By Rabbi Nosson Greenberg
In this week’s parsha we learn of the Mon which the Yidden ate for forty years as they journeyed through the desert. Chazal (Yomah 75a) tell us that the Mon could taste like anything one wished it to be, except for five different foods: cucumber, melon, leek, onion, and garlic. Rashi (ibid) explains that these foods are harmful to pregnant and nursing women and therefore were taken out of the exhaustive food choices contained within the Mon. But one can ask why they had to have been totally removed? Hashem could just program the Mon that when eaten by a nursing or pregnant woman it cannot become those particular foods. But if some guy is imagining at dinner that his Mon is a quarter-pound burger and he wants it slathered in garlic mayo, with a couple of slices of onion, and a juicy half-sour pickle on the side, why in the world should he be deprived?
Perhaps we can suggest the following answer: the Mon is referred to by Chazal as “Lechem Avirim” – “The bread of angels.” We are also told that the Mon left nothing over in the stomach. There was no waste, as it was entirely absorbed into the body of the eater. In other words, the experience of eating Mon was one of comestible perfection. And this should come as no surprise, after all this was a product from the kitchen of Hashem Yisborach. That is why it had the feature of tasting like anything one wanted; for taste, too, is a part of being perfect. Man is not always in the mood of the same food.. Sometimes it’s pizza, other times it’s a 20oz Delmonico steak. At times something hot, other times cold.
The Gemara (Bava Metzia 86b) tells us that it was in the merit of the kindness of Avraham who served his three guests milk and butter that his descendants were given the Mon. Asks the Maharsha; why does the Gemara not say that it was in the merit of Avraham offering the guests bread (which is a closer resemblance to Mon)? He suggests that since [we are told by Chazal that] Avraham never actually served the bread due to Sarah becoming impure, the offer alone of bread could not earn enough brownie points to merit the Mon. Perhaps what the Maharsha is saying is that in order to merit Mon, which is a gift of perfection from Hashem, one must do a completed act of perfection. Intending to do something nice to another does deserve a reward, but it ain’t perfection. Thus it cannot trigger the gift of Mon.
Mon! Perfect in its origination, perfect in its nutritional value, and perfect in its taste. But it also demanded perfection in middos. Is it really considerate for one to sit down to a meal of Mon and conjure up in his mind foods for which others may have a hankering, but due to their current condition cannot eat them? That would be an imperfection in the seamless beauty of Hashem’s food. Therefore, if others were unable to eat certain foods, no one else could eat them either.
Whoever knew that “Hold the onions” would have a deeper meaning!