Parshas Beshalach

Parshas Beshalach:
From Sweet Spoils to Bitter Waters:
Lessons of Marrah
 By: Rav Yehonosan Dovid Hool,
Bais HaVaad Yerushalayim





Immediately after Klal Yisroel sang the Great Shirah by the Yam Suf, the Torah tells us that “Moshe made the people travel, and they went for three days in the wilderness, but found no water.” They arrived at a place called Marrah, where there was a pool of water, but the water was putrid. The Jewish People complained to Moshe, and Hashem instructed Moshe to cast some wood into the water, at which point the water miraculously became sweet. Interestingly, the Torah tells us that at this juncture the Jewish people were instructed in the Mitzvos of Mishpat, financial and monetary Halacha.
The Jewish people were traveling to Har Sinai, where they were to receive the entire Torah, yet Mishpat was considered so important that it couldn’t wait – they received instruction how to run their financial affairs according to the Torah even before they got to Sinai.
Why first the test at the bitter waters of Marrah? What lesson did the Jewish people learn there that prepared them for the acceptance of the Torah’s Mishpat?
In the answer to this lies the root of a Torah Jew’s entire worldview.
Rashi tells us that the phrase “Moshe made the people travel,” implies that they were forced to travel against their will. After the Egyptians drowned at the Yam Suf, the Jewish people plundered the fabulous riches that the Egyptian army had brought with them. Some of them just couldn’t get enough, and when the time came to move on, they wanted to stay behind and continue collecting the booty, to the point that Moshe had to force them to start moving.

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What happened next? They traveled for three days in the desert, and could not find water. No water? Drink the gold and silver that you plundered!
The lesson was as clear as it was immediate. All the riches in the world aren’t going to help you one iota without the aid of Hashem. No water? Cry out to the Almighty! The gold and silver won’t save you.
In order to be ready to accept the Torah’s laws of Mishpat, you first have to appreciate that everything is from Hashem, and without Him you can get nowhere in life. Once your faith is solid, you will be keen to learn the master plan for your finances that will guide you in your economic endeavors.  This guidance is crucial because in order to discern the approach that you need to take in your efforts to make a living, you must know the parameters of what the Torah teaches is yours and what is not.


Everyone knows that Parnassah – livelihood – comes from Heaven, but equall
y everyone recognizes that one has to make one’s own efforts – Hishtadlus. How much Hishtadlus need a person make and what form should it take? The answer depends on the individual and his circumstances, but at least one thing is clear – all efforts must be within the parameters of Halachah and the Torah’s laws of Mishpat, because otherwise you can’t expect them to bear fruit.
A dishonest religious Jew is an oxymoron. How can one profess belief and faith in Hashem if at the same time one tries to earn money dishonestly? Could it be that money that Hashem forbids you from taking will bring you blessing or success? Let’s face it: In essence, one who is dishonest in his financial dealings declares that he doesn’t really believe in Hashem.
This was the lesson of Marrah. First, one has to contemplate and consider that everything is from Hashem, and without Him, amassing riches will bring no blessing.
Once one has integrated this crucial concept into his daily life, he will be ready to receive the laws of Mishpat. He will be prepared to learn how the Torah expects him to behave in the
marketplace, and will appreciate the futility in trying to “slip one past” the Master of the Universe. He will act as the Torah requires, and will receive the blessings that the Torah promises for those who are loyal to the Torah’s teachings in every aspect of their lives.
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