But wait. Consider how G-d and Moshe respond to the whining people. At Marah, G-d shows Moshe a tree, which when tossed into the water, sweetens it. The hungry nation is satiated with Manna in the morning and quail in the evening. Moshe strikes the rock at Horeb, which then produces water. And after the unprovoked and unwarranted attack by Amalek, Israel, led by Joshua and empowered by G-d, is successful in defending themselves, provided Moshe demonstrably keeps his arms aloft. All of the crises in Beshalach are resolved in Israel’s favor. They are not the hallmarks of an ungrateful nation. They are instead the growing pains of a newly minted people, struggling to shed their slave mentality. Going forward, they will certainly have their moments, but these are not among them. They still have much to learn. Hunger, thirst, and vulnerability are normal occurrences in the course of daily life. If Israel wants to avoid them, they have to process a few new realities. Marah teaches them that you can’t just wait for G-d to do everything for you. Sometimes you need to cut down a tree. The Manna which fed them for 40 years in the wilderness taught Israel that G-d doesn’t just take care of the big miracles like plagues and splitting seas. The Almighty also cares about the little daily things that we need to survive. At Horeb, water (a metaphor for Torah) appears when Moshe follows G-d’s directions. Remember what’s going to happen when he tries that trick later on in the Torah, but doesn’t read the instructions when he does so. The assault from Amalek is in direct response to the attitude displayed by Israel, not the validity of their complaints. The miraculous delivery is a way of reminding Israel that G-d always has their back; they only need to maintain their faith.
The Children of Israel are, at this point, like a child. Learning, growing, testing, experimenting, and maturing. Their long journey begins here, and continues, in us, to this day.Rabbi/Hazzan David B. Sislen