Thursday, February 09, 2006

Parshas Beshalach

In this week’s Parshah, the pursuing Egyptian army is drowned in the Sea and their bodies washed up on shore. The Jews seeing the corpses on the beach realize G-d’s strong arm has rescued them from Egypt. They burst into a spontaneous, exultant, ecstatic song in which they clearly recognize G-d’s power in the world. Within three days, when the drinking water at Mara proves less than potable, they begin to complain. They complain; they do not ask G-d or Moshe for good water.

What happened in the three days that their perfect faith in the hand of G-d had so ebbed? Perhaps the answer lies in the ecstatic state of the faithful singers at the sea. Ecstasy is an unsustainable state. No one has the energy to be perpetually ecstatic. Providing for life’s mundane necessities does not permit perpetual ecstasy. Finding G-d in the less than exultant, less than ecstatic matrix of life is truly the challenge to our forebearers and to us.

In our current society, perhaps we too often seek the exultant and ecstatic as the goal of our spirituality. Such a state, though pleasant and not to be rejected completely, must be approached with care. Such a state can easily veer into a self-serving, self-congratulator condition (which Rav Soloveitchik referred to as “aesthetic/hedonistic”) that is more about us than it is about G-d or our relationship to Him. Once the ecstasy passes we might well find ourselves without G-d and G-d find Himself without us.

It seems it is within the “grind” of daily life we best seek to meet G-d. As the Jews in the desert, gathered manna every day they were reminded of how their sustenance came from G-d (see: ). In pursuing G-d’s prescribed routine for their daily life in the desert, they developed the habit of living in a relationship to G-d. So to should we, I would suggest, find our relationship to G-d by living in the pattern He has established through His halacha.

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