Sunday, February 12, 2006

What does the Mon have to do with Matan Torah?

The story of the Mon in last week's parsha is well known and I pass over it every year without too much attention. This Shabbos I happened to look at the Pirush of R. Avrohom ben Moshe Maimoni (Rambam's son) and I had interesting insights which I would like to share and hopefully get back some comments.

First let me make a point that in Pirkei Avos 5:5 the Mon is one of the "miraculous"( see Pirush Hamishna) things that were created Friday late afternoon. All the things listed in that Mishna are somehow related to Moshe except for the Keshes (rainbow). Second the Torah connects Moshe's miracles with his prophecy where it states at the end of Devorim that Moshe was a unique prophet as were his miracles. (I read that R. Chaim already makes the connection). In other words miracles and prophecy are somehow interrelated.

Prophecy according to Rambam is a natural ability of man that results from his efforts in understanding ontologically the world he lives in. It is a result of correctly analysing and meditating about God's relationship to our physical existence. (For elaboration on the subject see my article in Hakirah here ). That being the case and based on the connection between prophecy and the incidence of a miraculous event it would seem that for one to occur, a similar meditative state would be required.

In the story of Mon after the complaining and being told that the Slav will come at night and the Mon in the morning, ( which parenthetically according to the Possuk is supposed to show God's glory and that He was instrumental in bringing them out of Egypt - how that happens is not clear -but will make sense as we will see) Moshe tells Aharon to tell the people to come close to Hashem "Kirvu lifnei Hashem". As they are told they turn towards the desert and God's glory shows itself in the cloud"Vehineh kvod hashem niro'oh beonon". I never picked up that there was a revelatory experience here until I saw R. Avrohom's comment. He says that Kirvu lifnei Hashem means bring close your thoughts exclusively to HKBH and empty your minds from any other thoughts and immediately, upon their doing so, God's glory showed itself to them. He then proceeds to explain that when Moshe transferred the Law to the people there were three different processes. One was when Moshe had the revelation alone, like when he was on the Mountain 40 days and nights, and upon his return he told the people what he had learned. In this instance the people were completely non participatory in the revelatory experience. With the other two processes, however the people participitated up to a point. At Har Sinai, the people participated in the relevation, each according to his level, experiencing a certain level of prophetic inspiration. Here at the Mon, they saw Moshe dialoguing with God without participating in the revelatory experience per se, but as spectators. We find in Parshas Ki Tisah (33:7-11) a similar description of revelation. What is even more striking is that just as at Har Sinai there was constant reference to the Anan, the cloud, so too here. The Anan is an experience that people have when they meditate correctly and realize that their's is a clouded apprehension because God is transcendent. The realization of that fact is part of the real prophetic experience as opposed to the transes and other such experiences that are reported in "spiritual" experiences.

The whole experience at Har Sinai was miraculous. The fact that 600,000 people could have a revelatory experience is the greatest miracle and only happened once in history. The Mon can be perceived as a much more physical miracle. After all the people had food from heaven, however it had a revelatory element to it, just like all miracles. It was a natural event put into nature at Creation, but for it to happen here at the required time, and for the people to take advantage of it, they had to grow intelectually in their quest for apprehending God. Only then would the Mon be nourishing enough. To be satisfied with this new type of food, one had to become a person that food was a nourishment not a culinary experience. When the people lost that state of mind, the Mon was no longer enough and they complained as in Bamidbar 11:4 -35.

I have not solved the problem of understanding miracles but what I have learned is that just as in the search for God and prophecy, self improvement and proper perspectives on what is important is essential, so too for one to partake and experience a miracle, one needs to develop an appropriate state of mind. One man's miracle is another one's disaster.


  1. "The fact that 600,000 people [sic] could have a revelatory experience is the greatest miracle and only happened once in history."

    You're every bit as clowny as the nuttiest of kiruv wackos.

  2. Thanks for the compliment. You are too concrete. Note the asteriks around miraculous. You will have opportunity to ve4nt further when I tackle miracles.

  3. this is a nice post.

    You are very good humored for a kiruv clown (maybe that is the "clown" part)

  4. No, I'm not reading anymore. I had enough of this crap growing up.

  5. Great post.
    It seems that Mis-nagid gets bent out of shape when someone shows him that Judaism- even the most ordinary-looking verses- isn't as primitive as he would feel comfortable believing.
    I think he needs to put you down just to justify his apostasy.
    What a tragic figure.

  6. Don't attack Mis-nagid, he gets frustrated but he is searching for the truth and that is frustrating sometime. I prefer him to a shoteh shemefatfet.

  7. David, There's no point in discussing this further if your premise is grossly flawed. I don't seriously discuss Judaism with someone who takes Exodus literally for the same reason that I don't discuss geology with flat-earthers. If you start with nonsense, you get nonsense. Garbage in, garbage out.

    If you really want a rational Judaism, you have to come to grips with the fact that Exodus is as mythical as the Flood. It baffles me why you cling to it, given that everything I've read from you indicates that your philosophy can successfully deal with it. Stubbornly refusing to confront reality only serves to discredit you and your effort.