Prologue: The tribe of Amalek attacked a weary and tired Israel at Rephidim, cruelly cutting off those weak and lagging behind. Following the defeat of Amalek, Hashem orders Moshe to record the episode and remind Yehoshua to annihilate Amalek. Why did God command Moses to write in the Torah of His promise to obliterate Amalek? Does God need a reminder? And why specifically tell Yehoshua? Couldn't he just read the story?
Rav Kook once noted that the people of Israel have two national missions. At Mount Sinai, God informed them that they would be both a "kingdom of priests" and a "holy nation". The goal of a "kingdom of priests" refers to the aspiration to uplift the entire world, so that all will recognize Him. The people of Israel will fulfill this mission when they function as priests to the world, teaching them God's ways.
But the people of Israel are not just a tool for refining the world. They have their own intrinsic worth, and they need to perfect themselves on their own special level. The central mission of Israel is to fulfill its spiritual potential and become a "holy nation". If Israel's only purpose was to perfect the rest of the world, they would not be commanded with so many mitzvoth, isolating them from the other nations.
Amalek refutes both missions of Israel. Amalek cannot accept Israel as a "kingdom of priests" who instruct the world; nor as a "holy nation", separated from the other nations with unique spiritual goals. God promised to "totally obliterate" ("macho emche") Amalek. The verb is repeated, for God will uproot both of Amalek's denials. Amalek rejects Israel's function to uplift the world, so God commanded that His promise be recorded in the Written Torah - the source of Israel's moral influence on the world. And Amalek denies Israel's own special spiritual heritage, so God commanded that His promise also be passed on verbally to Moses' disciple - "place it in Joshua's ears". When Amalek has been utterly destroyed, and Israel will be able to fulfill its charges, God's Throne and God's Name will be complete.
This week's Chaburah focuses on the Jew's unique way of relating to the world and recognizing God's place within and without it.
It is entitled:
A Little Taste of Heaven
Living in a world of such delicacy, we find ourselves with ample opportunity to recite the Birchot HaNehenin (blessings recited upon deriving certain pleasures).At times we even compliment the chef noting that the food was heavenly. But what beracha does one make if the food is truly heavenly? What Beracha does one make on Manna?
In regard to Beracha Achrona, there is no question. The Talmud (Berachot 48b) notes that Moshe instituted the Beracha of Hazon (the first Beracha of Bentsching) at the time that the Manna fell from the heavens. The only question is what Beracha Rishona should be recited.
Rabbi Yehuda Hachossid (Sefer HaChassidim) notes that the proper Beracha on Manna is Hamotzee Lechem Min HaShomayim. He adds that this was the blessing that Eliyahu recited on the bread he recited while hiding in the caves from Achav. The Remah MePanu (Mamarei HaShabbat, 5) adds that in the future when the Tzaddikim will be invited to partake of the Seudas
Leviyasan there will need to be Lechem present [as no meal is called a meal without bread]. At that time, the special portion of the Manna that King Yoshiyahu hid which was called Lechem Asher Nasan Hashem (See Yoma 52b) will be eaten. He adds that in the future, they will recite the Beracha on the Manna and it will be HaMotzee Lechem Min HaShomayim.
However, others argue with the Rema MeePanu. The Bnei Yissoschar (Maamarei Shabbatot 3:3) notes that he once quoted the opinion of the Rema MeePanu while studying with R. Zvi Hirsch of Ziditchov. A certain Chossid, R. Yisroel Dov interjected that there must not have been a Beracha on Manna since the purpose of Beracha is recognition of Hashem's ability to
separate the good from the extraneous in food. In Manna, all was good and there was no extraneous. The Bnei Yissoschar adds that he agreed with this view and felt that the view of the Rema MeePanu was referring to the future (when the purpose of blessing will be different). However, in the Midbar, there was no Beracha on the Manna. This is also the opinion of R. Yitzchak Shmelkish of Levov (Shut Beis Yitzchak I: Y.D. 84) which he proves from the Tosefta. Others (Birkas Aharon, Berachos, 85) prove this from the Talmud's statement that one may not benefit from this world without a Beracha. The Birkas Aharon explains that benefit from THIS world needs a Beracha, however, the Manna was not a creation of this world (Maharsha to Chagigah 12b) and therefore one did not recite a Birkas HaNehenin before it was eaten .
Rav Chaim Palagi (Nefesh Chaim, Mem:106) noted that the Beracha on Manna should have been Mezonos. He argues that since it was identified as having the taste of having been made with honey, it was like a cake and the Beracha would be Mezonos. Still, since the Jews were Koveia Seudah upon it, the Beracha should have been upgraded and thus he believes that
the Jews must have said the Beracha of HaMotzee on it.
The Merkeves HaMishna and the author of the Shut Tevuas HaSadeh (in his Haskama for the Sefer Segulas Yisroel) noted that since the taste of Manna was dependent on the desire of the people at the time, the Beracha too, changed depending on the desire of the people.
The issue is not only historic in character. It has stretching Halachic ramifications: For in the Yirushalmi (Kilayim 7:7) there is a
Safek raised about bread grown from wheat that was grown in a whole flowerpot (Atziz SheEinah Nakuv). The Chayii Adam (51:17) writes that in a scenario like this, the bread is Mezonos since one cannot recite Min HaAretz on it, since the bread did not grow from the ground. He adds (Nishmas Adam 152) that although we usually follow the Yirshalmi's guide that we recite Hamotzee whenever we follow with Birkas HaMazon, here where we cannot say min HaAretz we do not say HaMotzee even though we will say Birkat HaMazon afterward. He compares the case to the Manna and on the Manna they certainly did not recite the Beracha of Hamotzee.
Still, the Sdei Chemed (Klalim Chaf:100) feels that on the Yirushalmi's bread, one would recite Hamotzee in line with the general guide in the Yirushalmi. The logic is clear. For in the language of the rule of reciting Hamotzee in cases where one bentsches, it states that one recites Hamotzee if he said three Berachot (of bentsching). In the desert the analogy would not work, as there was only one Beracha to recite. Hence bringing proof from the Manna in the desert is impossible.