Hadrash Ve-Haiyun

by the Reisha Rav, HaGoan Rav Aaron Levine TZ"L

Elucidated and Adapted by Efraim Levine


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For there is no food and there is no water and our soul loathes this insubstantial food.
(Bamidbar 21:5)

The posuk here inform us of the extreme disgust Klall Yisroel had for the maan. The Midrash teaches that one of the miraculous traits of the maan was that its taste conformed with the fantasy of its consumer. We may then ask: why did Klall Yisroel exhibit such disgust for an item that can produce any pleasurable taste they desired?

Rav Menachem Mendel of Riminov suggests that that while the maan assumed any taste the consumer conjured up, nonetheless the maan was different in that it lacked aroma and appearance. The Gemara teaches that a blind man does not derive full benefit from his food since he does not have the pleasure of seeing it. All the more so, Klall Yisroel did not derive full pleasure from the delicacies they imagined since in addition to lack of appearance it also lacked aroma.

Let us suggest an alternative solution. We must first preface our interpretation with three points.

The commentators ask: what blessing was recited on the maan? Two suggestions are offered. The Ramah Mipano suggests that in contrast to our blessing of “who bring forth bread from the earth,” they recited, “who brings forth bread from the heavens.” The Bnei Yisaschar suggests that no blessing was recited at all. Perhaps we may bring a proof to this suggestion from the Gemara (Berachos 35) that says that one who derives benefit from this world without reciting a blessing is as if he has committed the sin of mielah. The Gemara implies that the need to make a blessing is only on items whose source is this world. The Maharsha (Chaggiga 12) teaches us that the maan is food of the next world. It would thus emerge that there was no obligation to recite a blessing on the heavenly maan.

The second point is a Gemara (Berachos 35) where we find Reish Lakish posing the following contradiction. In one place the posuk states that the entire world, i.e., heaven and earth, are in the domain of Hashem. Elsewhere the posuk states that only the heavens are in the domain of Hashem but the earth has been given over to Man. Reish Lakish answers by explaining that one posuk was stated in reference to before one recites a blessing and the other in reference to after the recital of a blessing. Before one recites a blessing every earthly object is still in the domain of Hashem, however by reciting a blessing and thus acknowledging that its source is Hashem and He has given it as a gift to man, he has earned the right to enjoy the item and it now enters his domain.

The final point is a psychological insight rooted in Chazal. A person only attains satisfaction from something that he earns. The satisfaction one derives from his standard of living is considerably reduced if his livelihood derives from gifts or handouts. The commentators explain that this is one of the reasons why Hashem created this world and did permit the soul of man to immediately enter the next world. If man would immediately enter the eternal bliss of the next world, he would not enjoy it. He would feel ashamed that he did not deserve it. Therefore, man was given the opportunity to earn the next world by entering this obscure world and choosing right over of wrong. In Chazal this concept is called “food of embarrassment.”

Taking these three points together we may now understand why Klall Yisroel complained about the maan. As we have explained before, according to one opinion Klall Yisroel did not recite a blessing on the maan. The maan thus remained in the domain of Hashem. Klall Yisroel was supported from the table of Hashem. They were denied the opportunity to earn their keep, even to the point of acknowledging it with the recital of a blessing. It was for them literally the “bread of embarrassment” and thus they derived less then complete satisfaction in spite of the ability of the maan to conjure up any taste they imagined.