When the Jewish people arrive in Midbar Sin soon after yetsi’at Mitsrayim, they approach Moshe and Aharon and complain about their lack of food.[i] In response, Hashem famously tells Moshe that a special food, soon to be known as man, will rain down from the heavens every day except for Shabbat. Interestingly, Hashem does not explain His actions with the anticipated reason of feeding the nation, but rather, “le-ma’an anasenu ha-yelekh be-torati im lo – So that I can test them, whether they will follow My teaching or not.”[ii] This verse is perplexing. What test is God referring to?
The classical commentators grapple with this question. Rashi explains that God is testing the people to see if they will keep the commandments associated with the man, such as the prohibitions to leave leftovers until morning or to collect man on Shabbat.[iii] Ibn Ezra, however, reads this pasuk in a different light. He believes that the test is psychological, and is meant to see if Benei Yisra’el will learn to rely on Hashem for sustenance day after day.[iv] The transition from slaves of Pharaoh to servants of God would not be an easy one. Hashem understood that and, according to Ibn Ezra, gave the man as an aid for that transition, to help Benei Yisra’el learn to rely on God for their needs.
The episode of the man is not the only instance in which the Torah demonstrates an understanding of human psychology. There are numerous other examples in Tanakh, and, in fact, this awareness is not unique to Torah she-Bikhtav. Sprinkled throughout our mesorah are hints to the notion that the Torah does not act and command in a vacuum. It is very much a part of the world that we live in, aware of our needs and the way in which we think. The Torah is not looking to deny that we are human; rather, it enables us to elevate our normal, human lives to their highest potential. This approach shapes our rituals and informs our halakhic system.
In this issue of Kol Hamevaser, we explore the connections and interactions between Halakhah and Psychology. It is apparent from overarching halakhic principles and specific halakhic practices that Halakhah accounts for the way that we think, feel, and react. This relationship between Halakhah and Psychology is a fascinating and fruitful subject, and we hope that this issue of Kol Hamevaser will serve as a starting point for further discussion.
As this is the last issue of the year, I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of all of the editors, to thank those people who have allowed us to fulfill our goal of “sparking discussion of Jewish issues on the Yeshiva University campus and beyond.”[v] To our staff, writers, readers, and those of you who have attended our various events and shabbatonim over the year, thank you for keeping the discussion alive and for contributing your thoughts and time. And a final thank you to those staff members who are graduating this year, including editor-in-chief Chana Zuckier, associate editor Ariel Caplan, our webmaster (and oleh hadash) Rafi Miller, and staff writer Moshe Karp — congratulations and we wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.