In this week's parshah, Eikev, we read about G‑d testing the Jewish people with the manna.

“And He afflicted you and made you hungry and fed you manna, which you did not know, nor did your forefathers know, so that He would make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but rather by, whatever comes forth from the mouth of G‑d does man live.”1

“…Who fed you manna in the desert, which your forefathers did not know, in order to afflict you and in order to test you, to benefit you in your end, and you will say to yourself, ‘My strength and the might of my hand that made all this wealth for me.’ But you must remember G‑d your G‑d, for it is He that gives you strength to make wealth...”2

How could the manna—the totally G‑dly “bread from heaven”3 which fed them for forty years and took on virtually any flavor they desired4—test and afflict the Jewish people?

There are two kinds of tests: those of affluence and those of poverty.5 The manna incorporated both of these characteristics.

On one hand, it provided both spiritual and physical wealth: it was G‑dly, flavorsome, and the Talmud tells us that they often found precious gems alongside the fallen manna.6

On the other hand, the manna never truly satiated them. They were only able to collect one day’s supply at a time, which meant the future always felt uncertain. When you have food, you are less hungry, because you have the security of knowing that you can eat whenever you want to. And although the manna tasted like anything they desired, its appearance didn’t change, and “You can't compare one who sees (his food) and eats, to one who doesn't see (his food) and eats.”7 (Like Crystal Pepsi.)8

But these flaws are not real, they were only perceived flaws.

Torah Study

The same is true about the study of Torah, when compared to other subjects. Other subjects are limited; you can master them and feel satisfied.9 Torah, however, is infinite. No matter how much you know, you are left wanting more—another angle, a deeper interpretation, a higher meaning.

This applies even within Torah itself. On the one hand, we have the revealed Torah (Mishnah, Talmud, Halacha, etc.), which is still G‑d's infinite wisdom, but because it comes into the world dressed in physical cases and scenarios, its study can sometimes leave you satisfied. The hidden or inner Torah (Chassidism, Kabbalah, etc.), however, is G‑d's pure infinite wisdom, unclothed. The more you know, the hungrier you become.10

The hunger for Torah, and especially the inner Torah, is only your perception. You perceive that there is more to understand, so you are hungry. That means that the only true flaw is in the one who is perceiving it. The way to overcome these flaws is to go outside of yourself and nullify your existence. Then your perception will be G‑d's perception, where everything is good and truly satisfying.

Finding Satisfaction in the Manna

Likewise, to find satisfaction in the manna, one had to know that it was pure infinite G‑dliness; a Divine gift. Those able to humble themselves, totally negating their own existence and recognizing that it all came from G‑d, were genuinely happy and satisfied. Everything that comes from Him is good; there are no flaws.11

Now we can understand why the verse continues, “…and you will say to yourself, ‘My strength and the might of my hand that made all this wealth for me.’ But you must remember G‑d your G‑d, for it is He that gives you strength to make wealth...” The manna served as the paradigm for true happiness and satisfaction: the recognition that everything we have comes from G‑d.

With this perspective, everything in life becomes good. Since we are humble, we see that not only is the spiritual good and holy, but the physical is too. There is no difference, because it is all from G‑d.12

Our Lives

Many of us struggle with happiness, dissatisfied with the hand we’ve been dealt. But it’s all based on our perspective and perception. If you think “my strength and the might of my hand has made all this wealth,” then when faced with a challenge you will fall deep into the hole of unhappiness and self-pity. But when you recognize that “it is He that gives you strength to make wealth,” then you can find meaning and comfort.

I recognize that sometimes we are presented with such devastating challenges that no amount of positive thinking can soothe the pain. But knowing that it comes from G‑d makes things a little bit easier.

Happiness doesn't mean you walk around with a smile all day, it means you are satisfied with yourself and your situation, which comes from your perspective.13

I have been asked: How do you stay positive through the devastating challenge you are facing—ALS and paralysis? The hardest thing for me is not being able to be the father and husband I want to be. I struggle with that every day. Though I know that I can't do anything to fix the situation, barring a miracle from G‑d, it hurts not to be able to kiss and hug my children, not to be able to talk and play with them. But as far as everything else is concerned, what keeps me going is the realization that G‑d is real, that He has a plan for the world, and that I am a part of it. Everyone is part of it, and every part is important. So if He put me in this position, He must want something of me that I can only do in this position. When you see it this way, a challenging situation can lift you up and fill you with purpose.

May all our suffering come to an end, with the imminent coming of Moshiach.14