15.4. The Manna and the Shabbat (16:22-36)

 (22) On the sixth day they gathered double the amount of food, two omers for each; and when all the chieftains of the community came and told Moses,

(23) he said to them, “This is what the Lord meant: Tomorrow is a day of rest, a holy Shabbat of the Lord. Bake what you would bake and boil what you would boil; and all that is left put aside to be kept until morning.”

(24) So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered; and it did not turn foul, and there were no maggots in it.

(25) Then Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a Shabbat of the Lord; you will not find it today on the plain.

(26) Six days you shall gather it; on the seventh day, the Shabbat, there will be none.”

(27) Yet some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found nothing.

(28) And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you men refuse to obey My commandments and My teachings?

(29) Mark that the Lord has given you the Shabbat; therefore He gives you two days’ food on the sixth day. Let everyone remain where he is: let no one leave his place on the seventh day.”

(30) So the people remained inactive on the seventh day.

(31) The house of Israel named it manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and it tasted like wafers in honey.

(32) Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: Let one omer of it be kept throughout the ages, in order that they may see the bread that I fed you in the wilderness when I brought you out from the land of Egypt.”

(33) And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, put one omer of manna in it, and place it before the Lord, to be kept throughout the ages.”

(34) As the Lord had commanded Moses, Aaron placed it before the Pact, to be kept.

(35) And the Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a settled land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.

(36) The omer is a tenth of an ephah.

(22) On the sixth day they gathered double the amount of food, two omers for each: The time they spent collecting the manna was the same as usual, but with twice the result. This is the blessing of the Shabbat.

And when all the chieftains of the community came and told Moses: Although God had informed Moses in advance that the Shabbat portion of manna would fall on the sixth day (16:5), Moses did not inform the people at that time of this unusual situation.

(23) He said to them, “This is what the Lord meant: Tomorrow is a day of rest, a holy Shabbat of the Lord”: This is the very first time that the people are charged with observing a special Divine law of this kind.

Immediately after the Exodus, as Israel began their journey through the wilderness, the commandment to observe the Shabbat was clearly communicated from Above, and became an abiding reality. Ever since that time, the Jews and all of humanity have faithfully kept count of the days of the week. Thus, the manna synchronized the “human Shabbat” and “the Shabbat of Creation.”

Bake what you would bake and boil what you would boil: Bake and cook whatever you wish. But you must do so today, before the onset of the Shabbat.

And all that is left put aside to be kept until morning: You may also put aside manna for tomorrow, but then you will no longer be allowed to bake and cook.

(24) So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered; and it did not turn foul, and there were no maggots in it: Thus they understood the special status of the Shabbat that had been demonstrated clearly from Above.

(25) Then Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a Shabbat of the Lord; you will not find it today on the plain”: The Midrash adds: They were alarmed, fearing that perhaps the manna had ceased, and would never fall again. So Moses told them: “You will not find it today.” That is, today you will not find it, but tomorrow you will find manna again.

(26) Six days you shall gather it; on the seventh day, the Shabbat, there will be none: The commandment concerning the Sabbath appears before the people for the first time as a consecration that distinguishes it from ordinary days: the manna does not fall on Shabbat.

(27) Yet some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found nothing: They went out not because they didn’t have enough food on that day, Shabbat, but because they felt generally insecure, as people normally will when they have no supply of food stored up for the ongoing future.

(28) And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you men refuse to obey My commandments and My teachings?” No actual sanctions are applied at this stage. The goal of this censure is simply to educate, by dishonoring those who disobey.

(29) Mark that the Lord has given you the Shabbat; therefore He gives you two days’ food on the sixth day: There is a transition here, from the previous verse, where God is speaking in the first person (“My commandments and My teachings”) to this verse, which refers to God in the third person (“the Lord has given”). This is Moses now speaking. He is elaborating the “commandments” and “teachings” of which God spoke in the previous verse.

Let everyone remain where he is: let no one leave his place on the seventh day: The prohibition of walking far beyond the boundaries of human habitation on Shabbat is derived from this verse.

(30) So the people remained inactive on the seventh day: The people of Israel are gradually assimilating the Divine commandments and principles. By remaining inactive on the Shabbat, the people demonstrate their recognition that both the manna and the Shabbat are the Almighty’s gifts to them.

(31) The house of Israel named it manna: This bread, “manna from heaven, the perfect Jewish food” bears the name “man,” meaning “What is it?” In other words, the question “What is it?” – the interest that a person shows in understanding the universe – is the very essence of this food. That question, which has sustained the Jewish people in every age, is the Jewish “bread” that is the foundation of their existence and spiritual growth.

Expanding on the theme that the desire to know and the ability to ask “What is it?” is the “bread” that sustains the Jewish people, the Torah offers a more detailed description of the manna, in order to clarify the nature of that question and how it should be asked. It must be detailed, open, and very tasty.

It was like coriander seed: Like coriander, which consists of many tiny seeds, the question should be as detailed as possible (reduced to its smallest possible components).

White: The color white represents a blank page. The question as asked should be open, which means that the questioner should be unblinkered, having no preconceived notions about what kind of answer to expect, and ready to receive even the most multifarious response.

And it tasted like wafers in honey: The question should be “very tasty.” That is, a person should be capable of deriving actual pleasure from an intellectual perception of the world.

(32) Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: Let one omer of it be kept throughout the ages, in order that they may see the bread that I fed you in the wilderness when I brought you out from the land of Egypt”: The intent of this instruction is to emphasize for the Jews once again the miraculous nature of the manna. The manna would normally rot by the next day, and even for Shabbat it would keep for two days at most. But when preserved in this vessel, it will remain intact for many generations to come.

(33) And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, put one omer of manna in it, and place it before the Lord, to be kept throughout the ages”: This instruction was given later, after the Tabernacle had been built (later in this book of Exodus).

(34) As the Lord had commanded Moses, Aaron placed it before the Pact, to be kept: Literally, “before the Testimony.” This refers to the Two Tablets of the Law that were stored in the Holy Ark within the Tabernacle (see 25:21), and are called “the two tablets of the Testimony,” or “Pact” (32:15).

(35) And the Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a settled land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan: Moses inserted this passage even much later than that – at the end of the forty years of wanderings in the wilderness. There is a well-known Talmudic principle that “there is no chronological order (lit., ‘there is no earlier and later’) in the Torah.” The chapters and verses of the Torah do not necessarily appear in strict chronological sequence, particularly when there is a need to reveal a certain topic at a particular point, or create semantic or associative connections.

(36) The omer is a tenth of an ephah: These are measurements of the volume of pourable solids. An omer is approximately 2.2 liters, and an ephah is thus about 22 liters. The Torah makes this ratio explicit in order to connect the manna with the sacrifices, since the sizes of meal offerings mandated by the Torah are indicated in units called “tenths” (e.g., 29:40), which means tenths of an ephah (Num. 28:5). Thus, the laws of the sacrifices to be given later will be associated with the memory of the manna.

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Bible Dynamics, VOL. 2. EXODUS Copyright © by Orot Yerushalaim / P. Polonsky / English translation of the Torah by the Jewish Publication Society, New JPS Translation, 1985. With sincere gratitude for the permission to use. All Rights Reserved.

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