Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshas Beshalach- From bitter to sweet

This weeks parsha contains the famous story of Mara and the bitter waters. For those who don’t know the story: After the destruction of the Egyptians in the sea, the people complain of a shortage of water when they are encamped at Marah. The waters at Marah are bitter and cannot be drunk. Moshe prays to Hashem and is shown a tree to throw into the waters to sweeten them. (Shemos ch 15 v23-25)

Now there are a few views on this incident. One view is that it is as mundane as it sounds- the waters were bitter and Hashem showed Moshe a tree whose effect was to sweeten the waters and make them drinkable. There is another explanation- the trees natural effect was to actually make water bitter, nor was it native to the region Thus Hashem making it have the effect to sweeten the waters was a miracle within a miracle.

However, a third explanation is offered by the Kli Yakar. Here the explanation is much more allegorical: the bitter waters refer to the life of the Jews in Egypt and the low spiritual level to which the Jews had sunk. The tree being referred to is the Torah- as it is referred to “Eitz Chaim hi”- “It is a tree of life” Thus the Torah continues in v25: “There He made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there He proved them”. Exactly what these ordinances were, are debated by the various Rishonim- but what is certain is that at Marah Hashem started to teach the Jews. Here he started the process of raising us from the lowest levels of impurity, to the highest levels of purity, at which point we would be able to receive the Torah.

So we should for ourselves- look at this story and understand its implications for us all. We can look back over our lives and see a descent to levels of impurity, or just maybe a failure to take an opportunity to grow. But that is not important- what is important is that no matter how bitter our past, no matter how few opportunities we have taken, the waters can be sweetened, Torah can lift us to purity, there is nothing that cannot be sweetened. So, let us learn from the tree that was put there to sweeten the waters and put the tree into the waters of our own lives.

Note:  Cpmments, corrections, additional insights are always welcome.  Since I’m still relatively new at this- any feedback on content, appropriateness,or wishes for specific material are always welcome as well.


February 1, 2009 - Posted by | Parshah, Torah | , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: