Divrei Torah


In this week’s Parsha, there is a difficult issue that comes up time and time again – no less than seven times. G-d brought the Jewish people out from Egypt. They left Egypt on the first day of Pesach, arriving at the Red Sea on the sixth day of Pesach. That night – the seventh night of Pesach - they crossed the Red Sea on dry land. The next day, G-d returned the Red Sea to its normal state, the Egyptian army was sunk – literally – and the Jews sang a song of thanks to G-d – the “Az Yashir” that we say daily.

As the Egyptian army approached, the Jews express worry to Moshe, “Are there not enough graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the desert? . . . We would have been better off serving as slaves in Egypt than dying in the desert.” So, G-d split the Red Sea and drowned the Egyptian army.

They then travelled three days with no water. Finally, they found water, but it was bitter. So, here comes another complaint to Moshe. G-d showed Moshe a tree. He threw it into the water and the water miraculously became sweetened.

After that they moved on and one month after the Exodus, their food supply from Egypt ran dry. So, we have the next complaint against Moshe and Aharon, “It would have been better to die in Egypt . . .” In response, G-d sent them meat in the evening and manna in the morning with instructions: the people can go out to the fields and bring home manna. No matter how much anybody picks from the field, they will have enough for their household, Then, G-d gave two instructions: No leftovers and no manna on Shabbos. Instead, you will have double on Friday. So, what did some of the people do? They left over manna until the morning and went searching on Shabbos for manna. Afterwards, the people complain again about lack of water and G-d provides it for them.

Now, the Jewish people had just witnessed ten miraculous plagues that G-d smote the Egyptians, bringing the Pharaoh and the Egyptians to their knees. Why would they express any doubt about G-d’s plan? Did they really think that He could not knock off the vaunted Egyptian army that was pursuing them? And then after the splitting of the sea, the Jewish people were still worried that the Egyptians had survived and would come up from the sea on the other side? Later on, did they really think that G-d would not provide them with water or food in the desert? After He did provide for them and they once again questioned G-d. After witnessing miracle after miracle and rescue after rescue, how could any doubt about their rescue even come to their minds?

The Rabbis teach us that it wasn’t everybody who complained. The main culprits were the Eruv Rav – the group of people from other nations who attached themselves to the Jewish people. They saw the Jews on the upward trend and the Egyptians on the free fall. The Eruv Rav did not necessarily become Jews because they felt it in their hearts that the Jews are G-d’s Chosen People. Rather, they were opportunistic. Unfortunately, they were the source of many of the complaints and difficulties that haunted the Jewish people from the time they left Egypt. Their main goal was not to be a part of the Jewish people and help the nation develop.  They were people who looked to cause trouble and they certainly did.

Rabbi Keller – the Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe – offered another suggestion. He explained that the generation of the Exodus – although they were the greatest generation to ever walk the face of this earth – were still human beings. The Torah is called “The Book of Man.” The Torah describes man in detail – with all his greatness, potential, abilities, pettiness, and fallibility. What it boils down to is that the Torah teaches us that man is a human being. Every person has challenges in life. Our test from G-d is to see whether we can overcome those challenges. G-d gave the generation of the desert challenges to overcome. Unfortunately, they did not always pass the test. 

Through both these explanations, we can get a picture of a lesson that perhaps the Torah is teaching us. Almost every organization has trouble makers. There are people who look for faults – they are not interested in building the organization. Their goal is to bring ruin. It could be the greatest invention since sliced bread, but there is this problem and that problem. These trouble makers are never happy unless something is wrong and then they say “I told you so. 

The Torah’s approach is the exact opposite. When something is not right, the Torah makes note of that also. But, the Torah’s approach is “judge another person with righteousness.” Give others the benefit of the doubt. In the words of King David, “See in the good of Jerusalem.” It is easy to find negative about Jerusalem and about the Jewish people. But there is so much good. So, why emphasize what is wrong. Take a positive approach to life and emphasize the good. Look for the good . . . in people . . . in organizations . . . in the one Jewish country in the world.

One exercise that my wife does with other people is that she shows them a piece of paper with a black dot in the middle. Then, she asks the people, “what do you see”? 99% of the people will say that they see a black dot. But, what about the white on the rest of the paper? There is so much more white space, so why emphasize the tiny black dot? The same holds true for the Jewish people. True, there are black dots – we have problems too. However, there is so much more good than bad among the Jewish people and the State of Israel. So, appreciate the good.

The same is true in life. G-d has blessed us with so much good. Why concentrate on what we view as not good?

Perhaps that is a lesson the Torah wants to teach us through all these events. Yes, there were difficulties, but, look at all the positive that came from these events.