Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Chukas
In Parashat Chukat, following the passing of Miriam, the Torah notes that there was no water for the people to drink. The children of Israel complained to Moshe and Aaron, in the region of Tzin, with the following words, “Why did you make us leave Egypt and bring us here to this terrible place? This land has no grain, no figs, no grapes, no pomegranates and no water to drink!”
Later on in the book of Devarim, the Torah describes the Land of Israel as a land blessed with “wheat and barley; of grapes, figs and pomegranates; of olive oil and date honey.”
What is interesting to note is that when the nation complains about the lack of produce in the region of Tzin they make no mention of olives and dates.
Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk explains that olives and dates were not included because the Jews had been able to enjoy the tastes of these two foods all along by eating the manna. The manna is described as having the taste of an oil wafer. (Bemidbar 11:8) Elsewhere the Torah states that the manna “tasted like a batter made with date honey.” (Shemos 16:31) This is also why, when the spies carried back with them fruit of the land to show the people, they intentionally brought back those fruits whose taste the Jews had not enjoyed since they left Egypt. Olives and dates were part of their daily meal.