As I prepared to assist my youngest son to prepare a D’var Torah for his bar mitzvah, I asked him what he wanted to speak about? He looked at me, like most 12-year-olds would do, that look that says this man is crazy, and responded – candy. Figuring he had me at that answer, he prepared to get up and go play. I said to him if you can find away to merge in candy to a meaningful lesson on Torah, I am all in.
Studying together, we came across an article by Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, the Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminar. Rabbi Schorsch observed that almost each time the Israelites encountered a miracle, it was followed, almost immediately by the Israelite murmurings against Moses, Aaron, or God. Interspersed throughout the story of the Exodus from Egypt are the Israelite experiencing a miracle and then quickly murmuring with their latest complaint. Miracles and Murmuring – my son had found his candy M&Ms
This week Torah portion Beshalach is one of those occasions of M&M between the Israelites and God. The Israelites exuberantly marching away from Egypt, only to find the Egyptian army in hot pursuit. Trapped with the sea in front of them and the Egyptians behind, the murmuring begins. But wait, there is a different plan than annihilation in the dessert. Moses lefts his hand and the sea splits and wall of water on both sides and the Israelite march through. The Egyptians advance on the Israelites and the sea comes back and the Egyptians are destroyed in the sea. The Israelites see the bodies of the Egyptian on the shore as the march into dessert a free people.
So, excited so thankful they sing a song of praise to God, including singing Who is like you of God…. Led by Miriam the women go out and sing and dance in a joyous prayer. The Ten Plagues, the splitting of the sea and a road to freedom, that is it – why would anyone need to complain. But, right after the Song at the Sea, what happens? The Israelite start complaining about no water to drink. And the complaints get louder. No one thought, a God who can split a sea, will find water for the people to drink. That is not how the Israelite think and they complain and water is found (not because of the complaints).
Over the last two years, we have been slaves to a plague. Our lives have changed and we have, from time to time been isolated. We have been in a wilderness and it is easy to mumumur and complain. Enslaved we long for our freedom from this pandemic.
We often do not see the miracles that have been produced. A vaccine (yet we murmur I have to get three shots), drugs that can help saves lives and reduce the severity. Masks and hand sanitizers to help us stay safe (do I really need to wear this mask it is uncomfortable). The pandemic has brought hardships and people have died, and it has impacted our daily lives and, in many cases, our livelihood. There is much to rightfully murmurmur about and you would not be wrong.
There is a lesson in this week’s Torah portion, which should not get lost during these unique times that we have been facing over the last two years, that lesson is to also see the miracles. Not to be so blinded by the problems that challenges us daily, but to also take time to see and be thankful for the miracles. To celebrate, when we can, those miracles that help us and I think it is also alright, to pray for more miracles so that we can get out of the situations we face. To find the & between M&M. It is never always just good or just bad, though it can feel that way. It should be about finding the balance. The pandemic has brought about significant mental health concerns, and we have to find ways to stay positive and help others to remain positive. To be an aspersing between miracles and murmuring.
This week’s portion ends with the attach of Amalek against the Israelites. Moses was positioned on hill and as long as hands were raised the Israelites prevailed. When he put his hands down, Amalek prevails. He put is arms on stones to keep them raised and the Israelites prevailed. The Torah says “ Inscribe in a document as a reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua, I will blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven”
It is our time to have the strength to keep our hands raised to battle the pandemic and then together we will blot out the memory of COVID from under haven and truly be able to appreciate the miracles of our daily lives.