I love riding my bike! The breeze is so refreshing. The physical exertion is exhilarating. And the experience of accomplishment especially on long distances is gratifying. I feel like I’m cheating the system. I’m not supposed to have so much fun transporting myself from place to place! Then I get my kids on their bikes. I’ll even put the younger ones in the trailer behind me. And off we go to the next destination – happily, healthily, and excitedly! It’s an activity we can always have fun and enjoy together!
I hate riding my bike! It’s too hot outside. My muscles are aching. I’d so much rather drive to wherever I’m going. It takes so much longer! I get that same wretched feeling of having to go to the gym to “payoff” the expense I committed to when I bought the membership even though I’m long past my dreams of actually getting fit or caring anymore. Then my kids want to go biking, and I have to pull the little ones on the trailer… Ugh! Now it’s even harder to get to the next location! Can’t we just drive to wherever we’re going?! Didn’t Ford’s fantastic creation make the bicycle obsolete? What are these primitive two-wheeled structures doing here anymore?
One second! Which one is it? Love or hate? The truth is… I actually experience both. I just have to make a decision about which paradigm I’m going to live with. And this is often the way it is in life. We have choices to make. These choices are not just regarding what we’re going to be doing but even about what we’re going to be ‘being.’ Am I going to be happy with this moment – enjoying the ride and the pleasures it comes with? Or am I going to be upset with this moment – frustrated by the exertion required and slowed pace to arrive at my destination?
The Torah speaks about a brief moment during the Jewish people’s 40 year voyage throughout the desert when they had a paradigm shift on their food supply. Throughout the duration of their stay in ‘Hotel Middle East Desert,’ the Jewish people were served first class… manna. Manna was miraculously provided sustenance. The Talmud describes how the manna would taste according to whatever a person desired. It was a daily meal cooked in G-d’s Kitchen served at your table according to your liking. In short, manna was Heaven’s Bread. In this short episode, the Torah says about the Jewish people, “They began to have strong cravings… and they began to weep, ‘Who’s going to feed us meat? We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for free! The cucumbers, melons, leeks onions, garlic… And now our spirits are dried up with nothing but the manna…’” The experience of eating the manna is portrayed as bland, dreary, and almost painful.
The Torah then immediately has a narrative describing the manna as having a “pearl-like luster,” meaning it was attractive to look at, “people could simply go for a stroll and gather it,” meaning it was easily accessible, “they could grind it… crush it… cook it in a pan to make into cakes,” meaning it had a multitude of appealing tastes, textures, and ways to consume it. It is also described as “a honey donut.” Yum! It sounds like manna was an all-you-can-eat of anything-you-want-to-eat feast!
So which one is it? Was the manna a scrumptious Heavenly meal, or was it the goop from the Matrix? Do we miss the old fish and cucumbers of Egypt or does the great delicacy of manna trump all? The answer is… it’s a choice. The Torah’s initial words, “They began to have strong cravings,” והתאוו תאוה in Hebrew, can be translated as, “They created within themselves strong cravings.” The Torah is teaching us a fundamental concept for how we perceive the world around us. When it comes to cravings, we have a choice. That choice is how we are going to perceive reality around us. Yes, reality is objective, but our perception of it is subjective. Our perception will be slanted by our decision of how we choose to look at reality. The Torah is telling us that we can create cravings within ourselves or we can create feelings of gratification. And it’s the same external stimulant causing either one! It’s only a difference of how you choose to perceive it.
Whether you feel strong cravings for fish and cucumbers, annoyed with your bicycle, or any other experiences of negativity, take a minute to see if there’s another paradigm available to take on the situation. You might be in the midst of an amazingly gratifying experience and you didn’t even know it!