Like, what is manna? For the second time in three days, someone used the expression "like manna from heaven" around me, and because I've never gone to church, even as a kid, I had no idea what they were talking about. Actually, I have a bit of an idea. Didn't God feed the Israelites while they were wandering in the desert or something? But what exactly is manna? Is it like a breakfast cereal?
Doubting Thomas: You've never gone to church? Never? Ever? And God didn't strike you down? Or at least smite your parents? Well, all I can say, as someone who grew up in the church, met all my friends in the church, learned the difference between right and wrong in the church and played footsie with Debra McLaren in the choir loft, is "I'm so jealous!" How'd you people get away with it? Our neighbors would have strung us up on a cross - symbolically speaking, of course - if we'd skipped church even once. Just as we would have condemned them to eternal damnation - symbolically, of course - if they'd veered from the path of righteousness, which they would never have done, and neither would we. But if they had....
The only thing I'd really miss if, like you, I was a hell-bound heathen, is the Bible stories. Some of them could give Harry Potter a good run for his money. And taken together, they're like a Mother Goose's Nursery Rhymes for the Christian soul, teaching morals without using a blackboard and chalk. Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Siegfried and Roy - they're like members of my family, so many times have I listened to their tales. And God, as an author, wasn't above injecting a little magic realism into his work. Jonah got swallowed by a whale? Hey, it could happen, especially given an omniscient narrator. Daniel in the lion's den? Siegfried in the tiger's cage? Anything's possible when anything's possible.
As for manna from Heaven, well, God could have pulled that one off in His sleep, which He may well have done, since the stuff would always magically appear with the morning dew. You're right, Doubting Thomas, the whole manna thing occurred during the Israelites' 40 years of wandering in the desert after their flight from Egypt and before entering the Promised Land. After wandering aimlessly for a while, God's Chosen People quite naturally started kvetching about the food supply. And God, with His rather large ears, "heard the murmurings of the children of Israel" and rained down upon them "a small round thing as small as the hoar frost on the ground." Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch? Not God, that's who!
But what was it exactly? Well, the Bible refers to it as "bread" until the Israelites, understandably perplexed, decide to call it "manna" which can be loosely translated as "What the hell is this?" (I'm not kidding.) So, what the hell was it? More important, what the hell did it taste like? That depends on which part of the Bible you read. For God, in his infinite wisdom, contradicts Himself in His various accounts. According to the Book of Exodus, it tasted like honey. According to the Book of Numbers, it tasted like olive oil. Personally, if I was the one going to all the trouble of performing a miracle, I would have opted for filet mignon, but that's just me. I'm sure God had His reasons. Perhaps He felt the Israelites weren't taking in enough carbs.
The point is, it was a miracle, so it's foolish bordering on sacriligious to try to figure out exactly what manna was. That would be like someone, thousands of years from now, trying to figure out what Cheez Whiz was. They can examine it until the end of time, and they still won't get to the bottom of it. For God works in the kitchen in mysterious ways.
For the love of God, write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, and 101 KING ST., MADISON, WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR EMAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.