The highlight of this week’s parasha is the Jewish nation’s crossing of the Sea of Reeds. Behind them was the Egyptian army, ready to either kill them or bring them back to slavery. In front of them was a body of water. They had nowhere to turn, so they turned to G-d. Moses cries out and is answered, why are you crying out to Me, speak to the children of Israel and travel forth. This was not a time for prayer, rather it was a time for faith.
The Jews stepped into the sea and it miraculously split, allowing them to cross on dry land. It was at this extraordinary event that the Talmud tells us that “a maidservant on the sea saw more than Ezekiel ben Buzzi envisioned in his prophecy.” The joy that the Jews felt as they walked away from their Egyptian aggressors was palpable. They broke out into song, a song which we recite every morning in our prayers, the Az Yashir.
The spiritual level of the Jewish nation at this point in history was at its peak. One would think that after this event the Jews would be faithful servants to G-d. They would obey His mitzvoth unquestionably and have complete devotion to Him. We see, though, that this state did not last for very long.
We read immediately after the crossing of the sea that the Jews complained to G-d for water. G-d answered them. They then complained for food. G-d rained manna from the sky. We were given one rule: don’t leave any leftovers. We were told to have faith in G-d and to trust that each day there would be a new supply so there would be no need for storing more than one day’s worth. We didn’t fully believe, we kept more food than our daily allowance.
On the surface, this does not seem to be a blazing transgression. No one was put to death or punished, but it does speak volumes regarding the Jewish nation’s level of faith. One would think that after seeing the ten plagues that G-d wrought on the Egyptians, then the splitting of the sea, and the miraculous supply of food and drink in the desert, that the Jews would have ironclad faith in the Creator. But they didn’t. They didn’t even trust in G-d enough to believe that He would be able to supply food for one more day, so they took matters into their own hands and kept extra for themselves. Where did their faith go?
The answer can be summed up by way of an analogy. It is similar to someone who takes a small cup and holds it under a waterfall. One would think that with the incredible pressure of the waterfall the cup would be filled to the top. The opposite is true, of course, as soon as the water enters into the cup it spills out. So too with the Jewish people after they left Egypt. Their capacity for faith was at an all-time low. All they knew was servitude. When they saw the miraculous events they were impressed, but those feelings quickly wore off.
Many people are looking for spirituality in their lives. We often look for a moment that will change our lives, an “Aha” moment. The lesson that we can derive from the Jews in the desert is that if we truly want to live spiritual lives, it’s not enough to sit back and revel in G-d’s miracles. Rather, it is a two way street. The more we work towards our connection with the Almighty, the more we will feel His Presence and the stronger our faith will be.