Rav Moshe Twersky ztz"l Hy"d
"שם שם לו חק ומשפט"
Rashi brings the well known Chazal that this pasuk is refering to the few mitzvos that Klal Yisrael was given already in Marah: Shabbos, Parah Adumah, and Dinin. The parsha that immediately follows this is parshas ha’mahn. After Klal Yisrael left Marah, moved on to Eilim, and then travelled to Midbar Sin on the fifteenth of Iyar, they complained about lack of food, and that is when they began receiving the mahn. It emerges, then, that the chronological order between Shabbos and the mahn is that they first got Shabbos, and almost a month later began receiving the mahn.
Interestingly enough, though, the Haggadah seems to reverse it. In Dayeinu, the stanza reads, “Ilu heh’ehchilanu es ha’mahn v’lo nasan lanu es ha’Shabbos, dayeinu. If Hashem would have fed us the mahn and not given us Shabbos, it would have been enough for us.” In as much as Dayeinu follows the chronological order of how events took place, this would seem to indicate that we started getting the mahn before we were given Shabbos. But, as was just delineated above, this is clearly not the case?!
In parshas Breishis (2:3), the pasuk says, “And the Almighty blessed the seventh day and He sanctified it,” and Rashi explains: “He blessed it with mahn in that…a double portion came down on the sixth day, and He sanctified it with mahn in that the mahn did not come down at all on Shabbos.” One cannot help but wonder what exactly this is supposed to mean. Did the bracha and kedusha of Shabbos apply and last for only forty years minus one month?! Was it only during the era of eating the mahn that Klal Yisrael merited the bracha and kedusha of Shabbos?!
Obviously, it is unavoidable to understand that what this means is that what happened with the mahn was one, specific manifestation of the bracha and kedusha of Shabbos. An outstanding manifestation of that bracha and kedusha, but not that the bracha and kedusha of Shabbos was only during the time period of the mahn. Of course, the bracha and kedusha of Shabbos is intrinsic, permanent, and eternal, from the time of creation and on.
Nevertheless, if Chazal selected what happened with the mahn as the prototypical expression of the bracha and kedusha of Shabbos, we are clearly meant to learn something from that. What we see from this – in quite an overt way – is that the bracha of Shabbos does not begin to take effect on Shabbos itself. The double portion of mahncame down on Erev Shabbos, and that, as Rashi brought from Chazal, is the outstanding expression of the bracha of Shabbos. That means that the bracha of Shabbos begins already on Erev Shabbos. The bracha of Shabbos is not limited within the confines of the twenty four hours of Shabbos itself, but spreads outward. And not only into the time of tosefes Shabbos when an individual or community has already accepted Shabbos, but even beginning from the morning of Erev Shabbos.
This we can see from the mitzvah of v’heichinu, preparing for Shabbos. Part of the parshas ha’mahn is that Klal Yisrael was told that they need to prepare for Shabbos. And this mitzvah of preparation begins right from the morning. That means that the ripple effects of the special kedusha of Shabbos are already present from the morning of Erev Shabbos. In a similar vein, we find that someone who is buried on Erev Shabbos is spared from chibut ha’kever.
Already beginning from the morning of Erev Shabbos, we occupy a different realm. A different system. This is something that we can and should take full advantage of. Just as the teffilos we say on Shabbos are infused of a totally unique character, we likewise have the ability to utilize the kedusha that spreads into Erev Shabbos to daven in a way that is more exalted than the rest of the week. Whether this opportunity begins from Maariv of Thursday night, I am not sure; but from Shachris of Friday morning, for sure.
In parshas Eikev 8:3, the pasuk refers to the mahn as that which “lo yad’un avosecha, your ancestors did not know.” Rabbeinu Bachayei explains that this is to be understood in accordance with what the pasuk says in the beginning of parshas Va’eirah that the Avos only knew the name Keil Shakay but not the sheim Havayah. Of course, they were aware of the sheim Havayah (as is explicit in numerous pesukim), and what that pasuk is saying is that they did not experience the Divine Providence which is expressed through the sheim Havayah. Namely, a form of Providence wherein all the rules of natural law are completely irrelevant.
For the Avos, nature was bent, twisted, and turned – completely manipulated for their sake. They certainly had miraculous Providence, but it nevertheless was not in a form of absolute abnegation of natural law. That is what the name Keil Shakay indicates, that Hashem manipulates nature in order to bring about the results that He wills.
Sheim Havayah, though, represents a completely different level. The realm of ein od milvado, wherein it is expressed that the only true reality is the existence of the Infinite One. In that realm, as it were, all natural law becomes completely and utterly irrelevant, and the only thing that exists is the will of the Almighty.
There is a pasuk (Tehillim 78:25) that says, “lechem abirim achal ish, a man ate the bread of the bold.” Chazal reveal to us that this is a reference to the mahn that Klal Yisrael ate in the Midbar for forty years. And who are the abirim, the bold ones? The malachim. For forty years, Klal Yisrael was sustained by the very same spiritual substance that sustains the malachim. It’s true that there is a machlokes between the Tannaim about this point, but that it is only insofar as the specific embodiment of the mahn is concerned. One opinion holds that it was entirely spiritual “matter”, whereas the other holds that it had a tangible form, albeit exceedingly refined and subtle.
But all agree that the sustenance of the mahn had zero to do with the normal rules of carbohydrates, proteins, and so on. There was none of that. The normal, physical rules of food biology and chemistry were completely inapplicable to the mahn. The sustenance was a spiritual sustenance, totally outside of the normal rules of nature. It was an expression of the special Divine Providence of the sheim Havayah.