Wednesday, January 31, 2007


This week we talk about the Manna. But many forget that along with the Manna came meat in the form of Quails.

שמות פרק טז
(יא) וַיְדַבֵּר יְדֹוָד אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר: (יב) שָׁמַעְתִּי אֶת תְּלוּנֹּת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל דַּבֵּר אֲלֵהֶם לֵאמֹר בֵּין הָעַרְבַּיִם תֹּאכְלוּ בָשָׂר וּבַבֹּקֶר תִּשְׂבְּעוּ לָחֶם וִידַעְתֶּם כִּי אֲנִי יְדֹוָד אֱלֹהֵיכֶם: (יג) וַיְהִי בָעֶרֶב וַתַּעַל הַשְּׂלָו וַתְּכַס אֶת הַמַּחֲנֶה וּבַבֹּקֶר הָיְתָה שִׁכְבַת הַטַּל סָבִיב לַמַּחֲנֶה: (יד) וַתַּעַל שִׁכְבַת הַטָּל וְהִנֵּה עַל פְּנֵי הַמִּדְבָּר דַּק מְחֻסְפָּס דַּק כַּכְּפֹר עַל הָאָרֶץ: (טו) וַיִּרְאוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל אָחִיו מָן הוּא כִּי לֹא יָדְעוּ מַה הוּא וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֲלֵהֶם הוּא הַלֶּחֶם אֲשֶׁר נָתַן יְדֹוָד לָכֶם

Did the Bnei Yisrael have Quails throughout their stay in the Midbar?
How long did they last?
In Bamidbar ch.11, the people once again request meat and are given ... Quails! So they must have disappeared at some stage. Why does God provide this delicacy in particular?

In his lovely book on Exodus, Nahum Sarna comments:

The quails that descended in the evening, like the manna the people found in the morning, may have a natural explanation. The narrative says little about them, and there is certainly no suggestion that they were available every day. It is well known that the quail, known to ornithologists as Coturnix coturnix, migrates in huge flocks from Europe to central Africa in the autumn and returns in the spring. A short-tailed game bird of the pheasant family, it flies rapidly
at very low altitudes. Due to the long distance involved, the migration is carried out in stages. The small quails twice each year land exhausted on the Mediterranean shore, where they can be easily captured by hand and by nets in great quantities. Their flesh and eggs are said to be delicious, and to this day they are prized food among the local population and are exported as a delicacy to Europe. 56 The season of the year in which the Israelites encountered the quails fits in precisely with the bird's migratory pattern.

As we mentioned, there are TWO Quail episodes in the Torah. This story in Exodus is dated 15th of Iyar (Shemot 16:2) in the year of the Exodus. The story on Bamidbar is also easy to date. Bamidbar 10:11 tells us that they embarked from Mt. Sinai on the 20th of Iyar. 10:33 talks about a three day journey. In other words Bamidbar ch.11 (which lasts for a month see 11:19) in which Quails settle in the camp is dated 23rd Iyar. Put simply it is PRECISELY the same season. If Sarna is correct and these are migratory birds, it all fits perfectly.

This episode is also a wonderful example of how God uses natural phenomena, with perfect timing, to create "miracles."

We can imagine then, that the Quails were in the camp for the period in which they were in Eilim (see Shemot 16:1) and when they moved on from there (17:1) there were no more quail.

There is a farm in Israel that produce Quail. Maybe we should get one for Shabbat!להתענג בתענוגים
ברבורים ושלו ודגים

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