While traveling in the Sinai desert, Israelites were fed by the heavenly bread – the manna. The Torah portions – parshat Beshalach – states that raw manna tasted like wafers that had been made with honey:

וַיִּקְרְאוּ בֵית-יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת-שְׁמוֹ, מָן; וְהוּא, כְּזֶרַע גַּד לָבָן, וְטַעְמוֹ, כְּצַפִּיחִת בִּדְבָשׁ.

And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna; and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. (Ex. 16:31):

However, in Numbers, it says that it tasted like cakes baked with oil:

כְּטַעַם לְשַׁד הַשָּׁמֶן

The taste of it was as the taste of a cake baked with oil. (Num. 11:8)

 The Talmud (Yoma 75b) reconciles this discrepancy by explaining that the tastes varied depending who ate the manna – to small children it tasted like honey, to young people it tasted like bread and to elderly it tasted like oil.

The Midrash says: “Rabbi Jose ben Hanina says: … the manna descended with a taste varying according to the needs of individual Israelites.  The young men, eating it as bread… the old, as wafers made with honey… to the babes, it tasted like the milk from their mothers’ breasts… to the sick, it was like fine flour mingled with honey.” (Exodus Rabbah 5:9)

According to Rashi quoting Sifri, manna tasted like any food.  By wishing, one could taste in the manna anything desired.  In the language of quantum mechanics, manna was in a state of superposition of having all possible tastes.  By thinking of a particular taste, the person eating manna would collapse manna’s wavefunction, as it were, reducing a plurality of possibilities into a single reality – that particular taste.

It is fitting, therefore, that manna was created on the Eve of the First Shabbat during bein hashmashot – the twilight (Pirkei Avot, 9; Targum Jonathan on Ex. 16:4, 15), which in itself was in the state of superposition of day and night.

This may very well be one of the first examples of the concepts of superposition and of the collapse of the wavefunction by a conscious observer.


The Gathering of the Manna, c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot