Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Volume XII, Number 42
23 Av 5758
August 15, 1998
Yerushalmi Eruvin 32
We read in this parashah, "He afflicted you and let you hunger
and He fed you the mahn that you did not know . . ." This verse,
R' Yehuda Leib Chasman z"l comments, teaches us G-d's great love
for the Jewish people. Imagine a child who refuses to eat the
delicious and healthful food which has been prepared for him.
The parent may coax the child, "I know it's hard for you, but I
will be so proud of you if you eat everything."
Should it be hard for a child to eat his mother's delicious
cooking? Should it have been hard for Bnei Yisrael to eat the
mahn, which could taste like any delicacy and which enhanced the
spirituality of those who ate it? Nevertheless, just as a loving
parent may make a "big deal" when a child does what should come
naturally, so Hashem makes a "big deal" over the smallest things
that the Jewish people do.
The prophet Yirmiyah quotes Hashem, "So said Hashem, 'I
remember for your sake the kindness [which you showed] in your
youth, when you followed Me into the desert, into the land which
was not planted'." Did we really do a kindness for Hashem? In
the first place, even the lowliest of the Jews attained prophecy
at the Red Sea, so it is hardly surprising that they followed
Hashem. Secondly, does it matter whether the "desert" is
"planted" when one's traveling companion - Hashem - can bring the
ten plagues and split the sea? Surely He can provide!
Again, what Hashem's words to Yirmiyah reflect is His great
love for the Jewish people such that He makes a "big deal" over
nothing. (Quoted in Haggadah Shel Pesach Knesset Yisrael Chevron
"You will eat and you will be satiated, and you shall bless
Hashem, your G-d . . ." (8:10)
The gemara (Berachot 45a) states that three men who have eaten
together should begin their bentching with special introductory
phrases that one person does not recite when he has eaten alone
(or with a second person). One of these phrases is, "Let us
bless He of Whose we have eaten." If ten have eaten together,
they modify this phrase and recite, "Let us bless Elokenu (i.e.,
our Elokim) of Whose we have eaten."
Why was the Divine Name "Elokim" chosen as opposed to some
other Name? R' Natan Shapira of Horodna z"l (died 1577) offers
the following insights:
The halachah is that G-d's Name is to be mentioned in this part
of bentching only if ten males over thirteen years old have eaten
together. Ten men form a "kahal"/"congregation," and the
gematria of "kahal" is 135. This is also the gematria of
"Elokenu" in the form of gematria where each letter is
substituted for the letter next to it, as follows:
aleph -> bet = 2
lamed -> mem = 40
heh -> vav = 6
yud -> kaf = 20
nun -> samech = 60
vav -> zayin = 7
The requirement that each of the ten men have attained the age
of 13 also is alluded to in this Divine Name. The root of
"Elokenu" is "Elokim." If each letter of that Name is spelled
out (for example, "aleph" = "aleph, lamed, feh"; "lamed" =
"lamed, mem, dalet"), the word will have 13 letters in all.
The combined gematria of those 13 letters is 295, which is the
gematria of the words: retzeh/desire, tzarah/trouble, and
tzohar/light. We thus pray that even though eating often brings
trouble/tzarah, Hashem should desire/retzeh our bentching and
brings us "light"/tzohar.
Also, this Name alludes to the fact that a group that has eaten
together is obligated to share Torah thoughts at their meal. The
gematria of "Elokim" is 86, which can be represented by the
letters peh-vav. The letters which correspond to those two
letters if one begins at the end of the aleph-bet and counts back
are the two very same letters: vav-peh. If one takes the
"hidden" gematria of the letters peh-vav-vav-peh, the result is
22. This is calculated as follows:
"Peh" is spelled peh-heh. The "hidden" part is the heh,
which equals 5.
"Vav" is spelled vav-vav. The hidden part is the vav, which
This alludes to the 22 letters of the aleph-bet which are the
building blocks of the whole Torah.
Finally, the Name "Elokim" alludes to G-d's attribute of Strict
Justice. By using that Name in our bentching, we remind
ourselves that, were G-d to measure us using that attribute, we
would not be deserving of the food which we have just eaten.
(Seder Birkat Hamazon Im Peirush R' Natan Shapira Me'Horodna)
"Hear, O Israel, today you cross the Jordan . . ." (9:1)
The midrash on this verse comments: "The halachah is that one
who drinks water recites the blessing, 'That all was created by
His word'." What does this halachah have to do with the quoted
verse? R' Meir Marguiles of Lvov z"l (died 1790) explains as
How could Moshe say, "Today you cross the Jordan"? Bnei
Yisrael were not destined to cross the Jordan that day! The
answer is that had Bnei Yisrael been worthy, they could have
crossed the Jordan that very day.
How so? Didn't more than a month remain in the 40 years that
Bnei Yisrael were sentenced to remain in the desert? Those 40
years would not be over until Pesach time, which was about six
The answer is that the halachah sometimes allows part of a year
- even one day - to count as a year. Thus, because Bnei Yisrael
now stood in the calendar year in which they were to enter Eretz
Yisrael, they might have entered the Land at any time.
However, this is true only according to the opinion of the
Talmudic sage (R' Eliezer) who holds the world was created, and
the year begins, in the month of Tishrei. According to the sage
(R' Yehoshua) who holds that the world was created in the month
of Nissan, it was not now the same calendar year as when Bnei
Yisrael would be permitted to enter the Land.
Which berachah is the correct blessing for water might depend
upon this same dispute. When the Torah says, "Bereishit"/"In the
beginning, G-d created the heavens and the earth," does the Torah
mean, "The first things that G-d created were the heavens and the
earth," or does the Torah mean, "In the first month [i.e.,
Tishrei], G-d created the heavens and the earth"? Arguably, it
would thus be easier to say that "Bereishit" means "In Tishrei"
because Bereishit 1:2 implies that water already existed when the
heavens and earth were created!
Chazal teach that the world was created through ten
"utterances"( of which "Bereishit" was the first), but that some
things were created even beforehand in G-d's "thought." Was
water one of these things? One who holds that the heavens and
earth were the first physical creations, i.e., that "Bereishit"
means "First," would answer negatively. According to that view,
water must have been created through one of the ten "utterances,"
and the blessing on water surely can be, "That all was created by
His word." However, if one holds that "Bereishit" means "In
Tishrei," - which is consistent with the view that Bnei Yisrael
could have entered Eretz Yisrael early because the 40th year
already had begun in Tishrei - then maybe water was created first
in G-d's "thought" (not by an "utterance") and the blessing on
water is not, "That all was created by His word."
This is why it is necessary for the midrash on our verse to
teach that the blessing on water is, nevertheless, "That all was
created by His word." [The midrash does not explain why.]
(She'eilot Uteshuvot Meir Netivim, Vol. II)
An Astonishing Midrash
"He afflicted you and let you hunger and He fed you the mahn
that you did not know . . ." (8:3) - This suggests that
women should light candles on Friday evening.
Chazal say: A person who cannot see his food does not enjoy it
as much as does someone who can see what he is eating. This is
why Bnei Yisrael did not appreciate the mahn. Although the mahn
could taste like almost anything that one desired, one could not
see the thing that he desired and therefore did not attain the
enjoyment which he sought.
This is one reason why candles are lit on Friday evening, so
that we can see our food and enjoy it fully.
R' Yosef Kimchi z"l
born approx. 4865/1105 - died approx. 4930/1170
R' Yosef ben Yitzchak Kimchi was a Tanach/Bible commentator and
grammarian. He was born in Spain, but persecutions by the
Almohad Moslem sect forced him to flee. He resettled in
Narbonne, Provence (France), where he earned his livelihood as a
R' Yosef wrote Tanach commentaries explaining the plain meaning
of the text and stressing grammar and punctuation. Some of his
works remain in manuscript and others are lost, known only
through citations in the works of others. Only Sefer Chukah on
Mishlei/Proverbs and a commentary on Iyov/Job have been
R' Yosef also wrote other works. In Sefer Ha'berit, R' Yosef
refutes the arguments of non-Jews against Judaism and the
misinterpretations of Biblical verses by missionaries. Sefer
Ha'zikaron and Sefer Ha'gilui are grammatical works. At least
one halachic opinion of R' Yosef is quoted in R' Yosef Karo's Bet
R' Yosef was the father of R' Moshe Kimchi and of the well-
known Tanach commentator and grammarian, R' David Kimchi
("Radak"). R' Yosef died when the latter was only about ten
years old and he is quoted only rarely in his son's works. R'
Moshe Kimchi was the primary teacher of his younger brother and
is referred to in Radak's works as, "My teacher, my brother
Rabbi Moshe." (Sources: The ArtScroll Rishonim, p. 162; Bet
Yosef, Orach Chaim 127)
Copyright © 1998 by Shlomo Katz
and Project Genesis, Inc.
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