“On that same day, when they ate of the produce of the land, the manna ceased” Joshua 5: 12
FROM the moment Jacob sent his sons to Egypt, the story of the Israelites could well be read as the story of food. In Canaan there was famine; in Egypt, plenty. Staying in Egypt was about food – fertile land in Goshen fed the people for more than 400 years. Its price was servitude to the Egyptian Pharaoh.
On the verge of the Israelites’ departure from Egypt, they feasted on the lamb that lent them protection from the final plague. And once they had left Egypt, food security reared its head again. Were they to be left to starve in the desert? No, God stepped in to ensure the Israelites’ food supply. Every day of their 40 years of wandering, they ate manna.
Then, on their first Pesach in the land, it all stops. No more food security. They must live off the produce of the land where their ancestors once faced famine.
The commentators debate about when they stop eating manna, though most agree it is not on erev Pesach, but on the first day. On first full day Pesach, the manna is finished and the Israelites are left to rely on their own capabilities as a settled agrarian people. Food security is no longer someone else’s responsibility nor is it easy to achieve. Farming is hard work, but producing their own food is what the freedom that Pesach represents is really all about.
In our own world where food security is far from secure for much of our world’s inhabitants, food production is still a core issue we all face. Growing our own food is both a challenge and an opportunity.
This Pesach consider what it might be like if next year’s Seder required us to grow all the food on the table ourselves. What might next year’s Seder look like then?