Complaining About Miracles

As soon as the people leave Egypt, they begin to complain. Moses, frustrated, asks “Why do you try the Lord?” The word for “try” is “tenasun” which is Hebrew has the same two letters, nun and samach, that spell ‘nes’ or miracle. Moses is reminding the people that they just experienced an astounding miracle, and they are turning it into a complaint.

In our own day we understand the dynamic. When the pandemic first broke out people prayed for a vaccine. Miraculously the vaccines were created and suddenly, the distribution, availability – indeed the very speed with which they were created – has for some turned a miracle into a grievance. It seems as if there is no beneficence and no blessing that human beings will not quarrel about.

Whether it is the end of slavery, the creation of Israel, or the gifts of modern medicine, perhaps we are not programmed to simply be thankful. Every nes, miracle, turns into a nisayon, trial. But thank God the miracles keep coming, and we may yet learn to turn from grumbling to gratitude.

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.