Even in that time of many miracles, it was a wonder. One had merely to leave one's tent, take a few steps, and presto! —there it lay, freshly prepared and ready to eat, a full breakfast, lunch and supper, plus snacks. The manna was plentiful, so that there was enough for everyone's requirements. It was the perfect food, providing the eater's nutritional needs so precisely that there was no excess or waste for the body to deal with. Moreover, our Sages relate that the manna assumed any flavor that a person would wish to taste. Who could have any objection to the daily "bread from Heaven"?

And yet, in the 40th year of their desert journey, the Children of Israel complained against the manna. They called the wonder-food "despicable"! They claimed they could not stomach the "unnatural" aspects of the manna. They insisted it was a dangerous substance to consume on a regular basis: "It is impossible for human beings to ingest without disposing; we will surely implode from it!"

Now, hold on a minute. The Israelites had been eating this manna for just how long? Forty years. That's right; for forty years, they regularly recited the special blessing on the manna, "Blessed are You, G‑d... who brings forth bread from the heavens" and proceeded to enjoy their privileged diet. And how many fatalities, injuries, or even reports of stomach-ache had been filed in those forty years? None. All of a sudden the manna became despicable? Suddenly it is a terrible hazard? Did Heaven just hire a new chef? Certainly, it was not all of the people who voiced these outrageous charges; but the many vocal thousands that did seemed to have been instantly blinded to all sense and logic.

Just like the manna, the Israelites were promised and given a land flowing with milk and honey, straight from the hands of Heaven. They simply had to go and collect it. And it was comprised of many diverse flavors; everyone's preference was present. Snowy mountain ranges, lush plains, coastal areas, natural hot springs, oil fields, deserts, and a Salt Sea.

Even after leaving it, we praised the land and prayed for it thrice daily, and again after eating any grain-based products, and on festivals, at weddings, at funerals. Wherever we went and whatever we were doing, the Jewish soul cried for home. When the land was returned to us centuries later, Jews streamed there and kissed its soil upon arrival and uttered further blessings. They found their land responsive to the efforts of its delighted children, and it flourished.

Yet, out of the blue it seems, the land has now become "undesirable." Our body, it appears, cannot contain or control this miracle gift within its boundaries. Won with openly miraculous wars, it somehow feels too unnatural. We won't even trade it for a document or a presidential handshake; rather, we'll hand it over to the nearest people, whether they are ready to receive it or not. Faith, military strategy and logic are all as obsolete as hanging gardens of Babylon. Of course, not all the Children of Israel are endeavoring to divest themselves of the divine gift, but those who are are in the position to act accordingly. History has an annoying habit of repeating itself, and we have an annoying habit of repeatedly ignoring history.

The Torah explains the background to the "Disengagement from Manna" movement. Abraham had been informed by G‑d that his descendants would be enslaved, redeemed, and would then inherit the Land of Canaan. Pharaoh enslaved them, Moses redeemed them, and led them to... a wilderness. Oops! Well, they tripped over their feet every few steps of the way, and spent forty years walking in sandy circles.

Then, finally, they were in sight of their destination, a short distance from the border of Canaan. The land of Edom lay sandwiched between them and their Promised Land. The Edomites were descendents of Esau, the son of Isaac and the brother of Jacob. So Moses sent off a message to the King of Edom, "Hello cousins! It's us! We're back! If you'll please let us pass through your territory, we will settle in Canaan. Then we can live peacefully side by side, just like old times..." Cousin Edom amassed his armed forces on his border that faced the desert, growling, "Come any closer if you wish to feel my sword!" Israel turned away from Edom, and tramped back into their all-too-familiar desert. There they were greeted by forty years of Jewish footprints and 600,000 Jewish graves.

That's when they started complaining against the manna. Being so close, yet so far, proved too much for some of them. "This is what happened to our fathers!" they cried, "They turned back [after the Spies episode] and landed us in a hot desert for forty years. We will never reach Canaan!" Having despaired of reaching the land, "the soul of the nation grew disgusted by the journey" (Numbers 21:4). Rashi elaborates: They gave up hope, and the thought of retracing their steps to the wilderness was more than their hearts and minds could bear. This was the state that led "a great multitude of Israel" to make such irrational claims against the marvelous manna.

And a similar reasoning could be applied to the recent "disengagement" movement. We have been traversing a hostile wilderness of global proportions in our exiled condition. Not for forty years, but for more than forty times forty years. Whilst the desert trip had protective clouds, manna, rolling wells, and miraculous comforts, our current exile has been like a worldwide sport of table-tennis—with the Jewish people as the ball. Even after G‑d began returning His people to their land, and miraculously delivered it into our hands, our exile continues unabated. Our Semitic cousins do not welcome us back; rather they greet us with the sword, to prevent us from leaving our desert. Although the end of exile is in sight, we are still despised, attacked, and blamed. No wonder then, that the souls of "a great multitude of Israel" have "grown disgusted by the journey"! They have "given up hope", and have despaired of ever attaining their goals. The promised vision consistently gives way to the same dreadful desert.

However understandable their frustration, rallying against G‑d's manna was considered utter ingratitude. The Torah tells us that the consequence was an onslaught of poisonous serpents upon the Children of Israel (Numbers 21:6). Rashi elucidates: "Let the snake, for whom all foods taste the same, come to exact from the ungrateful, for whom one matter (manna) assumed many different tastes."

Here, too, history seems to be repeating itself. How else can one explain the poisoning of the hearts and mouths of almost the entire world—leaders, media and "public opinion" alike—against the Children of Israel? There is nothing Israel can do correctly (including exist), in the eyes of the world. Nations which have created bodies to promote and pursue justice, peace, and equality for all, who have defended sovereign states from aggressors, who have spent fortunes to combat and eradicate poverty, hunger and oppression in distant continents, are suddenly irrationally supportive of a terrorist movement against a peace-seeking Israel. Those who have donated billions for Arab housing projects only to witness their money translate into mortars and human bombs somehow blame a bombarded Israel for the slums. Those who send vast armies to overrun distant terrorist regimes somehow condemn Israel's confining a terrorist chief to the boundaries of his own city. Is this not a poison affecting an otherwise healthy body?

The snakes bite Israel, and the venom enters their victim. People in Israel, too, begin riling against themselves: "We are occupiers!" "We do not belong in this land!" "We are persecuting a peaceful population!"... The virus spreads to the head, and governments make decisions based on such premises.

The very date that the government chose is enough to cause alarm. Is it not uncanny that the expulsion of Jews from Gaza is scheduled to commence on the tenth of Av? The Code of Jewish Law has a few choice words to say concerning this date, quoting the Talmud's description of the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem: "On the 7th of Av, the gentiles entered our Sanctuary. They ate, drank, and desecrated on the 7th and 8th. On the 9th they set it on fire, and it continuously burnt throughout the 10th of Av, until sunset. The fast was not established on the 10th—although most of the destructive burning occurred then—rather on the 9th, since we hold the commencement of retribution more severely. Yet we are stringent not to consume meat or wine on the 10th, too..."

G‑d prescribed a remedy for those weary souls, blighted by their manna-bashing. He told Moses, "Construct a serpent and place it on a high pole; those who are bitten, can gaze at it and live" (Numbers 21:8). Our Sages explain: "Can a copper snake kill or make live? Rather, when the Jews gazed upwards and recalled their Father in Heaven; when they made their hearts subservient to Him—they were healed." Likewise, "I raise my eyes unto the mountains; from where will my help come?" (Psalms 121) does not indicate that mountains grant salvation. They merely remind one about He who fashioned nature, as the psalm continues, "My help is from G‑d, Creator of heaven and earth."

We, the Children of Israel today, should likewise gaze towards Heaven. "Lift your eyes unto the heavens, and see who created these!" (Isaiah 40:26). Remember who formed the Earth, who created peoples and lands, who designated the land of Israel for the Jews, who is sending serpents against us, and of what He has sent them to remind us: To recall the history and destiny of the Sons of Jacob, and to act accordingly. Then He who unleashed the serpents in such an unusual and extreme manner will gladly remove them in similar fashion.

Now is the most appropriate time. The present month of Av is perfect for soul-searching; to lift our eyes to Heaven and adjust our compasses.

The letters of the symbol representing the spiritual force of the month of Av, Aryeh ("lion"), also forms the word r'iyah, to gaze and to see clearly. Moreover, as our Sages point out, the word Aryeh is comprised of the four letters Alef, Reish, Yud, and Hei, forming an acronym of the four annual landmarks of teshuvah, the return to paths of truth and justice, in the exact order that they appear on our calendars. They are: the month of Elul (Alef), Rosh Hashanah (Reish), Yom Kippur (Yud), and the final stamp of approval on Hoshana Rabah (Hei). The winds of change begin to blow from our month of Av.

Let us gaze towards Heaven and redeem our course before we stray too far. Then we shall merit the fulfillment of the verses, "How goodly are your tents O' Jacob; your dwellings O' Israel... As a lion he crouched and he lay; as a lion cub—who can force him to rise?" Says Rashi: They will settle their land with strength and might.

May this Av be the one that is transformed from "mourning to rejoicing" for all times!