Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky makes the following observation in three different places in his Emes L’Yaakov, twice in this week’s parsha and once in Parshas Ki Sisa:
“And Moshe said, ‘Eat it today, for today is a Shabbos for Hashem, you will not find it (the mann) in the field.'” (Shemos 16:25). Rashi elaborates: The Jews went out every morning to find and gather mann for their daily food-consumption needs. They woke up Shabbos morning and asked Moshe whether they should go out to the fields and look for mann as they had been doing every other day that week. Moshe told them not to go out, but rather to eat what they already had.
Rav Yaakov comments that the question posed to Moshe was whether they should go out to the fields that day or not. The logical answer to that question was “No, don’t go out today. There is no mann in the fields today.” And yet, his answer was “Eat what you have.” Why did Moshe give that answer to the question ‘Should we or should we not go out to collect the mann?”
Rav Yaakov answers that they thought that if they would not go out and collect another day’s worth of mann, perhaps they would not have enough to eat, because if they ate the food that they had today, they might not have anything to eat tomorrow. Remember, the mann had not been falling for forty years at this point. This was the first week of the mann phenomenon. If mann fell on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and then on Shabbos there was no mann, what would they eat on Sunday? In their minds they were fearful. If we eat the mann from yesterday’s gathering, what will be on Sunday? They did not know.
If you do not know what you are going to eat on Sunday, you may hold back from eating what you have on Shabbos! Moshe Rabbeinu corrected them: “No. You DO eat today!” Today is Shabbos and the lesson of Shabbos is that the Ribono shel Olam provides parnassa (livelihood). Therefore, observe Shabbos and keep all of its halachos. Eat what you need to eat on Shabbos even if you do not know what is going to be with tomorrow’s meal.
This was a very real and difficult nissayon (test) for Jews living in America in the early part of the twentieth century. We are almost all too young to remember, and even our parents may be too young, but our grandparents most likely do recall that there was a time in America when if someone did not come to work on Saturday, he did not come to work on Monday (because he was fired for not showing up to work on Saturday).
Rav Yaakov was addressing that very classic situation. People fretted, “If I do not work on Saturday then how am I going to eat?” The lesson of Shabbos is that you keep Shabbos and do not worry if you will have what to eat tomorrow. That is what Moshe Rabbeinu wanted to emphasize to them.
The second place where Rav Yaakov shares this idea is earlier in the parsha, when the pasuk says “…there He gave them chok u’mishpat and there He tested them.” (Shemos 15:25). The Jews came to a place called Marah. They were unable to drink the waters there, for they were bitter. (Shemos 15:23). Moshe Rabbeinu threw a bitter stick into the water and the waters became sweet. The Gemara elaborates on the pasuk that at Marah they were given “chok u’mishpat” (laws that are illogical and laws that are logical) specifying that at Marah they were given the laws of Shabbos, the laws of the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer), and dinim (civil laws).
We are not going to analyze now why they were given the laws of Parah Adumah and dinim. But why were they given the laws of Shabbos at that point? The answer is the same idea. The people fretted: “What are we going to drink? The water is bitter!” Logically, the way to sweeten bitter water is to add sweeteners. The last thing we would think to put in the water to sweeten it is a stick that is also bitter. What is the lesson of that? The lesson is that Hashem provides us with bread and water. He provides sustenance. He can even take a bitter stick and use it to sweeten bitter water. That is why He gave us Hilchos Shabbos then. It is the same lesson as Shabbos. The Ribono shel Olam provides parnassa.
The third place where Rav Yaakov shares this idea in Emes L’Yaakov is in Parshas Ki Sisa. He asks the obvious question there: How could Klal Yisrael, within a short period of time of saying ‘Naaseh v’Nishma‘ make a Egel Hazahav (Golden Calf)? Rav Yaakov answers that Klal Yisrael was in a wilderness. They were three million people who were dependent every day on the mann for sustenance. Moshe Rabbeinu suddenly disappears. He was supposed to come back by a certain time, and he apparently did not come back. The Satan even shows them Moshe Rabbeinu’s coffin.
They received the mann in Moshe’s zechus (merit). As far as they knew, Moshe Rabbeinu is dead. They wondered, “What is going to be with us? We are three million people with no supermarkets and no 7-Elevens.” Moshe Rabbeinu, the source of their sustenance, is seemingly gone. When people are fretting because they do not know what is going to be tomorrow, and they do not know what they are going to eat and their children are screaming, they panic. When people panic, they say “We need to do something!”
Rav Yaakov says a beautiful pshat in a pasuk in Yechezkel. “But the House of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness. They did not follow My decrees and they spurned My laws, through which, if a man fulfills them, he will live through them, and they desecrated My Sabbaths exceedingly. So I had thought to pour out My wrath upon them in the wilderness, to make an end of them. But I acted for the sake of My Name, that it should not be desecrated in the eyes of the nations before whose eyes I had taken them out.” (Yechezkel 20:13-14).
Rav Yaakov asks: After the aveira (sin) of the Egel Hazahav, Hashem wanted to wipe them out. After the aveira of the Meraglim (spies), Hashem wanted to wipe them out. However, where does it say that Klal Yisrael desecrated Shabbos and afterwards Hashem wanted to wipe them out? It is unlikely for the incident with the mekoshesh eitzim (chopper of wood) to have generated Divine Wrath justifying wiping out all of Klal Yisrael.
Rav Yaakov explains pshat that once they lost faith in Hashem, they forgot about the lessons of Shabbos—that the Ribono shel Olam will provide for them. When they panicked and built an egel, while it was not literally Chilul Shabbos, it was forgetting the yesod of Shabbos, which is that the Ribono shel Olam will provide.
I mentioned earlier in the shiur about people who lost their job on a weekly basis because they did not come into work on Saturday. It is common practice that when a person is fired from a job, he receives what is known as a “pink slip.” There were Jews who were fired from a different job every single Friday because of Shabbos. Every single Friday, they came home with a new pink slip.
One Jew kept a collection of all his pink slips and hung them up on his Succah wall as his Succah decorations. That was his “Noi Succah.” What is a Succah? A Succah is a temporary dwelling that demonstrates moving out from our permanent dwellings into temporary dwellings, and putting our faith in Hashem. His pink slips were his badges of courage. His pink slips showed that he had faith in the Ribono shel Olam. Thousands of people were not able to withstand that nissayon. We must not judge people until we face the same challenges they faced. But for those people who WERE able to withstand the nisayon, those pink slips were the most beautiful thing that a person could hang up in his Succah. They demonstrated the love and faith that the person who received those pink slips had in Hashem. That is the lesson of Shabbos and that is the lesson of the mann.
The lesson of the mann is that the Ribono shel Olam provides parnassa, and when we have bitachon in the Ribono shel Olam, He takes care of us.
How Can Pharaoh Speak to Bnei Yisroel After They Left Mitzraim?
The pasuk says in Parshas Beshalach: “Pharaoh said to the Children of Israel, they are confounded in the land, the Wilderness has closed in upon them.” (Shemos 14:3). Rashi is bothered by the expression “Vayomer Par’o l‘Bnei Yisrael,” which seems to imply that Pharaoh was speaking to the Children of Israel. The problem is that there were no Jews left in Mitzraim (Egypt) at that time, so how could Pharaoh speak to Bnei Yisrael? Therefore, Rashi interprets the prefix lamed (which usually means ‘to’) as “al” (meaning about) Bnei Yisrael.
The Targum Yonosan ben Uziel was bothered by the same point, but he offers an incredible interpretation. He says that Pharaoh was speaking to Dasan and Aviram, two members of Bnei Yisrael who remained in Mitzraim.
However, Dasan and Aviram are present later among Bnei Yisroel in Parshas Korach. We know for a fact that they did leave Miztraim and traveled with Bnei Yisrael in the Midbar. We also know that there are interpretations of the expression “Bnei Yisrael went up Chamushim from the land of Miztraim” (Shemos 13:18) which claim that 80% of Bnei Yisrael died in Miztraim (during Makas Choshech – the Plague of Darkness) and only one-fifth (‘Chamushim‘) of the Jewish population merited to leave with Moshe. If all the wicked members of the nation died during Makas Choshech, how was it that Dasan and Avriam, who certainly qualify as reshaim (wicked people) managed to survive? Why were they still around in Sefer Bamidbar?
Last year, I shared the explanation of the Maharal Diskin that Dasan and Aviram survived despite the fact that they were wicked because they also had a tremendous source of merit. As shotrim (taskmasters) of Bnei Yisrael, they took it on their backs literally and figuratively during the years of Egyptian bondage. When the Jewish slaves did not meet their quota of bricks, the shotrim were whipped by the Egyptian supervisors. Suffering on behalf of another Jew, creates a certain immunity from the malach hamaves (Angel of Death) and hence they were able to survive the mass deaths that occurred among Bnei Yisrael during the Makas Choshech as a result of that great zchus.
The Medrash haChafetz gives another explanation. The Medrash says that when Hashem told Moshe that he was going to kill out all the wicked Jews during the Makas Choshech, Moshe Rabbenu pleaded “Don’t kill them out. Let them come with us to the Promised Land.” Hashem told Moshe “I know better. You don’t want them.” Moshe still pleaded for mercy. Hashem finally ‘compromised’ with Moshe and left him these two individuals – Dasan and Aviram. The Ribono shel Olam proved his point because Moshe Rabbeinu suffered greatly in the midbar from Dasan and Aviram, culminating with the episode of Korach. This goes to show you – do not try to be holier than Hashem. He knows what is best. In fact, He told Moshe Rabbeinu “I told you so!”
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Beshalach is provided below:
- # 041 Israel’s Wars: 1948-1973, A Halachic Perspective
- # 084 The Mitzvah of Krias HaTorah
- # 132 Standing for Krias Hatorah
- # 179 Female Vocalists: The Problem of Kol Isha
- # 225 Music in Halacha
- # 269 Lechem Mishnah
- # 315 The Prohibition of Living in Egypt
- # 359 Making Ice On Shabbos
- # 403 Three Slices of Pizza–Must You Bench?
- # 447 Hidur Mitzvah
- # 491 The Three Seudos of Shabbos
- # 535 Using P’sukim for Nigunim?
- # 579 Being Motzi Others in Lechem Mishan and Other Brachos
- # 623 Kiddush or Netilas Yadayim – Which Comes First?
- # 667 The Supernatural and the “Mun” dane
- # 711 Shlishi or Shishi? and Other Aliyah Issues
- # 755 Techum Shabbos: Wearing Your Hat to the Hospital
- # 799 Kibud Av – Can A Father Be Mochel?
- # 843 Shalosh Seudos in the Morning?
- # 887 Rejoicing At The Death of Reshoim -Recommended or Not?
- # 931 K’rias Hatorah – Must You Listen?
- # 974 Bracha of Ga’aal Yisroel Before Shemoneh Esrai−Silent or Out loud?
- #1018 Bracha Achrona: How Soon Must You Say It?
- #1062 Shalosh Seudos: Where and With What?
- #1105 The Shabbos Seuda On A No-Carb Diet
- #1148 Kol Isha – Listening To A Female Vocalist on the Radio
- #1191 Was Devorah Really a Dayan? How Did She Learn That Much Torah?
- #1235 Are women obligated in Lechem Mishneh?
- #1279 Parshas Zachor for Women After Davening & Other Krias HaTorah Issues
- #1323 Lechem Mishna: What Exactly Is the Mitzva? Are Women Obligated? Must you Make Your Own Bracha on Your Slice?
- #1367 An Interesting Asher Yatzar Shaila
- #1411 Hiring a Snow Plow to Remove Your Snow-Even on Shabbos?
- #1455 Should You Correct The Baal Koreh If He Makes a Mistake?
- #1499 Feeding the Birds on Shabbos Shira: Good Idea or Asur.?
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