Shabbat Beshalah 5783

As soon as the Israelites emerge from the miracle at the Sea of Reeds unscathed, they face an entirely new set of challenges. Firstly, they journey three days from a body of water unable to find potable water. The waters they do find are bitter–hence the place is called Marah. Next, they enter the Wilderness of Sin (a place name, not a place of sin), and begin to panic about the high unlikelihood of finding food to supplement the finite provisions that they brought out of Egypt.
Thirst and hunger–these are two serious challenges. In each case, God provides a solution, but interestingly, each is announced as a form of test. Consider this verse that solves the water crisis: “So [Moshe] called out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water and the water became sweet. There [God] made for them a fixed rule; there they were put to the test” (Exodus 15:25).
And then there’s the introduction to manna: “The LORD said to Moshe: ‘I will rain down bread for you from the sky, and the people shall go out and gather each day that day’s portion–that I may thus test them, to see whether they will follow My instructions or not” (16:5).
Are these simple tests of obedience, or are the Israelites being evaluated for something more specific? Apparently, at Marah, they were given “a fixed rule.” What laws were introduced to them there, in a episode that predates the Revelation at Sinai?
On Shabbat morning, I’ll unpack these stories to show that the same tests that God administered to Israel in the wilderness measure our devotion to communal welfare to this very day.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise
Candle lighting: 4:56 PM
Torah Reading: Exodus 13:17-17:17
Haftarah: Judges 4:4-5:31