Still in the midst of a discussion of the manna that the Jewish people ate in the desert, the Gemara quotes Rabbi Elazar HaModa’i as claiming that when the manna fell for the Jewish people it piled 60 amot (cubits) high. This teaching was rejected out-of-hand by Rabbi Tarfon, who admonished Rabbi Elazar HaModa’i to refrain from making such exaggerated claims. In response, Rabbi Elazar HaModa’i presented his logic:
In the Flood story, the Torah records that the waters reached 15 cubits above the tops of the mountains (see Bereshit 7:20).
God is more generous when offering reward than he is when presenting punishment (Rashi points out that there is a 500:1 ratio of positive to negative, based on the passages describing the 2000-generation reward that God promises to those who love Him and follow His commandments, in contrast with the four-generation punishment with which evil people are threatened – see Shmot 20:5-6).
In the Flood story, we are told that the windows of heaven opened (Bereshit 7:11), while regarding the manna we learn that “the doors of heaven” were opened (Tehillim 78:23-24).
Based on this, the Gemara calculates: The area of how many windows are in a door? Four. A door is equivalent to four windows in size. One adds another four for the second door, as the verse uses the plural “doors,” which implies that there were two doors. This equals the area of eight windows. If the depth of water in the Flood is based on the phrase “windows of heaven,” implying two windows, then the manna fell at a rate four times that of the water of the Flood. Since the water of the Flood reached a depth of fifteen cubits, it turns out that the manna that fell for the Jewish people was sixty cubits high, i.e. four times as high.
Rabbi Elazar HaModa’i was one of the Sages in the generation after the destruction of the Second Temple. He was, apparently, one of the youngest students of Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai and he lived a long life. The vast majority of his statements that appear in the Talmud are aggadic in nature. We find many times that Rabban Gamliel – who enjoyed his homilies – would comment that “we still need Moda’i”, i.e. his commentary and observations.
As is clear from his name, Rabbi Elazar HaModa’i was a resident of Modi’in. Tradition has it that he was Bar Kokhba’s uncle and that he died during the siege of Beitar.