Sunday, June 18, 2006

parshat Behaalotecha Manna Redux

In a previous post on parshat Behaalotecha, I argued against ADDeRabbi's interpretation (and the standard interpretation) of a Rashi, arguing based on comparison with Rashi's source, the Sifrei, the intent was not that the manna did not taste like the five items at the end of the pasuk in Bemidbar 11:5:
ה זָכַרְנוּ, אֶת-הַדָּגָה, אֲשֶׁר-נֹאכַל בְּמִצְרַיִם, חִנָּם; אֵת הַקִּשֻּׁאִים, וְאֵת הָאֲבַטִּחִים, וְאֶת-הֶחָצִיר וְאֶת-הַבְּצָלִים, וְאֶת-הַשּׁוּמִים. 5 We remember the fish, which we were wont to eat in Egypt for nought; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic;
because it was bad for infants and nursing mothers, but rather because it was harsh for everyone. I pointed out that the text regarding nursing mothers and infants was absent in the Sifrei, and suggested that it was added by way of illustration do demonstrate that these 5 species are harsh to those who consume it.

However, over Shabbat I saw a source that led me to reevaluate this. Namely, there is a Rashi on Yoma 75a. The gemara discusses why the manna could not become these 5 species. Rashi explains:

Thus, it is evident that this mention of nursing mothers and infants was no insertion by Rashi, but was present in Rashi's version of the Sifrei. Apparently, we have a different version of the Sifrei.

If so, Rashi, in citing the Sifrei, may well think that it is on account of nursing mothers and infants as opposed to on account of its deleterious effects on every Israelite. (Maharsha also maintains this nursing mother connection.)

I still can maintain that the difference in girsa was the result of someone inserting this illustration, likely on the margin, and then copied into the actual body of the manuscript, in which case Rabbi Shimon would still say what I claim he says. The alternative is that for some reason the passage about nursing mothers was accidentally deleted by a copyist, yielding our girsa.

While looking at this gemara, I saw an answer to another of ADDeRabbi's questions. Namely, why were these 5 species problematic if it was just the taste of them? I suggested that the harsh taste itself would be sufficient to cause whatever harm to the constitution.

In fact, this is a talking point in the gemara on Yoma 75a. The gemara records a dispute between Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Assi. One holds that the manna could assume the taste of anything save these 5 species, while the other holds that the manna could assume both the taste and substance {taamo umamasho} of anything save these 5 species, and for these 5 species it could assume the taste {taam} but not substance {mamash}.

This dispute seems designed to directly address this concern.

I will append this to the end of my previous post as well...


ADDeRabbi said...

see also the gemara at the end of that Daf (yoma 75a), on 'leshad ha-shemen' - just a a child tastes every taste in breast-milk, so, too, the Israelites tasted every taste in the man

joshwaxman said...

good point!

indeed, that increases the likelihood greatly that the manna - nursing mother connection is primary.

that is, Rabbi Shimon, who asks the question how come it could not taste like these 5 minim if it could taste like any other would be basing his question on the aforementioned derasha.

then, without even getting quasi-homiletical about the nature of klal yisrael at that point, we can say simply: since we instruct a nursing mother not to eat these foods because the taste in the milk that comes through is harmful for the infant, so too the taste coming through the manna, compared to mother's milk, would also have the harmful qualities.


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