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Did the Jews make a Bracha on eating the Mahn? Which Bracha did they make?

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Apparently Rav Ovadya Yosef has a teshuva regarding this (obviously very lemaaseh) question in Yechave Daat 6:12. I bet he quotes more if not all the opinions on the matter. – Double AA Feb 5 '12 at 2:47
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When I read the title, I was wondering what it meant: Adam's saying ose maase b'reshis on his own creation, perhaps? – msh210 Feb 5 '12 at 3:31
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@msh210 I was actually wondering in what scenario a cannibal would be worried about which bracha to make... – AviD Feb 5 '12 at 12:32
    
@Vram Of course. This is all likely on the level of drush. (Although interestingly, in the Shut I quote below, he mentions it will be lemaaseh when we eat the canister of man with the levyatan. I don't know how he knows we will do that though.) – Double AA Feb 5 '12 at 16:40
    
@Vram, likely what the Rambam means is that there is no explicit pasuk, but it is learned out from a drasha. The Rambam often calls this d'rabbanan. Otherwise, the Rambam is against the gemara in Brachos 35a, plus- how could the rambam say that someone who doesn't make a bracha is "ma'al'? – YDK Feb 5 '12 at 18:41
up vote 10 down vote accepted

The sefer כמוצא שלל רב has several articles on it.

He quotes R' Yehuda Hechosid as specifying "HaMotzi Lechem Min HaShamayim" together with the Rama of Fano. Rav Tzvi Hirsch from Ziditschov quotes the mekubal R' Yisroel Dov that no brocho is to be made as mentioned anonymously in the Shut Torah Lishma 63.

Rav Aharon Levi from Reisha supports this view. The Bnei Yisoschor suggests that if it were not for the opinion of the Rama of Fano, he would have said no brocho on weekdays and "asher kideshonu bemitzvosov le'echol seudas Shabbos" on Shabbos.

Rabbi Chaim Pelagi (בספר נפש חיים מערכת מ' אות קו) from Izmir suggests "borei minei mezonos" because the mahn tasted like wafers with honey; but since they fixed their meal on it (not having any other "bread") the brocho was hamotzi.

Rabbi Eliezer Deutsch from Banihad (?) suggests that the brocho would depend on what food the eater intended. Rav Osher Weiss shlit"o points out that this depends on whether the mahn actually changed into the food imagined by the eater or just tasted like it.

There's much more in the sefer.

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+1. Side note (about your parenthetical question mark): Bonyhad is a town in Hungary, which before World War II had a respectably-sized Jewish community. R. Deutsch was the rav there from 1897-1916. – Alex Feb 5 '12 at 21:59

Shut Torah Lishma 63 (h/t Alex for the link) quotes the Rama of Fano as saying that the bracha was HaMotzi Lechem Min HaShamayim. He personally thinks the bracha is HaMamtir Lechem Min HaShamayim following the words of the pasuk that describe the man falling. Note also that the questioner in the responsa quotes "a rabbi" who claimed that no bracha was said on the man.

The Talmud (Berachot 48b) says that Moshe established the first bracha of bentching (HaZan) when the man fell, so presumably they said that after eating the man.

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Actually, he quotes Rema of Fano as saying this. His own opinion is that the berachah was הממטיר לחם מן השמים, matching the wording in the verse (Ex. 16:4). – Alex Feb 5 '12 at 2:33
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@Alex I see you beat me to the link :) thanks – Double AA Feb 5 '12 at 2:39
    
ולם ראיתי להגאון רבי חיים פלאג'י בספר נפש חיים (מערכת מ' אות קו) בשם אחד קדוש מרבני אשכנז הרה"ג רבי מרדכי הלוי, שאמר לו שנראה בעיניו שישראל בירכו על המן המוציא לחם מן השמים, וכתב, שהפסוק מסייעו, הנני ממטיר לכם לחם מן השמים. – Hacham Gabriel Feb 5 '12 at 15:58
    
Be aware that the questioner in the responsum is the Ben Ish Chai himself. – mevaqesh May 25 at 20:05

Sforno (to Ex. 16:27) states that the people who attempted to gather man on Shabbos would thereby have performed the forbidden labor of oker (uprooting something from the place where it grows), a subdivision of kotzer (reaping). A marginal note in the Me'oros (Gurary) edition of Berachos (48b) cites this and points out that this implies that it could indeed be considered an earth-grown product to the extent of getting the usual berachah for such - i.e., hamotzi lechem min ha-aretz.

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The first recorded suggestion appears in an early 14th century German manuscript of Sefer Hasidim. One manuscript includes the following: “On manna they would pronounce the benediction ‘[Blessed are You, O Lord, king of the universe] who gives bread from the heaven’” (MS Parma H 3280; Wistinetzki, 1891, para. 1640).

The next scholar who addressed this question was Rabbi Menahem Azarya da Fano (1548–1620). In a sections of ‘Asara Ma’amarot (Ten Essays) he asks which benediction will be recited over the manna. He opined: “Blessed [are You, O Lord, king of the universe] who brings forth bread from the heaven”.

Presumably, he did not have access to a manuscript of Sefer Hasidim, thus his suggestion is an independent response. He followed the classic formula, and like Sefer Hasidim he referred to manna as “bread from heaven.” Instead of saying “who gives,” Menahem Azarya used the language of the regular bread blessing: “who brings forth.”

In his most famous work, Rabbi Tsevi Elimelekh Shapira (1783–1841) of Dynów. recounted how during his youth, he had spent time with Rabbi Tsevi Hirsh Eichenstein of Żydaczów (1763–1831). One day Eichenstein asked about the blessing before consuming manna. Shapira cited Menahem Azarya’s opinion and those present debated the issue. One respected figure—Yisrael Dov—suggested that no blessing was recited on manna!

Shapira referred to this character as “Yisrael Dov,” and in all likelihood this was Rabbi Yisrael Dov of Drohobycz (d. 1847), a student of Eichenstein. Yisrael Dov pointed to the verse that described manna as food of mighty heroes, meaning angel food (Psalms 78:25). Playing on the Hebrew word for heroes—“abirim”—one opinion in the Talmud suggested that the manna was totally absorbed by limbs, in Hebrew “eivarim.” In Hebrew b and v use the same grapheme; v with a diacritical mark is pronounced as b. Thus the two Hebrew words—eivarim (איברים) meaning limbs and abirim אבירים meaning heroes—have the same consonants with different vowels. Orthographically the two words appear almost identical, particularly since the Bible is traditionally written as graphemes without vowels or diacritical marks (Babylonian Talmud, Yoma75b). One opinion in the Talmud seems to suggest that because of its divine composition, manna did not produce human waste; it left nothing to excrete for it was entirely absorbed by the body. Yisrael Dov translated this comment about digestion into a statement about mystical valence.

According to Jewish mystical tradition, every physical item has an element of the Divine. Without this divine component, the item could not exist. Alas, the divinity in physical objects is encased in shells and mixed with dross. When it comes to foodstuffs, the recital of a benediction mystically extracts the divine from the physical item, separating it from the spiritual chaff. Manna, however, contained no spiritual dross; it was entirely divine. Consequently, manna needed no blessing! Shapira added a postscript:

And I greatly enjoyed [the suggestion], for it appears to me that the words are close to the truth. Accordingly, I was surprised at the holy m[aster] R[abbi] M[enahem] A[zarya] who wrote that in the future we will have to recite a benediction over [manna] [ma’amarei shabbatot, para. 3:3].

Though the suggestion that manna needed no blessing was innovative, it was nonetheless legally problematic, as pointed out in a curious collection of responsa. The collection—entitled She’elot U-Teshuvot Torah Lishmah, in it, the questioner seemed to be familiar with Shapira’s account: he opened by citing “a certain sage” who had suggested that the Israelites did not recite a blessing over manna since it was entirely divine with no spiritual dross. The questioner noted that those present had argued with that sage. The questioner enquired: “Therefore we wanted to know—is the truth with those who say that they recited a blessing over it? Also, which blessing did they recite over it?” (Kahali, 1973, p. 59, para. 63).

The respondent opened by conceding some ground. From a mystical vantage the role of blessings is indeed to separate the holy from the unholy, and manna did not require this process. However, the recitation of a blessing is not just for mystical reasons; it is also a form of thanks for abundant goodness bestowed by God. Moreover, the Talmud says that when the manna descended, Moses instituted the first paragraph of Grace After Meals (Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 48b). If Grace After Meals was said, surely a blessing before the meal was also recited! Indeed medieval sources stated that a blessing was recited over manna, though those sources did not record the wording of the benediction (Zohar, 2:62b).

Regarding the formulation of the blessing, the respondent referred to Menahem Azarya, but offered a slightly different wording: “Blessed are You, O Lord, king of the universe who rains down bread from the heaven.” Indeed, manna descended from the heaven, and in two biblical passages the verb for raining is used (Exodus 16:4; Psalms 78:24). The respondent concluded his answer with the words: “And blessed is the one who knows,” perhaps acknowledging that he had no way of proving his contention.

Rabbi Meir Don Plotzki (1867–1928) states in the second volume of Hemdat Yisra’el that the blessing over manna should be the same blessing that is recited over vegetables. Plotzki noted that the Bible describes the Israelites as going out to gather manna; indeed verb forms of “gather” appear an astounding nine times in the biblical account (Exodus 16:4–5, 16–18, 21– 22, 26–27). Citing earlier sources, Plotzki explained that this verb is used when there is a link to the soil: the manna must have been nourished from the ground in some way. Hence the benediction: “Blessed are You, O Lord, king of the universe, who creates the fruit of the soil” (Plotzki, 1924, sec. 14, para. 2).


Culled from Dr. Levi Cooper's Culpability for Curses in Jewish Law and Mystical Lore printed in Wizards vs. Muggles Essays on Identity and the Harry Potter Universe Edited by Christopher E. Bell.

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