by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – August 15, 2011
In the Torah section of Eikev (Devarim 8:11-18), we are warned: “Take care lest you forget the L-rd your G-d by not observing His commandments, His ordinances, and His decrees, which I command you today. Lest you eat and be satisfied and you build good houses and settle. And your cattle and sheep and goats increase and you increase silver and gold for yourselves and everything that you have will increase. And your heart will become haughty and you will forget the L-rd your G-d Who took you out of the land of Egypt from the house of slavery. Who leads you through the great and awesome wilderness – of snake, fiery serpent and scorpion, and thirst where there is no water – Who brings forth for you from the rock of flint. Who feeds you manna in the wilderness, which your forefathers knew not.”
G-d warns us not to forget all the good he has done for us and not to become complacent and conceited about our possessions, for it all comes from Him directly or indirectly.
With regard to the mention of the manna that fell from heaven, the renowned rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Torah Va’Daat, R. Avraham Yaakov Pam found it worthy to note today’s bounty that most of us enjoy but, similar to the manna, take for granted (Sholom Smith, A Vort from Rav Pam pp. 187-188).
Jews today, R. Pam noted, enjoy an abundance of food and at the same time suffer from a serious lack of appreciation of the source of this blessing. Bizui Okhlin (denigration of food) along with waste of food is common all over – at wedding and bar mitzvah celebrations or school and camp lunchrooms. One will often place a large portion of food on his plate, only eat a portion and leave the rest to be discarded into the garbage. It is ironic that such a person may be a grandchild of a concentration camp survivor whose life hung on finding a crust of hard bread or a few potato peels to consume.
In the Babylonian Talmud, Taanit 20b, we find that one is not allowed to feed an animal food fit for human consumption, because, as Rashi explains, this is a denigration of G-d’s blessing in granting these foods to humans.
In fact, R. Yisrael Meir Kagan, in his Mishna Brura (171:1) struggles to justify the conduct of people who throw bread crumbs to pigeons, in the end quoting the opinion of the author of Machatzit HaShekel that it is permissible to feed them foods fit for humans if nothing else is available.
In the same light, we find R. Yosef Caro criticizes in his Shulchan Arukh (171:5) the practice of throwing kernels of wheat before a groom since the kernels get trampled and become inedible.
Similarly, R. Pam pointed out, as regards the practice of throwing bags filled with raisins, nuts, candies and other food items at a groom, that one must be careful not to use food items that would become inedible were the flying bags to split open and their contents spill out over the floor.
One must keep in mind and appreciate the abundance of food in this generation and its source. It is heavenly! Let us appreciate it, and may we, therefore, merit to continue receiving it without cessation.