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The question is self explanatory so I'll just clarify why it seems to me that Hashem's reaction is disproportionate. Imagine a parent with a spoiled child who starts demanding more than he deserves. We can imagine several responses from the parent. Perhaps the parent will simply give in to the child. Perhaps he'll ignore the child so that the child will learn that unreasonable requests are ignored. Perhaps he'll reduce the amount the child currently receives so that he'll learn to appreciate what he has.

Regardless, killing the child seems like a totally inappropriate response. If a parent reacted excessively violently to such behaviour, we'd probably accuse him of being abusive and wouldn't allow him to continue looking after the child. So why does Hashem react so violently against the Jews in the desert when they demand meat? Sure, their behaviour was wrong but it's difficult to believe that death was literally the only viable response.

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    In Exodus 16 I don't see any negative reaction. Please clarify your question. – Double AA Jun 16 '16 at 21:00
  • @Double AA: He's referring to Numbers 11. – DonielF Jun 17 '16 at 2:55
  • @DonielFilreis Perhaps, but of what worth is a question that analyzes one case without the other? – Double AA Jun 17 '16 at 3:50
  • @DoubleAA: Basically you're saying that the question shouldn't be "why did Hashem react so violently against the people who demanded meat?" but rather "why did Hashem react so violently in Beha'alosecha but was fine with it in Beshalach?" – DonielF Jun 17 '16 at 17:13
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The Talmud (Yevamot 121a) expounding on the verse "it is very stormy round about Him" (Tehilim 50:3) - "this teaches that "the Holy One blessed be He scrutinizes judgment on His pious ones to the degree of a hair's breadth"

Those who left Egypt with Moses are known as the Dor Deah (Vayikra Raba 9:1), the Generation of Knowledge. This generation, which witnessed the miracles of the Ten Plagues, the Exodus from slavery to freedom, and the Giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai was on an extremely high spiritual plane.

As to your comparison to child raising, they were not children but full grown men. they deserved what they got relative to their level of knowledge.

  • While you've sourced that holier people get judged more strictly, can you source that this is the reason God reacted the way He did in this instance? – Double AA Jun 17 '16 at 5:22
  • @DoubleAA just an inference based on severity of punishment for merely complaining – ray Jun 17 '16 at 7:14
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According to Rabbi Soloveitchik, the reason God responded so badly is because eating meat is actually something God abhors very much, and therefore tries to put as many restrictions on it as possible. According to Soloveitchik, one of the reasons that God flooded the world was because mankind started eating meat, which is why God allows eating meat after the flood, so that way He wouldn't have to destroy the world again. So in actuality, what happened in the desert makes a lot of sense when compared God's response to the generation of Noach.

R. Soloveitchik’s severe stance is based on the story of Kivrot ha-Ta’avah (the graves of those who craved [meat]), the tragic account of Benei Yisrael’s lust for animal flesh. In the story of Kivrot ha-Ta’avah, Benei Yisrael protest to God and Moshe, demanding meat instead of the manna that God had been supplying. Moshe prays to God and, although God is angry with the people, He gives them the meat. Once satiated, the people die as a result of a plague that God sends. In his explanation of this story, R. Soloveitchik says that God admonished Israel for their dissatisfaction with their vegetarian diet of manna and their need to have meat. Deuteronomy 12:20, in discussing God’s commandments for when Benei Yisrael will live in the land of Israel, supports this point: “And you shall say: ‘I will eat flesh’, because your soul desires to eat flesh; you may eat flesh, after all the desire of your soul.” The Torah uses the word “desire” to characterize man’s hunger for meat; it is the dominating physical desire. Hence, according to R. Soloveitchik, vegetarianism should be practiced, yet man, too desirous for meat, refuses to stop eating animal flesh.

In explaining his point, R. Soloveitchik cites Sanhedrin 59b, which says that Adam did not eat meat, and it was only when Noah entered the biblical narrative that meat was permitted. Commenting on this, R. Soloveitchik states that the natural reality of Adam’s distaste for meat became the ethical norm with the phrase, “and it was so.” R. Soloveitchik explains, “Thus the verse concludes ‘and it was so’: the ethical norm became a behavior pattern, an expression of the ontic order.” The ethical imperative against eating meat becomes the physical and biological reality of man’s world—no one would eat meat. Yet, as the history of man continues through dor ha-mabbul (the generation of the flood), man begins to overreach himself, to take what is not his, including the life of another living being. Thus, God eventually gives in and allows Noah to eat meat: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.” R. Soloveitchik explains, “At once the Torah began to regulate the ‘murder’ of other lives, to restrict its practice by complicating the procedure… ‘[the Torah succumbed to the Evil Inclination by allowing for certain things, hence] the Torah provided for human passions: [reasoning that] it is better for Israel to eat the flesh of animals that are ritually slaughtered than the flesh of animals which have perished [i.e. nevelot (the dead unslaughtered carcass of an animal)]’ (Kiddushin 21b-22a).” R. Soloveitchik explains that the Torah allows man to fulfill his desire for meat, but out of a care for animal life, it complicated the process of acquiring meat.

Source: http://www.kolhamevaser.com/2012/02/vegetarianism-and-judaism-the-ravs-radical-view/

Based on this view, your example of a spoiled child wanting more than he deserves doesn't quite fit. It's much more closer to having your child suddenly demand that you murder your family dog to feed him even though you've already given him food to live off of. It's a much more disturbing reality. Since we've been consuming meat since the flood, it's hard for us to picture it being such a big deal, but as Rav Soloveitchik points out, God has been remarkably consistent regarding His dislike of people eating animals.

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    A weak answer WADR. If I provided lots of stuff to my kid, who then suddenly demanded to eat the family dog also, so I should kill it, I still wouldn't kill my kid. – msh210 Jun 16 '16 at 21:22
  • i'm not saying that ipso facto it's appropriate to kill your kid. My answer was to illustrate that it's not the same as your kid asking for an extra toy. There's a lot more at play going on, and the stakes always tend to run high when it comes to God's response to us eating meat – Aaron Jun 16 '16 at 21:58

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