Beshalach - So Much For Miracles!
By Rabbi Aron Tendler
The Splitting of the Yam Suff was the crowning display of Hashem's judicial
mastery over nature and humanity. The Medresh tells us that Hashem's
presence at that event was so manifest that the lowliest servant understood
G-d's reality more profoundly than the greatest prophets. The aftermath of
that event is recorded in the Torah as the moment when the entire nation
believed in Hashem's absolute control over the universe and in His unique
love for the Jew. They celebrated this awareness of G-d with a spontaneous
burst of Shira - song.
Shira is the language of the angels as they proclaim G-d's mastery over
heaven and earth. The children of Yakov, having witnessed the hand of G-d,
were catapulted to the level of the angels themselves. As Dovid Hamelech
said in Psalm 35:10, "All my being proclaims that there is no one like
Hashem!" Every individual present at the parting of the sea had no choice
but to declare from the depths of their being the absolute certainty that
there is a G-d who cares enough to reward and punish.
Following the singing of the Shira, something happened. The Torah detailed
a series of confrontations between the Bnai Yisroel, Moshe, and Hashem over
issues of basic survival. Three days after the Jews witnessed G-d's
manifest presence, they came to Marah. They were tired and thirsty and the
water was bitter. They complained to Moshe and Moshe, as per Hashem's
instructions, made the water sweet.
They traveled 10 miles into the Sinai Desert and complained that they were
starving, and that they had been better off in Mitzrayim! Hashem informed
Moshe, who in turn informed Aharon, who told the Jews that they would have
meat that night and Manna in the morning! As a sign of their trust in
Hashem that He would continue to provide for them, they were not to save
Manna from day to day. Some of the people didn't listen and Moshe got angry
at their obvious lack of trust in G-d who had taken them out of bondage and
sent them food from the skies.
The Jews traveled to Rephidim, 10 miles west of Mt. Sinai (Jebal Musa), and
complained about thirst. The rallying call of "Why did you bring us out of
Egypt?" grated harshly on Moshe's expectations that they would be more
trusting and appreciative; so he turned to Hashem for help. Hashem
instructed Moshe to strike a rock and bring forth water to quench their
thirst. Moshe facilitated this miracle and named the place Ma'aseh
U'merivah- Testing and Argument, to commemorate the distrust that the
people had exhibited.
Why were the Jews distrusting of Hashem? What happened to that overwhelming
moment of absolute clarity when the entire nation stood in awe and wonder
at the manifest reality of the creator who rules His universe on the
principles of rewarding good and punishing evil? Why didn't the Jews
believe that the same G-d who could perform ten plagues and split the sea
could also provide them with food and water?
Trust is a by product of constancy. The more constant and consistent G-d's
manifest caring, the greater the trust on the part of the people. When
Hashem wistfully reflected back on the Exodus, he does so through the words
of Yirmiah (2:2) "I remember the kindness of your youth when you trustingly
followed me into a barren land." Hashem recognized that 210 years of
slavery are not wiped away with one, or even ten, miracles. In fact, the
more the miracles the less realistic our understanding of Hashem. Hashem is
far more present in the normal workings of nature than He is in His
momentary displays of miraculous intervention. The educated and discerning
observer recognizes the true manifest presence of G-d in the every day
constancy of the norm. The fact that the Bnai Yisroel demanded constant
reassurance demonstrated how tenuous their trust in Hashem was. The
performance of miracles generated a need for more and more miraculous
demonstrations and proofs of G-d's caring and love.
At any point in the early history of the Jews, the nation could have made a
quantum leap of faith and embraced the reality of Hashem's caring presence.
However, it would have required a leap of faith that the Bnai Yisroel
weren't prepared to take. We, who have the expanse of history as the
foundation of our faith, have been gifted with over 3,000 years of proof of
Hashem's loving constancy. If only we would permit ourselves to acknowledge
the proof, we too would be able to sing Shira.
Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi Aron Tendler
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation,
Valley Village, CA.