“The Rabbis do not teach us to praise or to thank God for the bad. Praise and thanks for suffering is a game for masochists and fools. We are only taught to bless the Eternal, to humbly bend our knees and to present this gift of our understanding to the Holy One, Blessed Be.”
The description of manna in the Bible matches what Danin found in the Sinai Desert. He soon discovered that the white drops on the shrub’s stems were the digestive byproduct of insects that feed on the plant’s sap, known as honeydew. The secretion, formed at night, is loaded with sugar. The sweet liquid hardens to the form of white granules and is still collected from spring to early fall in many places in the Middle East today.
It’s one of the more unsavory parts of the Bible. Lot, after the destruction of Sodom, is seduced by his two daughters, who think they are the world’s sole survivors.
When biblical scholar Elsie Stern lectures about the ancient world at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, the first thing she does is hold up a Bible and tell her students, “For most of the first 3,000 years that these words were around, if you said ‘Bible,’ no one would have any idea what you were talking about.”
The great Jewish historian Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, who died in 2009, famously declared that history was “the faith of fallen Jews.” Yerushalmi had trained under the preeminent 20th-century Jewish historian Salo Baron, whose epic (and unfinished) 18-volume A Social and Religious History of the Jews was celebrated for its paradigm-shifting rejection of the “lachrymose” view of Jewish history. Despite a life lived in the shadow of Jewish history’s most lachrymose moment—both his parents were murdered in the Holocaust—Baron insisted that Jewish history was defined not by dying but by living, by the astonishing creativity and vitality of an ever-changing Jewish culture.