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Beshallach – A thought for the week by Mike Lewis

On Monday it will be Tu B’Shvat, the New Year for Trees when we move away from winter.

The Sedra, this shabbat, is also a movement, the crossing of the sea, and we recite Shira Ha’ yam, the Song at the Sea. Rabbi Hertz in his Chumash writes:

Whenever Israel has faith in God and in the Divine Mission of Moses, Israel sings

However, we also complained:

Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us to die in the desert?

Even after the sea is split, we complained; complaints about the bitter waters, the lack of food and later on about the lack of water. Each time there is a response; the pillar of fire, the separation of the sea, the sweetening of the water, the provision of water by striking the rock and manna for food. So where was our faith?

After three days in the desert, at Marah, where the waters were sweetened, something strange happens:

The people complained against Moses, saying, what we shall drink. The Lord instructed him concerning a piece of wood, which he cast into the water.

A better translation is that “God taught him a tree”.  Nachmanides relates the tree to the Torah which we were still to receive.

R. Eliezer taught:

What does the Torah mean by they travelled three days in the wilderness and found no water?  It was because they were without words of Torah for three days that they rebelled. Therefore, the Elders and the Prophets decreed that Israel should read from the Torah on Shabbat, Monday and Thursday.

Faith helps us to sweeten our lives.

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