The midrash says that although the Manna tasted like whatever the eater wanted it to, if you had nothing it mind the Manna had a specific taste. The Midrash points out that the Torah describes this default taste differently in 3 places:

In one it describes it as Lechem (bread), in another as Dvash (honey), and later as Shemen (oil). The Midrash asks how the Manna could taste like all 3 as its default taste, and answers that the natural taste of the Manna also depended on the age of the eater: young children tasted oil, teenagers tasted bread, and adults tasted honey.

Connecting to Tu Bishvat, what are chazal telling us about young children, adolescents, and adults (and development in general) by comparing it to these symbols? Oil is understood as the positive and ultimate fulfillment of Zaytim (olives), honey the positive and ultimate fulfillment of Tamarim (dates), and Lechem as the positive and ultimate fulfillment of chita (wheat). All 3 are part of the Shivas Haminim. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to ponder what this Midrash is telling us and figure out a pshat. Perhaps bring it up at your Shabbos table this week with your family and children. What is the Midrash telling us about growing up, being a child, a teen, and an adult? The differences between them? The different potentials of each age? The different goals of each stage? I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially what the kids come up with.

Shavua Tov,

Rabbi Ari Deutscher MSW