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וַיְעַנְּךָ וַיַּרְעִבֶךָ וַיַּאֲכִלְךָ אֶת הַמָּן אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָדַעְתָּ וְלֹא יָדְעוּן אֲבֹתֶיךָ לְמַעַן הוֹדִעֲךָ כִּי לֹא עַל הַלֶּחֶם לְבַדּוֹ יִחְיֶה הָאָדָם כִּי עַל כָּל מוֹצָא פִי ה’ יִחְיֶה הָאָדָם. (דברים ח:ג)

“He (Hashem) afflicted you, subjected you to the hardship of hunger and gave you manna to eat, which neither you nor your fathers had ever known, in order to teach you that man does not live on bread alone, but that man may live on whatever comes forth from the mouth of Hashem.”

The midrash comments (Midrash Avkir which is quoted in Ein Yaakov Mesechta Yoma 74B), “… vaya’ahncha—He afflicted you,” this alludes to the mitzvah of lighting candles on Shabbos.

Zera Shimshon asks the obvious question: What is the connection between the manna we ate in the desert and the mitzvah to light Shabbos candles?

He explains—in light of the Midrash Koheles (Koheles 5:11) that quotes a conversation between the chachamim and Menachem Telemia about the meaning of our pasuk, vayahncha vayahreevecha va’yacheelcha ess haman—He subjected you to affliction and the hardship of hunger and gave you manna to eat.” The chachamim asked: What does it mean that the manna that Hashem gave to Bnei Yisroel was an affliction? From the pesukim that speak of the manna, it seems that it was given to benefit them by alleviating their hunger, and not afflicting them!

To answer them, Menachem Telemia brought two pumpkins that were the same size—but one was whole and the other one was cut—in the other half of a pumpkin that was twice the size of the whole pumpkin. He asked, “How much does the whole one cost?”

They answered, “Two monno.”

He then asked them, “How much does the cut one cost?”

They answered, “One monno.”

He then asked them, “How can this be, since they are both the same size?”

The chachamim answered that they don’t cost the same because people not only enjoy the taste of the food they eat but they also enjoy its appearance! They, therefore, are willing to pay more for something that looks better, even though it contains the same amount as the other piece. This idea is also mentioned in the Gemara (Yoma 74b), “You can not compare one who sees the food that he eats to the one who doesn’t see the food that he eats.”

This is the reason that eating the manna was considered an affliction. True, it satiated them; but since the manna had only one look and had many tastes, its look didn’t match its taste and it was as if they ate something without seeing it. Therefore, they didn’t have complete pleasure from the manna. Since the pleasure wasn’t complete, it is considered as if they had some type of affliction when they ate it.

According to this, we can understand how the midrash learns from the pasuk, “vayahncha—He afflicted you,” the mitzvah of the Shabbos candles. Since we are obligated to enjoy the Shabbos and when we don’t see the food we eat, we do not get maximum enjoyment from it; therefore, there is a mitzvah to light candles in the place we eat, in order to see what we eat and fully enjoy it!

Zera Shimshon continues that according to the above we can explain the pasuk (Yeshaya 58:13), “v’kahrahssah l’Shabbos oneg—One should proclaim the Shabbos to be a delight.” This pasuk implies that it is not enough to simply enjoy Shabbos, but there is a mitzvah to proclaim that it is a delight. What does it mean to proclaim that it is a delight? He explains that this is alluding that besides preparing delicious food—l’kavod Shabbos—we have to actively do other things to get the maximum pleasure from the seudah; namely, to light Shabbos candles, so we can see what we ate and have complete enjoyment.

Zera Shimshon goes one step further and gives a deeper explanation of the connection between the mitzvah of Shabbos candles and the manna.

In the first explanation, we only explained that since the manna didn’t look like the taste of the food Bnei Yisroel tasted there was a certain degree of affliction in the eating of the manna. However, we didn’t explain why Hashem chose to give the manna in such a way. Why didn’t Hashem change the appearance of the manna to match the taste in order that Bnei Yisroel would have complete enjoyment when they ate it?

Zera Shimshon answers that it is not possible to have full enjoyment from spiritual manners in this world, since Olam Haba was designed for spiritual pleasure and not this world, which was specifically designed for physical pleasures. Therefore, even though the manna was a spiritual object, since Hashem gave it to Bnei Yisroel to physically satiate them, Hashem gave it to them in a way that they wouldn’t have complete pleasure—just like all pleasures of this world are not complete.

The Shabbos meals are the complete opposite. The food we eat on Shabbos is essentially physical, but it is considered so spiritual that even though after a person dies, the meat and body fat which was a result of our eating turns into worms etc., the sefer Reishis Chochmah writes that the food we eat on Shabbos is not turned into worms and maggots. The reason for this is that it is completely spiritual. Therefore, there is a mitzvah to eat the Shabbos meals next to lights, so we see the food and have maximum satisfaction from the food as a symbol that the satisfaction of the Shabbos meal is of a spiritual nature and not a physical one.

According to this, we can explain the midrash that associates the affliction of the manna with Shabbos lights. Just like Hashem didn’t give us the manna in a way that there will be complete pleasure because it was eaten for a physical reason; so too, we must have full enjoyment from what we eat at the Shabbos meals to allude to the fact that there is a spiritual reason for eating it.

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