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Shabbat Parashat Beshalach| 5763
Don’t Judge a Food by its CoverHarav Yosef Carmel
Our parasha tells of the “food of angels” which Hashem provided us when we followed him in the desert. “Bnei Yisrael called its name, man; it was white, it was like coriander seed and it tasted like a cake fried in honey” (Shemot 16:31). The Torah continues by putting the matter in historical perspective, stating: “Bnei Yisrael ate the man for forty years until they came to an inhabited land; they ate the man until they came to the edge of Eretz C’naan” (ibid.:35).
We need to understand why, after the initial excitement and continued satisfaction with the miraculous present of the man, we find that, after 40 years, Bnei Yisrael complained bitterly about it. “Why did you take us out of Egypt to die in the desert? ...and our soul is disgusted with the insubstantial food” (Bamidbar 21:5). We also should try to understand the double chronological demarcation, mentioned above: “until they came to an inhabited land…until they came to the edge of Eretz C’naan.”
We can present one approach which answers both questions. Chazal, in a few places, try to show that the benefit of the man lasted longer than we might think. One opinion says that although the man stopped falling when Moshe died, they continued eating the leftovers until the second day of Pesach. Another opinion argues that if so, then Bnei Yisrael ate man for less than the 40 years mentioned by the Torah (it started 30 days after the Exodus). To solve this problem, the gemara (Kiddushin 38a) posits that the food Bnei Yisrael took from Egypt had the taste of man. There are also opinions that they ate man for 70 days or even another 14 years after Moshe’s death (Mechilta D’Rashbi 16:35).
Chazal try to explain Bnei Yisrael’s dissatisfaction with the man by pointing out that despite its special, versatile tastes, it did not bring complete pleasure because of its ordinary appearance (Yalkut Shimoni, Eikev 850). We can suggest that the various dates to which the Torah alludes as to when consumption of the man stopped represent a period of gradual stopping. When they came to an inhabited land, namely to the border of the Edomites (Bamidbar 20), the local people started offering Bnei Yisrael “human food” which not only tasted good but was also presented in a way which aroused their appetites. The generation born in the desert, never having experienced normal food, was shocked. In fact, they had never made full use of the man’s adaptability to any taste, because they weren’t familiar with different foods to have in mind, as they had not lived in Egypt. The previous generation had enjoyed the man more, but the younger people, who enjoyed less and were enthralled by the alternatives, complained. Some people stopped eating the man right away, while others continued eating it for significantly longer.
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