Rav Mordechai Eliyahu zt”l told a story as follows: There was a certain intellectual who happened to step on a nail. He went to the doctor to get the nail removed but then the doctor noticed an infection from the rust. He prescribed a medication and sent the man to the pharmacy. As the pharmacist was preparing the prescription the man said, “I am not one of those ‘religious’ people whom whatever is told to them, they accept it immediately. Rather, I only do what I understand. You must explain to me what the medicine contains and what the purpose is of each element”. The pharmacist smiled and said, “This takes many years of studying. You should take the medicine and trust the doctor’s knowledge that this is the right medication for you”. The man stubbornly responded, “I will not take the medication until I know exactly what the goal of each component is!” The pharmacist got angry and said, “If you don’t want to take it, don’t take it. I won’t get paid but you’re putting your life at risk. I repeat: you are not able to understand these things right now. I suggest you take the medicine and after that, study medicine”.
“We can learn that since Hashem is the ruler of the world, Who commands mitzvot, it is upon us to accept them even if we don’t understand them.”
Most of you probably thought that this man was out of his mind. He wants to know how medicine works but misses the point that it takes many years to figure out. What he should have done was take the medicine right away. After all, the doctor knows best right?
A scene in this week’s parasha teaches that our relationship with Hashem works the same way. After the splitting of the sea, Bnei Yisrael “went for a three-day period in the Wilderness, but they did not find water. They arrived at Marah, but they could not drink the waters of Marah because they were bitter” (Shemot 15:22-23). To fix the problem, Moshe then “cried out to Hashem, and Hashem showed him a tree; he threw it into the water and the water became sweet” (ibid. 25). This doesn’t make any sense. How is it possible that throwing a branch into bitter water makes the water sweet? It defies nature. Nevertheless, Bnei Yisrael saw this amazing miracle and stood in awe of this act. Rav Eliyahu explains that Moshe then told Bnei Yisrael, “Just as you see Hashem rules this world and does as He wishes, even though we don’t understand His ways, so too you should know that there are some mitzvot in the Torah that we don’t understand at all, even in the simplest sense. But we can learn that since Hashem is the ruler of the world, Who commands mitzvot, it is upon us to accept them even if we don’t understand them. This is just like the tree that sweetened the water. It made no sense but it worked.
We can now understand the lesson of the story. The laws of the Torah “shall be health to your navel, and marrow to your bones” (Mishlei 3:8). There are laws we don’t understand, but we should fulfill them as commanded because God is the “Healer of all flesh” and does everything though kindness and mercy. This was the level Bnei Yisrael were at when they said “Na’aseh V’nishma”, we will first perform the mitzvot, and then understand them. In other words, instead of spending our entire lives trying to figure out why a particular medicine works, we should simply do what is asked and trust that everything will be ok, because after all, Hashem knows best right?