Love Is Not All You Need

Rabbi Reuven Mann

This week’s Parsha, Beshalach, recounts one of the greatest miracles in history, the splitting of the Red Sea, in which the Egyptian Expeditionary force was destroyed and the Jewish people were saved.  One can imagine the feeling of exhilaration experienced by the Jews.  A short time before they were gripped with panic sensing imminent doom.  Many lost their composure and castigated Moshe for bringing them out of Egypt in order to “die in the wilderness.”  Moshe exhorted them to retain their composure in order to experience the salvation of Hashem who would do battle for them.,  Now the great miracle had occurred, “and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the banks of the sea, and the nation feared the Lord and they believed in Hashem and his servant Moshe.”

How long does inspiration last?  The Torah is brutally honest in depicting the behavior of the Jews.  “They went three days and did not find water.”  The people began to contend with Moshe and Aaron.  The euphoric feeling of salvation evaporated after only three days of travel.  We would have expected greater forbearance and a more respectful attitude toward the leaders who had extricated them from bondage and sustained them in their moment of peril.  Yet that was not the case.  “They went three days and did not find water.” Basic human nature asserted itself and they did not rise above mundane emotions.  What is the lesson that we can draw from this?

On the Midrashic level, the Rabbis teach that the water represents Torah, and the meaning is that they went three days without study.  It was this negligence, they assert, that caused them to complain.  As a result of this episode Moshe ordained public Torah reading on Shabbat, Monday and Thursday, so that the Jews would not go three days without Torah.

There are profound lessons in this rabbinic interpretation.  We are all searching for miracles and experience profound emotions of joy when we are fortunate to merit one.  Sometimes we bargain with Hashem saying, “If you only do such and such for me I will become a different person.”  We may be entirely sincere at the moment but should be on guard against self deception.  Powerful emotional experiences do not, of themselves, effectuate lasting change.  The reason lies within our psychological makeup.  All feelings no matter how powerful are bound to wear off.  People who are madly in love are convinced that they will feel this way forever and are amazed to discover how mistaken they were.

Our Parsha teaches that love, however intense, is a good beginning but it is not enough.  True and lasting love and growth in a relationship can only come about through steady, ongoing efforts.  The same applies to every area of our lives. In order to achieve meaningful spiritual growth one must be committed to a program of study, good deeds and honest introspection.  Religious inspiration is a wonderful thing but it must be accompanied by diligent effort in order to enable us to achieve our full potential. The Rabbis are teaching us that had the Jews been immersed in Torah study their entire perspective would have been different and they would have handled the problem of water in a more appropriate manner.  Torah infuses a person with wisdom and optimism and adds a unique dimension to his Emunah in Hashem.  May we merit to achieve it.

Shabbat Shalom.