בשלח

In this week’s parsha the Israelites truly become free, as they finally and unmistakably escape from the Egyptians, singing jubilantly after seeing the Egyptians drown in the Red Sea.  Immediately after the Song of the Sea, we are introduced to one of the motifs of the time in the midbar (while traditionally translated desert, there is textual evidence to support the notion that this is not a geographic feature of land so much as it is an emotional space the Israelites are in), the complaining of the Israelites.  As a response to this complaining, manna is also introduced this parsha, as a means to sustain the people through what will end up being forty years in the midbar.  The language used in how Bnei Yisrael are to collect and eat the manna is strikingly reminiscent of the last set of instructions about a communal meal – the Passover sacrifice.  In Shmot 12:4, the people are instructed to eat “each according to his [need for] eating shall be counted for the sheep.”  The phrase in Hebrew is איש לפי אוכלו, and that exact phrase is repeated when Moshe instructs the people about collecting the manna: “each according to his need shall he collect” (16:18), and again when the collecting itself is described (16:21).  Further, the punishment for leaving food overnight is parallel in language.  By the Passover sacrifice, the text says: “And you shall not leave over from it till the morning; and that which is left over till the morning, you shall burn in fire.”  And by the manna: “And Moshe said to them: ‘a man shall not have left over in the morning.  And they did not listen to Moshe and men left over from it till morning, and it was infested with worms and it stank, and Moshe became angry with them” (16:19-20, all translations mine).  In all of the passages the verb י.ת.ר is used.  I think a clear precedent is being set about the ethics of communal eating in the emerging Israelite society.  One should not take more than they need – there will be enough sustenance for all, so greed is harshly criticized.  This is exemplified by the state of the food – supposedly through divine intervention – if it is left overnight.  This image is highlighted when the practice of being allowed to keep manna overnight for Shabbat is introduced.  The Rashbam says that even infestations that would regularly plague the food would not apply on Friday night (Rashbam to 16:24).

Eat communally

According to our ethics

And you will not want

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