Religious Life

“I’m Dreamin’ of a White Pesach” – A Weekly Letter from Rabbi Davis

Shalom Chaverim,

I don’t think that the person who said “April showers bring May flowers” had snow showers in mind.

Though beautiful, it hardly feels like chag haaviv, a spring time holiday. Still, the weather event has a Pesach connection that feels particularly timely.

We know the story well: When the Israelites first left Egypt, they ate matzah because they didn’t have time to let their dough rise. One week later, when they crossed the Sea of Reeds (the Torah reading for the seventh day of Pesach), manna began to rain down from heaven. The Torah says that the Israelites would awaken in the morning to a find, “a flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground” (Ex. 16:14). Commentators explain that manna appeared as hoar-frost, that is, ice crystals formed by frost freezing on plants.

A 1st century Jewish work written in Greek known as The Wisdom of Solomon elaborates on the wintery image:

God, You blessed your people with manna, that food of angels, the bread you sent down from heaven. It satisfied their hunger and tasted delicious. Your care for your people was as sweet as this bread that everyone enjoyed so much. And though the bread was frail as snowflakes, it did not melt in the fiery flames that your enemies saw destroying their crops during the hailstorm.

According to this explanation, manna fell when the Israelites were still in Egypt. That timing is puzzling. Still, we can appreciate the author’s message which was meant to instill gratitude. For while the manna survived a fiery hail from heaven, it melted from the sun’s rays. As The Wisdom of Solomon continues:

This was God’s way of teaching the Israelites not to depend upon their crops, but rather to depend upon God.  For the manna that survived the fire melted in the warmth of the sun. This shows that we must rise before dawn to pray to God. If we are ungrateful, our hope will melt like wintry frost and flow away like dirty water.

Manna’s melting point taught the Israelites to be thankful. If they waited until the afternoon to collect the manna at their convenience, it would have melted away. For, they would seem to be taking the gift of manna for granted. Arranging their harvest schedule by God’s clock, however, was a daily reminder of their dependence on the Source of all nourishment.

Our snow is real, not heavenly bread. But we too can learn from this teaching. For even as we long for April’s sleet and slush to melt, we would do well to arise early one morning, to behold the beauty across the landscape of freshly fallen snow and to give thanks.

Chag Sameiach,

Rabbi Alexander Davis