At the conclusion of Beshallach,
the Torah describes the manna, the heavenly bread that was the Jews' staple during our 40-year sojourn in the desert. Included in the tale are the facts that the manna did not descend on Shabbos, and that a portion was sequestered as an eternal keepsake.
The Zohar comments that although the manna did not descend on Shabbos, it was on that day that it was blessed from above, so that it would descend during the following six days of the week. Why was the blessing secured on a day when the manna did not fall? Evidently there is an intrinsic connection between Shabbos and the manna.
Earlier on, Rashi comments on the verse "In the morning you shall behold G-d's glory," as follows: "When it [the manna] descends in the morning, you will behold the glory of His illumined countenance. For He shall cause it to descend unto you in a loving manner - in the morning, when there is time to prepare it, and when it is sandwiched in dew."
We thus see that not only did the Jewish people receive the "heavenly bread" with a minimum of effort, but also that it was provided by G-d in a "loving manner," so as to further minimize the labor involved in obtaining it.
The manna is thus entirely similar to Shabbos, the day granted by G-d for the purpose of rest, tranquillity and delight.
Although the manna did not descend on Shabbos so as to assure that the day be one of complete rest (and a double portion therefore descended on Friday), the centrality of the Shabbos theme to the manna was such that the blessing from above that it descend during the six weekdays came about on the day of rest.
In light of the above we can better understand why the manna was secluded together with the ark for an everlasting remembrance. In doing so the Torah provides an eternal lesson to all Jews with regard to the procurement of sustenance: even when a Jew must toil for his daily bread, his sustenance still contains something of the manna.
A Jew's sustenance is directly commensurate with his degree of spiritual service - "If you follow My commandments, I shall provide rain in its proper time." Understandably, since a human being's service is limited, the sustenance he receives must be limited as well.
The other nations of the world, however, receive sustenance independent of their spiritual service. It therefore follows that their sustenance is not subject to the limitations imposed upon the Jew.
But this limitation only applies to the quantity of the sustenance. With regard to the quality of G-d's beneficence, the Jewish people have the advantage, inasmuch as G-d provides our livelihood in a "loving manner" and with the "glory of His illumined countenance."
G-d does so, because the Jewish people are ready to forego the greater quantity of sustenance that we could have obtained in the manner of the other nations, and opt to receive our nurture directly from G-d in accordance with our spiritual activity.
This quality was clearly seen in the manna. On the one hand the manna was strictly limited in quantity - an omer per person. Yet this limited amount was provided by G-d in a "loving manner," with delight and with the "glory of His illumined countenance."
And just as G-d endowed the manna with a vesture of His delight, so too with regard to the Jewish people, who received G-d's bounty with delight.
Thus the manna was not only received without toil, but the Jewish people were also able to taste within it any flavor we desired. Moreover, along with the manna there also descended many kinds of precious jewels - the main purpose of which is to stimulate joy and delight.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXI, pp. 85-91.
- (Back to text) Shmos, Ch. 16.
- (Back to text) Beshallach 63b; Yisro 88a.
- (Back to text) Shmos 16:7.
- (Back to text) See also Nachlas Yaakov (quoted in Sifsei Chachamim) Bereishis 2:3.
- (Back to text) Shmos 16:29 and commentary of Rashi.
- (Back to text) Yoma 52b.
- (Back to text) See also Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVI, p. 176ff.
- (Back to text) With regard to that which follows, see Kuntres U'Mayon, Maamar 7ff.
- (Back to text) Vayikra 26:3.
- (Back to text) See Or HaTorah, Savo. See also Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIX, p. 280 and sources cited there.
- (Back to text) Shmos 16:16.
- (Back to text) Yoma 75a.
- (Back to text) Sanhedrin 58b.
The Torah portion of Beshallach describes how, after "Israel beheld the mighty hand which G-d wielded against the Egyptians, ... Then Moshe and the children of Israel sang this song (shirah) ... and they declared saying: 'I will sing....' "
It is self-evident from this verse that Moshe began the shirah before the children of Israel did. But there is a dispute in the Gemara as to what portion was sung by the Jewish people:
According to R. Akiva, only Moshe recited the entire shirah; the nation merely responded: "I will sing to G-d."
R. Eliezer maintains that the Jews also recited the entire shirah, but only after (and in response to) Moshe's recitation.
R. Nechemiah contends that Moshe only began the shirah alone, after which he and the people recited the remainder in unison.
What factors underlie the Sages' dispute?
The Or HaChayim remarks that "The Jewish people sang the shirah in absolute unity, without difference and separation between them; they were like one person. This explains why the verse uses the singular term 'I will sing,' and not 'We will sing.' " And this would also explain why the recitation had to begin with Moshe, for such utter unity can only be accomplished by Moshe, the head and leader of the generation, who encompasses all the Jewish people as one within him. As Rashi states: "Moshe is the Jewish people and the Jewish people are Moshe ... the head of the generation is likened to the entire generation, for the leader is all."
Since Moshe initiated the shirah on behalf of all the people, their singing came as a result of being empowered by him, and they were thus able to sing "as one person."
This is the intent of the Mechilta in its comment on the verse: "Then Moshe and the children of Israel sang..." The Mechilta notes: "Moshe is equivalent to all the Jewish people, and the Jewish people were equivalent to Moshe at the time they sang the shirah."
In light of the above, we may discern the reason for the different opinions regarding the manner of recitation:
Since the shirah had to be recited in such a way that all Jews were united, all agree that it had to be started by Moshe - the one individual capable of bringing about unity and equality among all Jews. Moreover, the recitation by the Jewish people resulted from their uniting their shirah with Moshe's, sensing as they did that "the Jewish people are Moshe."
The difference in the three opinions is merely in the manner of the nation's recitation as it relates to the people's unification with Moshe:
According to R. Akiva, only Moshe recited the entire shirah; the Jewish people merely responded: "I will sing to G-d." In other words, the people fulfilled their obligation to recite the shirah through Moshe's recitation. For R. Akiva maintains that the Jews were so nullified before Moshe that they fulfilled their obligation through him by merely responding: "I will sing to G-d."
R. Eliezer maintains that the Jews "repeated whatever he said." According to R. Eliezer, absolute unity is only achieved when the Jewish people sense it within themselves; they themselves recite the shirah, and each feels it on his or her own individual level. However, the nation did so only in response to Moshe - they felt wholly dependent upon him.
Rabbi Nechemiah, however, concludes that absolute unity can only come about when "all said the shirah as one," stressing that "Moshe is the Jewish people and the Jewish people are Moshe."
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXI, pp. 69-72.
- (Back to text) Shmos 14:31-15:1.
- (Back to text) See Shmos Rabbah on this verse (conclusion of 23:9).
- (Back to text) Sotah 30b.
- (Back to text) Shmos, ibid.
- (Back to text) Bamidbar 21:21.
- (Back to text) See also commentary of Mirkeves HaMishneh on the Mechilta, ibid.