In this week’s Torah portion, בשלח (Beshalach), the Israelites were wandering through the desert after the mass drowning of the Egyptians at the Red Sea. After three days of traveling, the Israelites were unable to find a source of water. They finally came across the waters of מרה (Marah). Despite this discovery, the תורה (Torah) teaches us that the Hebrews were unable to drink the water because it was too bitter.
יָּבֹאוּ מָרָתָה וְלֹא יָכְלוּ לִשְׁתֹּת מַיִם מִמָּרָה כִּי מָרִים הֵם—[The Israelites] arrived at מרה, but they were unable to drink the water from מרה because it was bitter. (Exodus 15:23).
The Kotzker Rebbe, who lived in Poland during the 16th and 17th centuries, explains that the words “כִּי מָרִים הֵם” (because it was bitter), are actually referring to the attitudes of the people and not the waters of מרה. He expands on his interpretation and says that if a person has an overall pessimistic view on life, that person will perceive his or her life experiences negatively.
When somebody constantly complains about the events of life, he/she will eventually become quick to identify the negative aspects of an event and be unable to realize the positive elements of that event. However, when someone has a positive outlook on life, that person will continue to perceive the events in his/her life in the most positive light.
In summary, one of the lessons of this פרשה (Torah portion) is that when we are faced with negative situations in life, we should maintain a positive perspective in order to overcome those negative challenges, and be an optimist rather than a “bitter” pessimist.
By: Noah Dobin (10th grade)