Did you know there was a can of tuna in the Ark of the Covenant alongside the two tablets that Moses brought from Mount Sinai?
Well, maybe it wasn’t exactly tuna. It was a measure of the Manna that we ate each day in the desert, when Hashem was our miraculous sheltering sky in the daylight and a burning cloud protecting us in the night. Could you imagine opening the famous Ark of the Covenant, excited to peer inside at the writings of Moses, our teacher, with foundational words of the Torah written on stone, only to also see a small measure of food?
In the desert Moses instructed us to take as much Manna as we needed for a single day. If we took more, the extra Manna would rot. We had to have faith in Hashem that there would be food for us and for our families on the next day, without which we might not survive. Hashem was using the Manna to teach a slave people how to have faith in tomorrow, and how to behave in a community by leaving extra food for others rather than hoarding it for ourselves.
The Torah has a different word for hoarders, called ‘Asafsuf’ in BaMidbar chapter 11, when the people rebelled against Hashem’s system of Manna, and instead wanted to gorge themselves on meat and fish and poultry. The people protested to Moses, who for the first time seems to lose patience, and asks Hashem for help getting the job done. After a series of such episodes, Moses’ may have lost some measure of control when he used his staff to beat a rock for water rather than speak to it, as Hashem had commanded.
This week’s parsha of Haazinu ends with Hashem commanding Moses to climb to the top of Mount Nebo, to retire from serving the people of Israel, and to pass on from this world before the people enter the land of Israel. But the measure of Manna remained in the Ark of the Covenant and with the people of Israel as they entered their new home, intended to be an eternal reminder to have faith in tomorrow no matter the events of today.
I learned a lot of this from listening to classes of Rabbi Menachem Leibtag via the app Soundcloud.