Sometimes when we're dealing with a difficult situation, we see what we want to see. Whether through denial, deflection, defensiveness, or some other d-word, we can always turn things around to avoid dealing with a problem. Perhaps we don't want to face the real issue, or the underlying causes are too huge, too scary, or too overwhelming to handle. Whatever it may be, we often prefer wishful thinking or pleading ignorance to dealing with the situation at hand.
The Israelites found themselves in a similar situation in the desert, and we read about it in this
week's Torah portion. One of the recurring themes of the Exodus is complaining. The people whine about being thirsty, hungry, tired, scared, or because they want to go back to Egypt. No matter how much Moses reassures them, or how often they see God's power displayed, they remain discouraged and depressed. This week, we see them rebel against the manna.
Now in this case, the rabbis are actually the ones in denial, or perhaps it's just wishful thinking. We know that the Israelites ate primarily manna for the duration of their 40-year trek, and the rabbis tell us that one of the miracles of the Exodus was that the manna tasted like anything you wanted it to. I.e. you never got sick of it, because it always had a different taste. But that's not true! In this week's reading, the Israelites cry out because they're so sick of eatin' the same stuff every day. No matter how good it was, too much of ANYTHING still leaves you feeling pretty ill...
The manna, however, is really just the symptom. The Israelites
aren't dealing with the real issue and the underlying problem that permeates every other situation: They don't want to be there! They would prefer slavery to independence, because it means they don't have to move, they don't have to change, and they don't have to try. How often don't we see this happening today? People put up with an awful lot if it means they can avoid change.
Only once the Israelites take ownership of the Exodus, and feel a desire to conquer Canaan and become a nation, are they able to enter the Land. As long as we keep avoiding the real problem, we're really just going around in circles. We have to face our fears and take on challenges head-on, otherwise we'll keep chewing on the same bland manna for 40 long years.