In Kivrot Hata’avah, Bnei Yisrael experienced such a severe punishment for desiring meat, that they name the place that the plague occurred ““the graves of the desire.” However, this was not the first time that Klal Yisrael dinned by craving Slav, quail. In fact, already in Parashat BeShalach, Klal Yisrael received Slav (Shemot 16:13). So why was there a “craving” for meat that they already had?
The Ba’al Haturim (ibid) simply answers that the Slav arrived when Bnei Yisrael first received the Manna and then stopped. This explains why Klal Yisrael asked for Slav again, but seems weak because in the complaint for meat, Bnei Yisrael were reminiscing about all the delicacies they had in Egypt. However, if the Ba’al Haturim was correct that Klal Yisrael already had Slav, why did they point to Mitrayim, and why not point to when they had Slav initially? Additionally, why did the Slav stop coming?
Ramban (Shemot 16:12) answers that while it is true that Slav did fall in Parashat BeSalach and did not cease; nevertheless, only the righteous were privileged to enjoy this delicacy. However, this it would seem strange that Hashem would discriminate like this.
Abarbanel solves this issue by offering an entirely new understanding of what the Manna and the Slav represent. Initially in Shemot, immediately after Klal Yisrael left Egypt, they cried out for food because it was a true necessity. Hashem responded by both giving the Slav, and then the Manna. However, the Slav was a one time deal to demonstrate Hashem’s power and his willingness to help His nation. Therefore, it was only necessary for Hashem to send out the Slav once to demonstrate this and to satisfy their desires, and Hashem sent it at night in a less showy matter to stress the unimportance of the Slav.
On the other hand, the Manna was a true gift from Hashem to Bnei Yisrael. Hashem stresses “Hineni Mamtir Lachem Lechem min Hashamiyim” “Behold I am giving to you food from the Heavens”(Shemot 16:4). Abarbanel points out that Hashem specifically said from the heavens to stress that it was a gift that did not have to harvested in the ground like wheat and barley and was preprocessed like a rain, a gift on a silver platter given with a shining face to the Jewish people. Unlike the Slav which was given at night, the Manna was given respectfully in the morning. The hope was that once Klal Yisrael would experience the Manna they would never have a feel or want for more.
Even with this marvelous gift, Klal Yisrael once again asked for the Slav. They rejected the food that was given with such benevolence and good will and instead asked for food of Ta’avah, passion. The complainers did not ask for the original Slav because it was negligible, what was important was the message, not the substance itself. One can just feel the disappointment that was felt. How low they descended, after receiving the Torah and the Manna, to then again ask for food of passion.
In our own lives, day in and day out we receive gifts from Hashem on silver platters and with a benevolent hand. It behooves us to be a Tikkun, an atonement, for Klal Yisrael’s mistake and to graciously accept what we have and realize who it is coming from.