Friday, June 9, 2023

Piles of Quail

In this week's parsha, we have the episode of the quail that fell outside of the camp. The pasuk (11:32) recounts that the one who gathered the least gathered 10 mounds of quail. The GR”A has a fascinating calculation to figure out how this number was reached. It is assumed that the one who gathered the most would have been the one whose tent was at the outskirts of the camp because the quail fell outside the camp. The one who gathered the least would be the one whose tent was the furthest inside the camp. The gemara (Berachos 54b) tells us that the camp was 3 parsa by 3 parsa. Therefore, someone who lived on the very inside of the camp would have to walk three parsa in order to get a pile of quail, one and a half there and one and a half back. The gemara (Pesachim 93b) also tells us that a regular man can walk 10 parsaos in a day (not including the night). According to the pesukim, the quail was collected for a day, a night and a day, a total of one and a half days. This would give the average man enough time to walk 30 parsaos - ten the first day, ten during the night, and ten again the next day. This would allow one who lived in the centre of the camp to travel back and forth ten times. That is how the pasuk arrived at this number.


  1. While the calculation is interesting, I have a few objections:
    1. No one actually lived in the mishkan in the middle. (so they could have collected a bit more)
    2. This gives no time for stopping to gather, dropping off, or resting. (so they collected less)
    3. What about someone who walked slower and/or carried less than average? (so they collected even less)
    4. This assumes that even those in the middle of the camp were able to collect from the closest point, when in fact the people at the periphery probably would have started there. The verse says that the birds were actually spread out an entire day’s walk in each direction. (so they collected much less… unless they didn’t even collect the majority of the birds and because they were piled so deep just outside the camp)