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When B'nai Yisra'el arrived at Marah, there was no drinkable water. Their complaint was "simple" - "What will we drink?" (Shemot 15:24). No mention about animals.

In Shemot 16:3, they get a bit more specific by saying, "...to kill this entire congregation in famine." They didn't mentioned their animals. Did they still have animal food around, that they weren't concerned about this, yet?

When they arrive at Refidim, they specify, "Why did you bring us here ... to kill my children and my cattle in thirst?" (Shemot 17:3) Why mention the animals, here, and why only regarding water? (Possibility - Did they feed mahn to the animals?)

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    When they asked for the mon, the implication is they had water, which could mean there was grass around for the animals. – Heshy Jan 26 '18 at 15:18
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Rav Hirsch says that Beshalach 17:1

The entire community of the children of Israel journeyed from the desert of Sin to their travels by the mandate of the Lord. They encamped in Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink.

They were not yet without water, but they looked at the country, and saw that there was not there sufficient water for such a number of people, and so, that they would be short of water.

As a result:

וַיָּ֤רֶב הָעָם֙ עִם־משֶׁ֔ה וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ תְּנוּ־לָ֥נוּ מַ֖יִם וְנִשְׁתֶּ֑ה וַיֹּ֤אמֶר לָהֶם֙ משֶׁ֔ה מַה־תְּרִיבוּן֙ עִמָּדִ֔י מַה־תְּנַסּ֖וּן אֶת־יְהֹוָֽה:

Rav Hirsch points out the difference in language.

וירב is not תלונה as ויללן in v. 3 (from the meaning of לון) to mean seeking relief from some privation or distress that one is beginning to feel, but וירב is one has a right, as in the dispute over the wells (Genesis XXVI,20). Here they wechiefley used for establishing a supposed or real claim to something to which re not yet making any reproaches, did not refer to their requirements, but, as a justified claim, demanded water. Where we camp, there must be water.

Rav Hirsch points out that this was a manufactured complaint which led to the punishment because, while if Moshe had led them there they would have been justified, since Hashem brought them, the complaint was not justified.

The people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and they said, Why have you brought us up from Egypt to make me and my children and my livestock die of thirst?.

Now that they actually felt thirst**, they panicked and thought that they were actually being denied water. Rav Hirsch points out that had they not complained, they would have gotten to Choraiv in one stage and would have been given the well. Instead, the complaints caused a delay and the feelings of thirst, and the water was at Choraiv anyway.


My own idea is from the way Rav Hirsch explains the difference in terms in the two verses.

They added the animals because they thought (as a result of feeling thirst) that they needed to bring up innocent animals as part of the complaint in order to get water.

  • "They added the animals because they thought (as a result of feeling thirst) that they needed to bring up innocent animals as part of the complaint in order to get water." -that seems to be exactly what Netziv is saying as well: באמת לא היו הבנים והמקנה צמאים כאשר יבואר בסמוך (פסוק ו׳), אלא כדי להגדיל התלונה. Also, could you add the quote from Rav Hirsch where he says this answer? – רבות מחשבות Jan 26 '18 at 17:34
  • Really good! The emphasis on the difference in language, spec. וירב, I think, adds a main part to appreciating the rest of the problem. – DanF Jan 26 '18 at 18:11
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Netziv to Shemos 17:3 notes that this was just a lie, and that like the other times, they did not need water for their animals:

ואת בני ואת מקני – באמת לא היו הבנים והמקנה צמאים כאשר יבואר בסמוך (פסוק ו׳), אלא כדי להגדיל התלונה. או מפני הבושה, שאם יאמרו שרק המה צמאים יהא ניכר שהוא מפני החטא, על כן אמרו כי גם בניהם ומקניהם צמאים.

(Note that Ramban disagrees with this.)

  • +1. Thank you. What does he mean by "מפני החטא"? Which sin? – DanF Jan 26 '18 at 15:31
  • @Dan added the link, so you can look it up if you want, but basically I think it's something like this: he says because they complained falsely, Hashem made them actually be starving to teach them a lesson. Hence, the Cheit was complaining falsely at first. – רבות מחשבות Jan 26 '18 at 15:39

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