While the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, there were few things more miraculous than the manna, the food from heaven that fell like dew so that each morning, except for Shabbat, the Jews could collect their sustenance for the day. (For more on the miraculous nature of manna, click here.)
Many are unaware that one container of manna was preserved per God’s instruction. The Torah reports: “And Moses said: ‘This is the thing which God has commanded: Let an omerful of it [manna] be kept throughout your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt.’” Aaron collected the manna, put it in a jar and “As God commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept” (Exodus 16:32-34).
This unopened jar of manna was placed inside the Ark of Testament and remained there throughout the travels in the wilderness, the period of the Judges and the era of the First Temple. The Midrash Mechilta (as quoted by Rashi on Exodus 16:32) notes that “In the days of Jeremiah, when Jeremiah rebuked them [the people, saying] ‘Why do you not engage in the Torah?’ They would say, ‘Shall we leave our work and engage in the Torah? From what will we support ourselves?’ He brought out to them the jar of manna. He said to them, ‘You see the word of the Lord’ (Jeremiah 2:31). It does not say ‘hear’ but ‘see.’ With this, your ancestors supported themselves. The Omnipresent has many agents to prepare food for those who fear Him."
What ultimately happened to the jar of manna? Just before the Babylonian conquest, the Midrash reports that the Ark was hidden in a secret cave under the Temple and that “hidden with it were the bottle containing the manna, the bottle containing the sprinkling water, the staff of Aaron, with its almonds and blossoms, and the chest which the Philistines had sent as a gift to the God of Israel” (Talmud Yoma 52b).
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