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Famously, the Gemara in Yoma 75a says that the Man tasted of whatever flavour the person eating desired:

...רבי אמי ורבי אסי חד אמר טעם כל המינין טעמו במן

Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Asi (debate the verse’s meaning). One said: They tasted the flavor of all types of food in the manna....

However, how do we understand this 'gashmiyus' (physical) nature of the man? This was a nation who at kriyas yam suf (the splitting of the Reed Sea), even the shifcha (the maidservant) experienced levels of nevuah (prophecy) like that of Yechezkel (refer to Rashi, Shemos 15:22). Owing to their higher spiritual level, it seems at odds that they could engage in an experience seeking greater physical pleasures.

It says in Pirkei Avos 6:4 that the way of Torah is to partake of bread with salt and water to drink.

Likewise, the Tosafos in Kesubos 104a s.v. 'Lo' says:

...דאמרינן במדרש עד שאדם מתפלל שיכנס תורה לתוך גופו יתפלל שלא יכנסו מעדנים לתוך גופו

We say in a Midrash that until a person prays that Torah will enter his body, he should pray that delicacies should not enter his body....

Therefore, if the more spiritual/Torahdik way of living is to eat more modest meal, which conceivably they were on the level to appreciate, how are we to understand the fact that the Man gave them the option to partake of whatever fare they fancied?

Do any Jewish sources touch on this apparent dichotomy?

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    The mefarshim discuss what the word "mann" means. Some say it means, "food". Others say it means, "What?" Either way, it sounds like they are saying that it is the חומר, the substance of food, without the צורה, the form that normal food has. Primordial sustenance. The rest was added by the eater - if he was someone who could get his enjoyment by the satisfaction of his body's needs without the mann also pleasuring his taste buds. I imagine that for others it tasted like swallowing a pill capsule.
    – MichoelR
    Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 18:16
  • I hear nice analysis! I wonder if any of the mefarshim explore this topic at all?
    – Dov
    Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 19:11
  • Don't have it here, but I'm guessing this is the Maharal's bailiwick? And thanks.
    – MichoelR
    Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 19:15
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    I don't understand why this is a question. The entire Torah is full of promises of blessing in olam ha'zeh. As far as I aware, Judaism does not require its adherents to be miserable.
    – The GRAPKE
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 4:08
  • @GRAPKE that was not my implication. I wasn't saying that they should be miserable, I was just observing that if they were on a heightened spiritual level how would they engage in the best of the best food. From my research in the answer I gave, it is possible that this 'taste' was anyway of a purely ruchniyos-dik nature anyway.
    – Dov
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 9:49

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So after a lot of searching I came across the interpretation of the Gerrer Rebbe in the Sfas Emes Likuttim at the end of Parshas Beshalach here which helps gives a little a bit of an approach to answering the question.

Although he is talking about the Man taking on a greater level of taste on the double portion over Shabbos, he writes:

ולכן אותו הדור שהי' כל רצון ותשוקה שלהם להש"י זכו ללחם מן השמים, וזה הכוונה מה שהי' רוצה לטעום הי' טועם, פירוש כפי שינוי הרצון ומדרגת כל עובד ה' כך הי' מוצא במן

And therefore this generation that had all their will and desire for Hashem, merited to receive bread from heaven, and this is the understanding of whatever a person wanted it to taste like, it would taste. This can be explained to mean, that according to the change of will and level of one who serves G-d, so it was found in the Man...

So I think what this is saying, is that the people of the time were indeed on a higher spiritual level and there was a great deal of aspirational striving to get close to Hashem. This drawing close to G-d was reflected in the man. Namely, that those who sought a closeness with Hashem were able to 'taste' this level of ruchniyos in the man - i.e. the eating wasn't a physical experience in isolation but one that transcended the corporeal nature of food - it was a 'taste' of the Divine.

Perhaps we can build on this, by noting a Ramban on Shemos 16:6 which writes:

ונמצא שאנשי המן ומלאכי השרת נזונין מדבר אחד

And we find that [people who ate] the man and the ministering angels were nourished from [the same] thing.

So it is clear that the Man was what the malachim ate which means that its essence was something of innate spirituality. I imagine that the experience of partaking of the man was something that is not of a gashmiyus nature like I initially thought and therefore it no longer would seem like a contradiction that it could taste of whatever it wanted as it had much deeper spiritual connotations.

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  • How does this fit with the taste of melons etc. That they didn't have? It sounds like it was regular taste. Perhaps it was health based instead of pleasure based?
    – Chatzkel
    Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 2:29

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