02 Feb 2023 Beshalach: The One Who Sees The Good
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Beshalach, many events of significance are recorded. Having just left Egypt, the Israelites are miraculously saved at the Sea of Reeds when the Egyptians drown in the churning waters, while Am Yisrael crosses safely to the other side. In response to this salvation, the people sing the Song of the Sea, which we recite each day in the Pesudei d’Zimrah of Shachris. Other events of note are the people thirsting for water, the manna falling for the first time, and the attack of Amalek against the newly freed slaves.
The pasuk tells us that after the nation journeyed from the Sea of Reeds, וַיֵּלְכוּ שְׁלֹשֶׁת–יָמִים בַּמִּדְבָּר, וְלֹא–מָצְאוּ מָיִם – and they traveled three days in the desert and they did not find water; וַיָּבֹאוּ מָרָתָה—וְלֹא יָכְלוּ לִשְׁתֹּת מַיִם מִמָּרָה, כִּי מָרִים הֵם; עַל–כֵּן קָרָא–שְׁמָהּ, מָרָה – and they came to Marah, and they could not drink the water from Marah, because they were bitter, therefore its name was called Marah; וַיִּלֹּנוּ הָעָם עַל–מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר, מַה–נִּשְׁתֶּה, and the nation complained against Moshe, saying: What will we drink? (Shemos 15:22-24).
Rav Yaakov Bender shlita writes, “From the moment the nation left Egypt until it emerged from the sea, the people witnessed a string of miracles – a nation of slaves transformed and uplifted into the realm of princes, a chosen nation.
“As they traveled in the desert, the people thirsted for water. It was a seemingly reasonable complaint – a person needs water to live, and in fact, HKB”H provided sweet waters after they complained.
“Later in the parsha, as they traveled to Refidim, again there was ‘no water to drink.’ They complained a second time, and Moshe got upset. ‘Just a little more, and they will stone me!’ he called out to Hashem (17:4). The RS”O doesn’t seem to agree with Moshe’s perspective, and He instructs Moshe how to get water for the people. ‘לָמָּה הוֹצֵאתָ לַעַז עַל בָּנַי – Why do you slander My children?’ Hashem asks Moshe (Rashi to 17:5). Hashem doesn’t just defend the nation, He expresses His love for them in calling them בָּנַי, My children.
“But the truth is, wasn’t Moshe correct. How could a nation that saw so many miracles doubt that their Creator would provide for them? He had taken them out, carried them on eagle’s wings above their enemies, surrounded them by Clouds of Glory, and created paths for them through a stormy sea… Surely, He would give them water to drink! And yet, they complained. Why wasn’t Moshe’s perspective valid?” (Rav Yaakov Bender on Chumash v.2, p.119-120).
Rav Bender answers that instead of focusing on the complaints of the nation, Hashem was focusing on the positive aspects of the nation. The lesson to Moshe – and to all of us – is to strive to find the aspect of good in every negative situation. True, now they complained, but before that, they went for three long days without water, and without complaining. This is what the RS”O chose to focus on.
Rav Bender writes, “The Bnei Yisrael traveled for three days with no water. Three days! That is a long time to go uncomplainingly and Hashem saw this. He did not focus on the complaint, but on the long journey that came before it.
“This was His reaction, and His lesson to us… The Tanna d’Vei Eliyahu lists attributes of HKB”H, and it includes, among them, the fact that Hashem is samei’ach b’chelko, happy with His lot (keviyachol). The Vilna Gaon asked his talmidim what sort of praise this is. ‘What does it mean – that the One Who created and owns all of creation is satisfied with His lot?’ The Gaon answered as follows: ‘It means that HKB”H rejoices with His cheilek, His nation that is His portion, and derives the very same pleasure from the avodah of simple people as He did from the tzadikim of generations past. He will bring Moshiach to a generation serving Him in their way, fighting their challenges, trying to find Him in such a blanket of darkness; He will rejoice in their hard work just as He did with the Torah of the great ones who came before.’
“Hashem has an ayin tovah, a good eye (keviyachol), seeing what we have done right and He accepts it and loves us for it. For three long, hot days, the people walked without water and did not complain, and so, they are ‘בָּנַי,’ My children, beloved and dear” (ibid, p.120-121).
The pasuk tells us: “מִֽי־הָ֖אִישׁ הֶֽחָפֵ֣ץ חַיִּ֑ים, אֹ֘הֵ֥ב יָ֜מִ֗ים? לִרְא֥וֹת טֽוֹב – Who is the man who desires life, who loves days? The one who sees good” (Ps.34:13).
If HKB”H sees the good in a nation of complainers, how much more so must we strive to see the good and focus on the positive in each and every person, and each and every situation, around us. For as Chazal teach us (Shabbos 133b and Sotah 14a) we have a halachic imperative of v’halachta b’drachav – to emulate and ‘walk’ in the ways of Hashem. Just as He is compassionate and does chessed, so too, must we.
“There was an organization that delivered food to the patients and their families in one of the Brooklyn hospitals, relying on the eruv to bring the food packages on Shabbos. Someone asked Rav Dovid Feinstein zt’l (1929-2020) if it was permitted to give money to the organization for that purpose. [Rav Moshe zt’l, opposed the eruv in Brooklyn, as did his son, Rav Dovid zt’l.]
“His face turned red and his voice rose a notch. ‘For chessed!? For chessed, then avadeh, of course you can give them money!’ he said. ‘They are doing a wonderful thing in bringing food to people, and they surely have poskim they are relying on!’” (Reb Dovid, Artscroll, p.129).
Though there is much confusion in the world around us, may we always strive to see past the flaws, and focus on, embrace and love, all that is good.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,