"And He afflicted you; He made you hunger and He fed you the manna" (Deuteronomy 8:3). To describe the manna experience as one of hunger and affliction seems a bit curious. What does the Torah have in mind?

Two Groups

This question is best addressed by the following parable. A great rabbi delivered a deep lecture and presented an entirely new approach to the study of Talmud. Among the students, there were two groups who walked away unsatisfied.

To the first group, the new insight opened a host of new possibilities, and they were left unsatisfied with their previous understanding. They returned to their books to study again. To the second group, listening to a lecture of such depth felt like a waste of time, for they could barely grasp it.

The manna which our ancestors ate in the dessert was a material food of spiritual quality. It was not digested in the conventional manner, nor did it have the aesthetic appearance and appetizing texture that we associate with the experience of food. Eating manna was more nourishment of soul than of body, and many Jews were left unsatisfied.

Two Hungers

There were those who could not relate to the spiritual fulfillment and craved the pleasure of material food; they were left physically "afflicted" and "hungry." Others related to the spirituality so well that they found themselves unsatisfied and wanting more. They were left spiritually "afflicted and hungry."

The same concept holds true today with regards to prayer and Torah study. There are those who find prayer monotonous and boring and are completely oblivious to the spirituality inherent in prayer. The prayer experience leaves them feeling deprived and spiritually barren.

Others arrive at services eager to "commune with G‑d." However, when their meditations allow them a glimpse of an even greater sphere that is as of yet beyond them, they, too, walk away unsatisfied and yearn for more.

The difference between the two groups is that the first is left demoralized and uninspired. The latter receive an encouraging boost that raises them to the next level.

Fortunate are those who belong to the second group of G‑d's "unsatisfied customers."