"The manna was like coriander seed with a crystal-like luster. The people would simply go for a stroll [in Hebrew, "shatu"] and gather it up. Then they would grind it in a hand mill or crush it in a mortar, cook it in a pan and make it into cakes. Its taste became like an oily wafer. At night when the dew would fall on the camp, the manna would descend upon it. And Moses heard the people with their families weeping at the entrance to their tents. G‑d became very angry and Moses also considered it wrong." (Num. 11:7-10)

"The Children of Israel called [the food] 'manna'. It looked like coriander seed except that it was white. It tasted like a honey doughnut." (Ex. 16:31)

Why does the Torah describe the manna differently here than in parashat Beshalach, when it was first given? What a difference a year makes! In parashat Beshalach, the manna had just been given, just one month after the Exodus from Egypt. Then it was a new phenomenon and the Children of Israel were filled with wonder at the kindness of G‑d. They ate the manna with a profound sense of gratitude to G‑d for providing their sustenance in a most miraculous way. At this point, however, the Children of Israel had already become tired of eating manna, complaining that it was not sufficient food. Now they needed to eat meat. G‑d…sustains us with His great kindness, and we in turn must perform the same kindness with each other…

The Beit Avraham of Slonim comments that the manna is the symbol of a stable livelihood. Manna came from heaven and each individual of the Jewish nation received a divinely allotted portion. One's livelihood is the same. A Jew's livelihood is allocated from Rosh Hashanah until Rosh Hashanah of the following year (excluding the expenses of Shabbat, Yom Tov and the Torah education of one's children).

That is why manna is compared to coriander [in Hebrew, "gad"] seed. Gad is spelled "gimel- dalet" which can be understood as relating to the concept of sustaining the poor in the proper way - "gomel dalim" (Talmud Shabbat 104a). This is the way G‑d established the world. He sustains us with His great kindness, and we in turn must perform the same kindness with each other. (See Rashi's commentary on Deut. 16:11)

Regarding the verse "The people would simply go for a stroll and gather it up" (Num. 11:7), the Beit Avraham comments that the complaints were proof that the people had already forgotten what manna really was. The Hebrew word for "go for a stroll", "shatu", is related to the Hebrew word for "nonsense", "shtut". They began to display foolish behavior. There are people who run after money all day long…

"Then they would grind [the manna] in a hand mill or crush it in a mortar, cook it in a pan and make it into cakes" (Num. 11:8)

They invested significant effort into preparing the manna, but this additional effort never brought them any additional benefit - not financial and not nutritional. There are people who run after money all day long. Most never earn the amount of money their hearts desire and very few gain the benefits of emotional health and contentment from the wealth they do earn. Quite the opposite is true, the extra effort has a negative effect since it detracts from one's time for prayer, contemplation, mitzvot and Torah study, the currency needed to acquire a place in the World to Come.

In contrast, the righteous amongst the Jewish People found their manna according to their deeds. Just as their Torah and mitzvot were always at hand, so was their manna found right at the entrance to their tents. Others, lacking their understanding "went for a stroll" ("shatu") - meaning they behaved foolishly. They invested an inordinate amount of time chasing after a living. They didn't appreciate the original taste and that was the reason for G‑d's anger…

The Rashbam, (on Num. 11:7) noting the two variant descriptions of the manna, writes that the real taste of the manna [as described in parashat Beshalach] was like honey doughnuts, but after grinding and preparing it [as described here in parashat Beha'alotcha], its taste became oily, similar to nuts which are sweet when ripe and turn oily after grinding, as is written, "…Its taste became like an oily wafer." (on Num. 11:7) The taste changed from its original sweet honey doughnut taste, as it is written, "…it tasted like a honey doughnut." [as described in parashat Beshalach (Ex. 16:31)]

They didn't appreciate the original taste, and that was the reason for G‑d's anger. They tried to change or even improve it, but the more they tried, the less tasty it became, and they desired a new type of food. Displaying a lack of understanding of G‑d's kindness, they worked hard to improve something which was already perfect. Like one's livelihood, which is allocated to each individual in the perfect measure, excessive exertion and pursuit lead one further from the desired intended goal.

[from Toras Avos; first published in B'Ohel Hatzadikim, Baha'alotecha 5760]