In the Book of Sh’mot it is sometimes bread and sometimes honey. In today’s sidra it is described as oil: “Its taste was like the taste of a cake baked with oil” (Num. 11:8).
The Midrash explains that the manna had a different taste depending on who was eating it. The children thought it was honey, the young adults thought it was bread, and the elderly thought it was oil (Sh’mot Rabba, chapter 25).
This Midrash is trying to tell us the main thing in the mind of each age group. The child wants honey, simple happiness and fun, without cares or responsibilities. The young adult has started to get serious and wants a firm economic basis for life (“bread”). The elderly have been through the ups and downs of life and now want everything to go smoothly like oil; they have had enough of problems and want someone else to do the worrying.
At each point in life we need to know where we are and what life can bring us. Children need to be able to run, jump, laugh and play without their lives being clouded by adult worries. They need to be allowed to find wonder and joy in life without adults using, abusing or exploiting them, by means of pedophilia or any other intolerable interference.
Young adults need to be able to establish themselves in life, getting a job, showing what they can do, without being denied employment by sour-faced tycoons and tyrants who do not believe in giving young people a chance.
And senior citizens need to be able to live out their years in peace without being denied dignity and respect by those who can only see the elderly as a burden and a nuisance.