"For you have taken us out to this wilderness to kill this congregation by
famine." (Shemos/Exodus 16:3) As a result of their hunger, the Jewish people
complained to Moshe for food. G-d responded to their complaint by telling
Moshe that He would send food from the heavens to sustain them. On a daily
basis a portion of manna would be provided for every man, woman and child.
To avoid the need of collecting a portion on the Sabbath, a double portion
was to be collected on Friday, as none would fall on the Sabbath itself.
Moshe taught the Children of Israel most of the details of this revelation,
but did not proactively inform them of the alternative procedures for Friday
and the Sabbath. Rather, the masses collected one measure of manna only to
discover that it had miraculously become a double measure; when they
approached him, he completed the discourse. Rashi (ibid v. 22) quotes the
Medrash that Moshe was held accountable for this lapse, as he was not
excluded from G-d's reprimand, "How long will you refuse to follow my
commandments and teachings?" (ibid v. 28), which was primarily directed at
those who went out to collect on the Sabbath even after Moshe's completion
of the command.
Moshe was the greatest prophet in the history of mankind. "Never again has
there arisen a prophet like Moshe whom G-d knew face to face."
(Devarim/Deuteronomy 34:10) How do we reconcile his apparent laxity in
fulfilling G-d's will?
Maharal (Rabbi Yehuda Loewe; 1526-1609; one of the seminal figures in Jewish
thought in the last five centuries; Chief Rabbi in Moravia, Posen and
Prague) explains the second verse of the aforementioned reprimand, "See that
G-d has given you the Sabbath, thus He has given you on Friday a two day
portion of bread." (Shemos/Exodus 16:29) Seeing is emphasized because one
cannot compare the knowledge attained from outside sources to something
witnessed. G-d stressed that they had actually seen the miraculous double
portion of Friday when they were enjoined to observe all the details of the
Sabbath. Now the Jewish nation possessed, through their own observations, a
heightened awareness of the lessons of G-d's providence as demonstrated by
This may have been Moshe's motivation to not preemptively explain the laws
of the manna for the Sabbath. Moshe appreciated that the greater impact of
the lessons learned, regarding both the divine care inherent in the manna
and the paramount importance of Sabbath observance, followed an experiential
first encounter with these concepts, personally witnessed by every Jew. His
explanation would be after the fact but still before the commencement of the
Sabbath. But as close as this plan was to Moshe's divine charge, it did not
match. Despite his good intentions and their inherent value, Moshe was
punished for his lack of zealousness in informing the people, immediately
and conscientiously. The ends did not justify the means.
Subjective rationalizations present serious dangers when they contradict the
written law. As we will read in coming weeks, we committed to G-d at Sinai
that "we will do and we will listen" (ibid 24:7). Listening is our license,
our encouragement to question and develop a greater understanding of G-d's
will. But our ultimate responsibility is action, total compliance with His
will, even when complete appreciation is missing.