And Not a Drop to Drink: Beshallach 2022

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Is it easy to recognize when we’ve complained too much? Is it possible to develop an internal filter to stop ourselves before we’ve worn out our welcome? Or do we need to rely on hints from the people we’re complaining to?

It doesn’t take long before the newly-liberated Israelites petition Moses to quench their thirst:

The Pitch: “The people quarreled with Moses. ‘Give us water to drink,’ they said; and Moses replied to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you try the Lord?’” – Exodus 17:2

Swing #1: “The first half of the [Torah] portion was dominated by God’s nes [miracle], his triumphant miracle of the parting of the sea. The second half takes place in the shadow of the people’s trying behavior (nastam) when they don’t get what they want. When God doesn’t supply a nes, the people respond with nastam. If you haven’t got a triumph, you’re going to get a trial.” – Avraham Burg, Very Near To You: Human Readings of the Torah

Swing #2: “They transcended the norm. The ‘norm’ (in such a situation) is for a man to grumble in his house for the ‘benefit’ of his younger son, but here, they vented their anger at the highest. Thus, ‘And the people quarreled (with Moses)’. They transcended the norm.” – Mekhilta d’Rabbi Yishmael

Swing #3: “They spoke to Moses and Aaron. There was no need to mention Aaron, for I have already explained that Moses spoke to Israel only through Aaron.” – Ibn Ezra

Late-Inning Questions: Are our commentators more concerned with the fact that the Israelites complain, or the way they complain? Is it strange that the people only complain to God once during slavery (Exodus 2:23), and then can’t seem to stop whining once they are liberated? Is complaining a contagious habit?

On-Deck at TBT: We have two collection barrels near our coat room. One will continue to collect non-perishable food to be donated to local food pantries. There is always a need. The second barrel will be used to collect items for our new Afghan neighbors. With our new partnership with Jewish Family Service, items will be collected regularly. To see the complete list of what is needed to welcome the evacuees to Buffalo, click here. Gift cards are valued, but please leave those with a member of the office staff, not in the barrel.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of water, I’m one of those rare baseball fans who thinks that every stadium (yes, even Fenway Park and Wrigley Field) should install a retractable roof to prevent rain delays and postponements. Sure, these unpredictable stoppages might be part of the game’s traditional “charm”, but for the amount of money fans shell out for a game, it’s only fair for the owners to ensure the contest will take place as scheduled. 

Shabbat Shalom!