Exodus 16:4 (Somewhat modified English translation from Sefaria):

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה הִנְנִ֨י מַמְטִ֥יר לָכֶ֛ם לֶ֖חֶם מִן־הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם וְיָצָ֨א הָעָ֤ם וְלָֽקְטוּ֙ דְּבַר־י֣וֹם בְּיוֹמ֔וֹ לְמַ֧עַן אֲנַסֶּ֛נּוּ הֲיֵלֵ֥ךְ בְּתוֹרָתִ֖י אִם־לֹֽא׃

Then said the LORD unto Moses: ‘Behold, I will cause to rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law, or not.

When the people (and Moses) did not listen and went to search for Manna on Shabbat, G-d complains:

Exodus 16:28:

וַיֹּ֥אמֶר יְהוָ֖ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֑ה עַד־אָ֙נָה֙ מֵֽאַנְתֶּ֔ם לִשְׁמֹ֥ר מִצְוֺתַ֖י וְתוֹרֹתָֽי׃

And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘How long refuse ye to keep My commandments and My laws?

In the 2nd verse, G-d adds the term מִצְוֺתַ֖י . The original test was only supposed to be תוֹרֹתָֽי.

I'm not asking for the general difference in meaning with these two words, but specifically, regarding the story of Manna:

  • What were the מצות and what were the תורות that G-d is referring to?
  • If the test was only for the תורות , why was G-d complaining that they didn't observe the מצות as well?
  • 1
    Logically, it would seem that besides going out and violating תוֹרֹתָֽי they actually violated other mitzvos as well. Thus, while the initial test was on the explicit teachings, the fact that they also violated mitzvos added to the sin. An analogy to being told to avoid eating a hamburger (kosher), but they then even went and ate a non-kosher hamburger. May 19, 2016 at 16:02

1 Answer 1


My brother in law suggested that the original test in verse 4 was only whether or not the Jews will follow the rules of the Mann (הילך בתורתי אם לא). However, after they failed the test, it was found that they had not only failed to keep the rules of the Mann (תורתי), but they had also disrespected Shabbos (מצותי).
This answer feels right, especially after reading closely the context in which both verses are found.

However, this answer is not compatible with Rashi's explanation on the earlier verse, which includes the prohibition to collect Mann on Shabbos as part of the "תורה" of the Mann.

(What follows is my original answer to the question, which does not answer both questions.)

I found an answer for your first question ("What were the מצות and what were the תורות that G-d is referring to?"), but not the second ("If the test was only for the תורות , why was G-d complaining that they didn't observe the מצות as well?").

Rav Hirsch writes (on verse 28) that the essence of the sin here was pursuing livelihood on Shabbos, against God's will, demonstrating the lack of belief and trust that God will provide. Shabbos is a special phenomenon, something that is both a מצוה (something that requires physical action/refraining from action) and a תורה (something that requires one to impress something in one's mind and feelings).

He who seeks his livelihood on Sabbath against God's Will denies that his food is sent from God at all. [...] The Jew who seeks his livelihood on Sabbath, completely turns his back to God, and to following His Will, places himself on his own, and tears up the bond with all His teachings. Hence the words עד אנה מאנתם לשמר מצותי ותורתי, for with חלול שבת is expressed the denial to pay any attention at all to the commands and teachings of God. Sabbath is especially both a מצוה and a תורה as are all symbolic commands. It demands a concrete doing something or refraining from doing something (a מצוה) to demonstrate a truth and to impress it on the mind and feelings (a תורה).

Excerpted from the Judaica Press translation, second edition (Gateshead 1999)

The use of both of these words reflect the special nature of Shabbos, and the seriousness of its violation especially when it betrays a lack of trust and reliance in one's relationship with God.

(As far as I could tell, Rav Hirsch did not address the use of different words in verses 28 and 4)

  • Nice answer. In re-reading the context of my question and gleaning from your answer, my theory - the 1st verse I cited refers to Torah which means "teachings" or, in a sense, showing a path. It refers to the method of collecting mahn, daily. So, it's the reliance on G-d that they should learn. There was no mention of a prohibition NOT to go out on Shabbat, rather, one to collect double on Friday. They actually did that. When they went out on Shabbat, they violated a mitzvah, as well. Your feedback?
    – DanF
    Feb 9, 2017 at 16:00
  • @DanF It sounds interesting, but does not match up with what Rav Hirsch wrote. (Not saying that means it's wrong, just that at the moment I don't have more information than this, and these two explanations don't match). Maybe write that up as an answer yourself, see what the community thinks of it ;)
    – MTL
    Feb 9, 2017 at 17:49
  • You might like to see the most recent addition to my answer, @DanF. I believe this other approach covers both questions (even if it's not compatible with Rashi).
    – MTL
    Feb 12, 2017 at 3:56
  • Even though I wrote it as an edit to this answer, now I'm reconsidering. Maybe that deserves a complete answer post of its own? I'm not sure.
    – MTL
    Feb 12, 2017 at 4:00
  • I'm also not sure, but , offhand, I think you should just leave it as is. I have to ponder the meaning of your brother-in-law's interpretation, and look better at what Rash"i says. The question is what specific mitzvah they were given regarding Shabbat. There is no explicit commandment NOT to look for mahn on Shabbat. It is derived from saying that there wouldn't be mahn on Shabbat. Raises a separate question of what they violated by looking for it, and did they violate, specifically, a Shabbat prohibition. Doesn't seem like it. See if you can ask your b-in-l to elaborate his thinking.
    – DanF
    Feb 13, 2017 at 23:45

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