Parshas Bahaloscha 5765

Jan 1, 2004
Parshas Bahaloscha 5765

Did you ever wonder why we eat fish on שבת?

Of course, not a חיוב – but fish have always been traditional שבת food, even in times of גמרא – and Jewish traditions always reveal depth if you examine them closely enough.

Thought I am going to present comes from world of חסידות – specifically, from אפטר רב, אוהב ישראל:

Story, in short – people leave הר סני, start to complain, don’t like מן, want meat – particularly, the fish they at in מצרים – זכרנו את הדגה אשר נאכל במצרים. הקב"ה is angry, Moshe distraught – הקב"ה gives them meat with a vengeance, שליו for a month – but many die eating it.

Many difficulties: Most obviously, just after הר סני, had seen שכינה, glory – and consequences of חטא. So soon – to carry on about fish!

Furthermore – חז"ל say that מן contained every taste. So why did they need fish?

Well, these are all basic questions. But let’s dig deeper – consider a REALLY basic question: Why did השם create the world, man etc.

אריז"ל – מטבע הטוב להטיב. Wanted to bestow good, עונג. Man is created to enjoy that עונג. As מסילת ישרים puts it: האדם לא נברא אלא להתענג על ה'... ומקום העידון הזה הוא העולם הבא. Finally purpose – after תחיית המתים, world of עונג.

So why not just go straight there? Why this difficult world, with it’s temptations, with possibility of חטא, to be steeped in all those influences that pull us away from that עונג? Also addressed by אריז"ל – because a gift that is not earned is not truly ours. נהמא דכיסופא. So we are put in arena where we have to struggle, and thereby earn the world of שכר.

Source is גמרא שבת קד. –

אמרי ליה רבנן לרבי יהושע בן לוי: אתו דרדקי האידנא לבי מדרשא ואמרו מילי דאפילובימי יהושע בן נון לא איתמר כוותייהו: אל"ף בי"ת - אלף בינה, גימ"ל דל"ת -גמול דלים... , מאי טעמא פשוטה כרעיה דגימ"ל לגבי דל"ת - שכן דרכו של גומל חסדיםלרוץ אחר דלים... ומאי טעמא מהדר אפיה דדל"ת מגימ"ל - דליתן ליה בצינעה, כי היכי דלא ליכסיף מיניה...

Go back to מן. לחם אבירים – לחם של מלאכי השרת. Pure רוחניות. No physicality, no גשמיות. What’s more – without effort, without struggle for פרנסה, without נסיונות – without even prayer.
What is more – not only spiritual in itself, also made those who ate it less physical. כלום יש ילוד אשה שמכניס ואינו מוציא. Elevated them to different plane – without any effort on their part.

Reminiscent of עונג of עולם הבא.

But – unearned. עולם הבא comes after a lifetime of עבודה; they didn’t do anything to earn מן, pure spirituality just showered on them. In a sense – נהמא דכיסופא.

כזרע ג"ד – remember גימ"ל דל"ת – גומל דלים , with דל"ת turned away in shame.

Says the אוהב ישראל – that was the complaint. התאוו תאוה – they wanted תאוה, they wanted the experience of contending with תאוה, with physicality, the sense that they had earned their שכר, that it was theirs, not just given to them from above.

זכרנו את הדג"ה – opposite of ג"ד is ד"ג. Where the receiver earns it.

So what was wrong? We don’t look for נסיונות – אל תביאני לידי נסיון. הקב"ה had His reasons, knew that in incubator of מדבר had to be כולו רוחניות, elevated to highest level, hothouse of תורה, from which all future generations would nourish.

לא נתנה תורה אלא לאוכלי המן – that first generation had to be אוכלי המן, because they lay the foundation of Torah. There would be time enough to contend with harsh reality of this world.

Every שבת is מעין עולם הבא, הקב"ה raises us up to higher level of רוחניות. And therefore ספרים say that one can taste מן in מאכלי שבת. But there’s a difference – because מי שטרח בערב שבת יאכל בשבת, the רוחניות we experience on שבת we earn during week, and our experience of שבת is commensurate with our preparation during week. In that sense, too, מעין עוה"ב.

So while מאכלי שבת are like מן – in that they are spiritual experience – they are different, because it is earned. It’s not ג"ד – but ד"ג.

And that’s why we eat fish on שבת.

And that’s something to think about when we eat that fish – that our עבודה, our task here on earth, is not to eat זרע גד, to be given רוחניות on a silver platter; but, rather, to be thrust in a world that is fundamentally inimical to רוחניות, that is material with a vengeance, and to overcome that, and create an oasis of spirituality and רוחניות in our homes, our קהילה, in our lives. And that’s not always easy; the culture in which we live is saturated with hedonism and materialism and it infiltrates into every pore of our society, and even our frum society. It’s not easy to fight that – it’s a constant uphill battle. But let us remember the lesson of the fish – that ultimately רוחניות is not something that is given to us on a silver platter – it’s not meant to be גימ"ל דל"ת, spiritual charity – but something that we earn, and the greater the effort, and the more difficult the challenge, the greater, ultimately and commensurately, the reward.


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