Alumni Corner: Shua Stern
Contemplating the Complaints
When the Jews left Mitzrayim, they were complaining they needed some water to drink. Instead of simply davening and asking for water, they decided to take another approach. They would test Hashem. They said וַיִּקְרָא֙ שֵׁ֣ם הַמָּק֔וֹם מַסָּ֖ה וּמְרִיבָ֑ה עַל־רִ֣יב | בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל וְעַ֨ל נַסֹּתָ֤ם אֶת־ד' לֵאמֹ֔ר הֲיֵ֧שׁ ד' בְּקִרְבֵּ֖נוּ אִם־אָֽיִן:
"He named the place Massah [testing] and Meribah [quarreling] because of the quarrel of the children of Israel and because of their testing the Lord, saying, Is the Lord in our midst or not?" (17:7)
They said if Hashem gives us water, then it means Hashem is taking care of us. If not, then Hashem truly isn't watching out for us. Immediately afterwards, we find the following posuk: וַיָּבֹ֖א עֲמָלֵ֑ק וַיִּלָּ֥חֶם עִם־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בִּרְפִידִֽם:
"Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim."
Rashi explains why these two topics are next to each other. The connection between Moshe hitting the rock for water and the attack of Amalek indicates something to us. Rashi explains that Hashem is responding, "I am constantly between you and your given context. I am always with you, no matter what, and I am consistently ready to provide you with all your needs... And then you go and ask 'Is Hashem with us?!' Therefore, because you said that and didn't believe I was around, I will leave you momentarily and a dog will come to bite you." Therefore, Amalek came to attack immediately after Bnei Yisroel asked this question. A parable is brought of a father carrying his child on his shoulders and walking around. Everytime the child wants something, the father leans down and gets it for him. After so many times of this happening, the child bumps into someone, and asks "Have you seen my father"? The father, bewildered at his son's question, throws him off his shoulders. Now exposed to the surrounding world, a dog comes by and bites the kid, who doesn't have his father's shoulders to protect him. Hashem was telling us, "After all this time I was providing for all your needs, you were literally riding on my shoudlers, and then you ask where I am!?" Rashi makes it seem like Amalek's attach was punishment. However, let's try to understand this on a deeper level. At that time, they had just past the Yam Suf and found themselves amidst the dangers of the desert. There was 100% clarity in the world of Hashem's existence and power. Everyone had a fear of Hashem, all the nations of the world experienced the splitting of the sea and had heard about the wondrous miracles of the makkos raining down on Mitzrayim. Amalek came along and cooled off the waters for the rest of the world by being the first to jump into the boiling bathtub. Amaelk may have gotten burned as a result, but the waters now just were not as untouchable as they had once been. Amalek created a safek, a doubt, in the power of the Jewish people and Hashem. It created a safek to the nations of the world, but what's even worse, is that it created a safek within the Jewish people if Hashem was really there protecting them at every step. It's also interesting to note that Amalek has the same gematria value as safek. Perhaps the semichus, or the juxtaposition, of the parshiyos is relaying this powerful message to us. As long as the Jews have a clear picture of Hashem being in control, then nothing can harm us. Once they start questioning Hashem's control and power, they brought the safek into themselves, by asking "hayesh Hashem bikirbeinu" - Is Hashem in our midst? it's not necessarily a punishment that they received, but a natural consequence of allowing safek into our lives brought along with it the attack of Amalek upon ourselves. The same way we live our life, we need to have this clarity of Hashem. This clarity protects us. If a guy is a religious guy and knows eating pig is forbidden, the yetzer won't bother him about it. It's clear as day. No questions asked. It might cross his mind every once in a while, but it's not a real challenge that fights him. But something that is not as clear cut, for example, somoene speaking lashon hara or your chavrusa not showing up for morning seder and you're pretty tired, all of a sudden, the yetzer comes in and attacks you. We all have to work on getting clarity in all aspects of our avodas Hashem. Go over your daily schedule and being to see Hashem's Hand coordinating all the small details in our lives. May all the clarity that we receive from increased emunah and bitachon relieve us from the safek, and leave no room for any opportunity for Amalek to close in.
~ Shua Stern is an alumni from Yeshivas Lev Zion, and is from Lakewood, NJ. He is currently learning in the Mirr Yeshiva in Yerushalayim.