Parashas Beshallach

In the middle of this week’s parashah, the Torah discusses the manna that the Jewish People ate in the wilderness. Hashem says to Moshe (Shemos 16:4): “Behold, I shall cause bread from heaven to rain down for you, and the people shall go out and gather each day’s portion every day, so that I can test them, whether they will walk in My law, or not.” The Maggid analyzes how the manna represented such a test. He begins with the following Midrash about the manna (Shemos Rabbah 25:9):
“The people shall go out and gather each day’s portion every day.” It is written (Tehillim 68:20): “Blessed is Hashem day after day.” Said Hashem to the People of Israel: “It is with the instrument that a person uses for measuring that I measure out for him. I gave you the Torah so that you should involve yourselves with it day after day, as it is written (Mishlei 8:34): ‘Praiseworthy is the man who listens to Me, to keep watch at My doors day after day.’ And similarly (Yeshayah 58:2): ‘They seek Me day after day and desire to know My ways.’ By your lives, I will satiate you with bread from heaven day after day.’”
The Maggid expounds on the verse from Mishlei that the Midrash quotes. He notes that just as Hashem provides us with sustenance for the body, in the form of food and drink, He provides us also with sustenance for the soul, in the form of Torah, mitzvos, and good deeds. In this vein, Shlomo HaMelech compares wisdom to bread and wine (Mishlei 9:5). And just as a person can choose to subsist on a bare minimum of food and drink, so, too, a person can choose to subsist on a bare minimum of Torah – the daily morning and evening recital of the Shema, which covers the obligation to study Torah day and night (Menachos 99b). Commoners suffice with this minimum ration of Torah, but the eminent seek more. Thus David HaMelech declares (Tehillim 111:1): “Praiseworthy is the man who fears Hashem and greatly cherishes His commandments.” Here, David is speaking of the man whose soul thirsts and yearns for Hashem’s word so much that even if he studied Torah day and night for a lifetime, his desire would not be satisfied.
The Maggid brings out the idea with an analogy. He describes two similar scenarios. The first scenario involves a servant is standing in an outer room of his master’s house waiting for orders. He is not allowed to leave – he must remain in the room ready for his master’s call. The second scenario involves a merchant is standing in an outer room of someone’s house waiting to show him merchandise. The man of the house is busy, and tells the merchant that he will call him when he is able to speak with him. In the first scenario, the servant is waiting for his master’s call but he is actually hoping not to be called – he would rather stand idle than do chores. In the second scenario, by contrast, the merchant is eagerly awaiting his customer’s call.
In the verse from Mishlei, the Maggid says, Shlomo HaMelech is teaching us the attitude we should take toward Hashem’s directives. We should not be like the servant, hoping to be left alone. Rather, we should be like the merchant, eagerly awaiting Hashem’s call. Shlomo describes Hashem as saying: “Praiseworthy is the man who listens to Me.” Note the phrasing: “listens to Me” rather than “listens to My word.” Hashem’s statement can also be rendered another way: “Praiseworthy is the man who listens for Me.” Under this rendering, we can understand the statement as referring to the man who inclines his ear toward Hashem and waits expectantly for Hashem’s call – the man who serves Hashem out of love and constantly strives for added duties.
Now, it is generally not possible to tell how much a person cherishes Hashem’s word, for what the person shows to the outside world does not fully reflect what is in his heart. But there is one way to get a clear indication: by seeing how the person reacts to errands that will interrupt his Torah study. If a person considers such errands a nuisance, and is thankful whenever a friend offers to take care of such errands, this shows he loves Torah. But if a person is happy to have the chance to close his books and go out on an errand, this shows he lacks interest in Torah. We can now see easily how the manna represented a test of whether or not the Jewish People desired to walk in Hashem’s law. The manna relieved them of the need to work for their sustenance; they could gather their daily portion without any effort. If they rejoiced over being free to spend their time in Torah study, it would be clear that they considered the Torah precious.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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