Torah Portion: Beshalach Exodus 13:17-17:16
HafTorah: Judges 4:4-5:31
Tonight we look at a Torah section that is packed with spiritual lessons. We can’t cover them all but I would like to look at a couple. The people complain four times in this portion. The second time is at the bitter waters of Marah. Do any of you remember where you have heard this word before? Ruth’s Mother in law said to call her Marah after her husband and sons had died.
To begin our discussion I want to tell you a short Chassidic story. Two men traveled to a small town in Russia to visit their rabbi. They had come from Odessa. The first man went in to speak with the rabbi and the rabbi asked him to tell him how the Jews of Odessa were doing spiritually? Were they studying Torah, praying with faith and living lives devoted to G-d? He gave a glowing report and received many blessings from the rabbi. The second man went in to visit with the rabbi. He was asked the same questions. He painted a very different picture, a bleak picture of how the people lacked spiritual refinement and idled away their time. When he finished with his report the rabbi signaled that the meeting was over. Disturbed that he had not received a blessing he complained to the rabbi. He said, my friend gave you a romanticized report about Odessa and he got a blessing. I gave you a brutal yet honest account but received no blessing. The rabbi responded, “Do you think I don’t know the spiritual state of affairs in Odessa? What I was really asking was, what is your spiritual state of affairs in Odessa?” I tell you this long story to bring us to a clearer understanding of what happened at Marah.
They had traveled three days and came to this spring only to find water that was undrinkable to them. They complained against Moses saying, “What shall we drink?” Maybe they had gone awhile without any personal time with G-d. How does that affect us? The tree can be likened also to G-d’s word or in the New Testament framework, the cross. How can Paul say in Philippians 2:14, “Do all things without complaining and later in Philippians 3:1, “Rejoice in the L-rd and later in Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the L-rd always.” How is this possible? We have to come to the place of staying connected with G-d at all times. We must come to the place of seeing the world and our situation or problems through different eyes. We all look at the world but what we see depends on who we are and where we are in our walk with G-d. As children of G-d we must keep a clear head about what is around us and in us. Only then can we rejoice always.
Now I want to lastly look at another complaint that was about food. Here we have the story of manna. I asked you what in your opinion was the most important lesson from this story. One is that G-d provides for us our daily bread. We are to have our priorities straight here also. G-d provides. This will take much of the pressure off of us. G-d was teaching Israel here. He is the ultimate source of their daily bread. Yeshua, in Matthew 6:11 is getting the same idea over to us. He teaches us to not hoard but to share with the needy and to do so generously with a glad heart. On a spiritual level, in John 6:41, Yeshua compares Himself to manna. We must feed on Him each day. So both from the story of bitter water and manna we learn to keep our perspective G-d centered and take time each day to eat the bread of life. Without that we can become thirsty and bitter people, of which the world has enough.