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Behaalotecha. The Marshmallow Test

Here is a question. Have you ever been driven to purchase an item, only to realise, once you have it, that you don’t really want it at all!?

  • What creates that desire within us to have the item?

  • Why then are we deflated after we purchase it?

As the people of Israel make their way from Sinai to Canaan they experience a sudden craving:

“If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish that we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. Now our gullets are shriveled. There is nothing at all! Nothing but this manna to look to!” (11:4-6)

These longings make Egypt sound like a luxury resort, not a “house of slavery”! Did the Israelites really eat fish for free in Egypt? Was life under slavery accompanied by delicious cuisine? And was the Manna really so awful?

Nahmanides suggests that although Pharaoh gave Israel only slave rations, the Israelite slaves would forage for food in fields and gardens, and would fish at the riverbank to supplement their food needs. Despite oppressive conditions, their food in Egypt was more varied than in the desert.

Why are they pining for their old life of slavery? Psychologists have identified what they call the “Rosy-effect”, or “Rosy-Retrospection” whereby, for example, even if a family experience a vacation full of blunders and mishaps, the family will frequently recall the vacation in positive terms. The human capacity for nostalgia is great, but dealing with hardships of the present can be formidable.