Thoughts on Parshat B’Shalach

There’s a lot going on in this week’s parsha that’s interesting.  (See DovBear’s parsha notes for some of them).

One thing I always found curious is the little bit of foreshadowing at the end of the story of the mon (Shmot 16:35):

וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אָכְלוּ אֶת-הַמָּן אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה–עַד-בֹּאָם, אֶל-אֶרֶץ נוֹשָׁבֶת:  אֶת-הַמָּן, אָכְלוּ–עַד-בֹּאָם, אֶל-קְצֵה אֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן.

And the children of Israel did eat the manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat the manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan.

At this point in the story, the reader (the uninformed reader, first time through) has no inclination that the Jews will wander in the desert for 40 years.  The reader must read this and say “why is it going to take 40 years to reach the edge of Canaan?”

I don’t know if there’s a deep spiritual or even textual answer other than “the torah was written after the story of the meraglim, and the writer knew what would happen, and dropped it in.”  But I wonder what purpose it serves.

The second curious thing to me is, when Hashem says he’s providing the mon in order to test the Israelites, what exactly is the test?

From Hashem’s anger (starting in pasuk 28) it seems the main concern is Shabbat.  Hashem says “I will give them double on Friday,” people went out on shabbos anyway to collect and Hashem gets mad.

Interestingly, Moshe gets mad at the Israelites for a completely different reason: he tells them not to leave any overnight, and they do anyway, and it spoils and starts getting “wormy.”

I think the two are linked: leaving over is bad each day.  It’s not only not bad, but positively commanded, however, to leave over on Friday night.  Both failures evidence a lack of trust that God will continue to provide.

(As an aside, I find it interesting that God doesn’t say he’s going to test their trust in his ability to provide.  He says he’s going to test their adherence to his rules.  A little disconnect, that again, I’m not sure what, if anything, is the significance, I’m just pointing it out.)

I remember a great shiur by R’ Yitzcak Etshalomon this, and beautiful understanding of the actual test, where he quotes R. Yaakov Medan, who

points out that the command for each person to restrict himself to a daily portion for each member of the household represented not only a good deal of faith in God – but also tremendous self-restraint and concern for one’s fellow. This is how he explains the “test” of the Mahn (16:4) – that we were tested to see how much concern each of us could demonstrate for our fellow, knowing that if we took more than our portion, someone else would go hungry. Indeed, the B’nei Yisra’el passed this test with flying colors! (v. 18) For a slave people, wandering in a desert to exercise this much self-restraint was a demonstration of their readiness to stand as a unified nation and to enter into a covenant which includes mutual responsibility.

(Read the rest of the shiur for the context of the test within the greater theme of preparation for Sinai.)

I really like the idea of two tests: a bein adam l’chavero and a bein adam lamakom within the same episode.  And I find it really intersting and ironic (i.e. the opposite of what would be expected) that they passed the bein adam l’chavero and failed the bein adam lamakom.

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