The Talmud in Bechoros 5b says that "When the Jewish people left Egypt, there wasn’t a single Jew who didn’t have [at least] ninety donkies laden with silver and gold from Egypt"

I assume there was not enough vegetation in the desert to feed all the animals the Jews had brought to carry their stuff, and also that whatever animal food they took from Egypt would not last forty years. If so, what were the animals fed and where did the Jewish people get it?

  • 1
    Why do you assume that?
    – Seth J
    May 27, 2013 at 14:49
  • 1
    i assume desert does not have sufficient vegetation. and also that whatever animal food they took from egypt would not last 40 years
    – ray
    May 27, 2013 at 17:22

5 Answers 5


Rashi to Shemot 16:21 (quoting Mechilta here) says:

and [when] the sun grew hot, it melted: What remained [of the manna] in the field melted and became streams from which deer and gazelles drank. And the nations of the world would hunt some of them [these animals] and taste in them the flavor of manna and know how great Israel’s praise was. — [from Mechilta]

It is possible that this is what the domesticated animals of the Jews drank as well, although I don't know if that itself would have been enough to sustain them, without food.


The Yalqut Reubeni (here, s.v. מה) addresses this question and quotes from a collection ‘Sode Raza’ (attributed to student(s) of R. Yehudah HaChasid) that the layer of dew would bring forth vegetables for the animals.

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  • It's להם ירקות,vegetables ,not לחם.
    – sam
    Jan 20, 2019 at 3:41
  • @sam I didn’t assume it said לחם since לחם ירקות doesn’t sense. I just assume ירקות is לאו דוקא.
    – Oliver
    Jan 20, 2019 at 3:54
  • I would think it is davaka since it only says vegetables, so writing vegetables is more logical than writing grain
    – sam
    Jan 20, 2019 at 3:59
  • @sam For one, the source isn’t a piece of Torah or Chazal that I’d necessarily hold to a critical reading. But secondly, I don’t think “בהמות” generally feed on vegetables (and therefore not any less logical since I don’t think it is davka). Lastly, I also assume full vegetables would take much longer to grow than fodder. (Btw, thanks for the picture.)
    – Oliver
    Jan 20, 2019 at 4:07
  • I don't know why you are being so insistent on keeping it as grain since its not being true to the actual text,anyone who would read that ,would translate it as vegetables ,as per your comment about it not being Chazal I agree,but what is written should be represented as written. Beheimos are herbivorous and eat plants,as well as eating grain so it is plausible ,and woth regards to growing too slow the source is more mystical so that can easily be answered by saying it was miraculous,anyhow +1 for a good answer
    – sam
    Jan 20, 2019 at 4:13

Moshe Rabbeinu, while he was grazing Yisro's flock, came to the area of Mt. Sinai, which shows that there was plenty of grazing fields out there in the wilderness (source pasted below). The word "midbar" does not necessarily mean dry like the Sahara, it just means an area that is not settled, a "wilderness," but it could still have lots of grassy hills and fields.

Shemos ch. 3 וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ כִּֽי־אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה עִמָּ֔ךְ וְזֶה־לְּךָ֣ הָא֔וֹת כִּ֥י אָנֹכִ֖י שְׁלַחְתִּ֑יךָ בְּהוֹצִֽיאֲךָ֤ אֶת־הָעָם֙ מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם תַּֽעַבְדוּן֙ אֶת־הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים עַ֖ל הָהָ֥ר הַזֶּֽה׃

And He said, “I will be with you; that shall be your sign that it was I who sent you. And when you have freed the people from Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.”

Rashi ad loc (see the text in bold):

רש"י על שמות פרק ג פסוק יב ויאמר כי אהיה עמך - השיבו על ראשון ראשון ועל אחרון אחרון שאמרת מי אנכי כי אלך אל פרעה לא שלך היא כי אם משלי כי אהיה עמך וזה המראה אשר ראית בסנה לך האות כי אנכי שלחתיך ותצליח בשליחותי וכדאי אני להציל כאשר ראית הסנה עושה שליחותי ואיננו אוכל כך תלך בשליחותי ואינך ניזוק. וששאלת מה זכות יש לישראל שיצאו ממצרים דבר גדול יש לי על הוצאה זו שהרי עתידים לקבל התורה על ההר הזה לסוף ג' חדשים שיצאו ממצרים.

  • Did you visit the area lately? No, it does not have any vegetation.
    – Al Berko
    Aug 2, 2019 at 13:24

Setting aside whether that Talmudic statement ought be understood literally, the natural question of how their animals were fed stands. The Israelites encamped at various settlements throughout the 40 years, some sites were rather fertile (for example Elim had "twelve wells of water and seventy date palms"). They engaged in nomadic pastoralism moving from location to location and presumably had to engage in political negotiations with other tribal entities in order to ensure access for their livestock to resources. One surmises that certain tribal nations (Amalek, Midian, Moab, etc.) felt sufficiently threatened by the Israelites such that they felt it necessary to wage war against them and attempt to eliminate them altogether (for an example of failed negotiations for safe passage in Numbers 20).

  • How does this answer the question of what the animals ate? Are you saying that they'd go to a place, eat all the food, and then move on, fighting for grazing rights as necessary? Jul 11, 2013 at 22:17
  • @MonicaCellio I believe this is primarily addressing the premise that there was nothing for the animals to eat since it was a midbar. They were always/usually around civilization, some of which the Torah specifically mentions had edible/potable resources. "Setting aside..." implies that Deuteronomy assumes the question to be one of food's existence, not its quantity.
    – WAF
    Dec 15, 2016 at 13:02

It's possible that the livestock, as well as the people, fed on manna.

  • 4
    Welcome to Mi Yodeya, Arnie Finley, and thanks for your suggestion, which would be much more valuable if you'd provide support for it, or for the likelihood of such a thing.
    – msh210
    May 27, 2013 at 16:12
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    The verse says they got 1 Omer of manna per head. Are you suggesting this included animals heads, or that people with more animals had less manna to eat for themselves?
    – Double AA
    May 28, 2013 at 3:43
  • @DoubleAA: see judaism.stackexchange.com/a/29874/603
    – Menachem
    Jul 14, 2013 at 2:04

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