How Long Is It?

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January 29, 2021 
SHEVAT 16, 5780
Candlelighting Time 4:58 PM

          The Torah says that the nation ate manna from heaven for forty years. Rashi explains that actually they didn’t have it exactly for forty years because it didn’t come until the middle of the month of Iyar, one month after their departure from Egypt. Therefore, we must assume that the matzah cakes that they took with them tasted like manna. However, on this point of Rashi, Or HaChaim points out that our Sages state that they tasted similar to manna, but they were not actually as potent as the manna was since it came directly from Hashem as a divine supplement to enhance their relationship with Hashem. Rashi seems to disagree and maintains that the matzah cakes were identical to manna that fell the month after their departure from Egypt. Furthermore, when Moshe died on the 7th of Adar, the manna stopped, and they continued eating from manna that was left over until they brought the sacrifice that allowed them to eat from the produce of the land about a month later. Here again, Or HaChaim points out that the saved manna was not as potent as the manna that came daily. It seems that Rashi does not accept that there was a difference between the two. Was there indeed an effective variance between them?

            Ibn Ezra states that manna was the greatest of all the miracles that Moshe performed because it lasted for forty years. Certainly, manna had the longest endurance record however why would that give it the distinction of the greatest miracle? Additionally, Rashi is very adamant to explain that the nation received the manna for exactly forty years which is what the Torah explicitly states. Why is that number so significant, others explain that forty was an approximate amount of time, but not precise!

            The verse itself is somewhat troublesome as it gives two different times when the manna stopped. First it says that they ate manna until they reached the settled land in Transjordan, and then it says they ate manna until they came to the border of the land of Israel. Netziv explains that there were two categories of people. There was those who were not earnest in their desire to enhance their connection to Hashem and they only had manna until the people reached settled land and at that point, they ate from the produce available in the land. They despised the manna and therefore abstained from it the moment that they had the opportunity to do so. However, there was also people that strived to augment their relationship with Hashem and continued to eat manna until they arrived at the doorstep of the land. They indeed received a boost from the manna. Therefore, perhaps Rashi and Or HaChaim are not really in total disagreement. The potency of the manna may have varied depending on the recipient. Those who did abhor its nature may not have merited that the matzah cakes imparted the same effectiveness as pure manna because they did not desire that impact, therefore Hashem did not implement that change in the matzah cakes endowing them with the potency of manna. Others did receive the full strength of manna even in the form of the matzah cakes. Again, in reference to the left-over manna at the end of the forty years, those who were staunch believers in the power of the manna may have achieved the same connection to Hashem regardless of the ‘freshness’ of the manna. Others who did not have that same notion of closeness to Hashem perhaps did not merit the same vigor when they ate manna that was not fresh. Again, Hashem gave to those who were avid about their relationship with Hashem. Forty years is considered a sizeable amount of time to attain a level of perception as it is stated in Pirkei Avos. Therefore, Rashi, noting the importance of that level of perception stressed that they indeed merited the manna for forty years, provided that those individuals did indeed search for that connection with Hashem. Ibn Ezra is also emphasizing this important factor, that although all miracles are valuable however, manna had a special effect that other miracles did not and therefore, it was the greatest of all times.   


Moshe specifically sent Yehoshua to battle Amalek because he was the most devoted to Torah study and Amalek attacked us due to our lack of Torah study. Therefore, he strengthened our resolve to immerse ourselves in Torah.