were actually saying was, “What is it?” Eventually, that became the name of the mystery food that they had found.

A third interpretation is that the root word of mon means status or importance.3 In other words, they saw the stuff fall from heaven, did not know what it was, but were absolutely sure that it was something special.


Among others, this is the view of Rashi, who sees this as similar to Daniel 1:5, וימן להם המלך.


This is the opinion of Rashbam and others.


This view is cited by Haketav Vehakabbalah, who sees an example of this root word in Proverbs 29:21, ואחריתו יהיה מנון.

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for
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Discussion (9)
April 7, 2016
In Exodus God said that Manna was to be saved for all generations
in remembrance of the journey thru the desert and how God provided. Is there still Manna?
Barbara Newton
Palm Desert
July 22, 2015
They called it manna because they didn't know what it was... Basically meaning it was called " what is it " it looked like hoarfrost on the ground (mycelium) and when sun waxed hot it melted in the heat... Mushrooms. The cow field mushroom is the holy food, the sacrament, so when you take the circular wafer back in biblical times you would be offered instead a mushroom cap. Ask your local Freemason ;) happy knowledge hunting!!!
February 11, 2015
Would manna be used for knowledge?
December 8, 2014
My kids and I were discussing the origin of manna, and were delighted to find the three word origins as well as their significance as related to this miraculous provision of sustenance. Thank You
February 1, 2012
Thanks for the answer. I always thought that manna from heaven was bread, as in the contents in the illustrated bread basket. i always wondered, just bread ? That's it ? But now i see that it was foodstuffs for a meal.

Thanks Yitchak for bringing up the point about the Aramaic spoken language. Manna = Mon-hu is a nice bit of knowledge. Then you add on sayings like the Kaddish Aramaic prayer, for one, that has made it down through the centuries.

Toda Rabbah Rabbi !
August 13, 2011
thanks for the definition
escondido, ca
February 7, 2011
RE: Aramaic
That is correct. There are indeed many who explain that "mom hu" is Aramaic. For the sake of brevity, I did not include that in the response.
Menachem Posner for
Montreal, QC
February 7, 2011
My Rabbi said that "Mon hu" is Aramaic, and he brought this as a proof of what many Rishonim and Acharonim say that Jews spoke Aramaic and not Hebrew for their secular talk.
Yitzchak Kolakowski
Richmond, VA
January 13, 2011
What comes to my mind is, "Mean-ah," and "Mine-ah" fell from the sky. That is G-d having saved the Israelites from slavery was saying, "Your struggle does not end here for you are my people."
Craig Hamilton
Sandwich, MA