For many years, many people believed that Leonardo Da Vinci’s famed Mona Lisa displayed at the Louvre was looking at them, no matter which angle the viewer is looking at the Mona Lisa.
A study came out proving that the Mona Lisa is not actually looking at its subjects. Using long rulers, researches showed that most people think that the Mona Lisa is looking just to the right of them. Ironically, the whole issue revolves around whether this illusion is an actual illusion or a fake illusion. Nobody ever thought that the Mona Lisa actually moved her eyes to greet each viewer.
In this week’s Parsha, the Manna started falling from heaven. The Manna was the ultimate illusion. The Talmud (Yoma 75a) states that it could taste like whatever one wanted, and according to one opinion, it even had the texture of whatever one wanted it to be. Yet the Torah says that the Manna had a specific taste —
וטעמו כצפיחית בדבש, which according to Rashi, was dough fried in honey. So what did it taste like? Was it whatever one wanted or like a sweet donut?
One explanation suggests that even though one could have the Manna taste like whatever one wanted, it always maintained its primary taste. They tasted a mix of what they wanted it to taste like with a hint of dough fried in honey.
I saw a beautiful idea that perhaps there is a message in the Manna retaining its primary taste. HaShem provided many miracles when giving us the Manna, including the ability to choose its taste. One could use creativity, imagination and illusion to design one’s food without any effort. However, imagination and creativity need a reality check. Hopes and dreams can only come to fruition when there is a sense of reality to serve as a counterbalance. No matter how gourmet or exquisite one’s imagination transformed the Manna, there was always a hint of dough fried in honey in it.
The subjects in the study on the Mona Lisa effect might not have perceived that the Mona Lisa was looking at them, but many others have seen it. The human mind was given the capacity to see that which isn’t really there, leading to creativity and innovation. But for creativity to come to fruition, we need the reality check to help us move it from something that only we can see to something visible to all.
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay