Parshat BeShalach

Parshat Beshalach

People are walking like story-books. We each have a story of who we are based on the many experiences we encounter that leave marks on us, that shape us in some way. Knowing about a person’s experiences allows you to understand more about what their life was/is like. However, learning about a person’s reaction to those circumstances, teaches a lot more about the actual person. After Bnei Yisrael undergoes the miracle of Kriyat Yam Suf, their response is to immediately thank Hakadosh Baruch Hu. In ‘Az Yashir’, the Jewish people burst out in song and praise after witnessing Hashem’s strength, and out of thankfulness that He saved them from the Mitzrim. I decided to take the opportunity to focus on the middah of Hakaras Hatov and what it teaches us about the Jewish people.

After Leah Imeunu has her fourth child, she names him “Yehudah”, (“Odeh Et Hashem”), out of thankfulness to Hashem. She is the first character in all of Tanach to publicly thank Hakadosh Baruch Hu for the kindness He has provided her with. Learning about Leah’s reaction teaches us about the person she was, she introduces the middah of hakarat katov and consequently we named after this shevet, we are the ‘Yehudim’. Bnei Yisrael’s response to Kriyat Yam Suf reminded me of this. Their reaction to this experience demonstrated this middah instilled in Bnei Yisrael still remains within them, even throughout all those years in Galut. For me this was an amazing parallel! We are called after Yehudah, who was named out of thankfulness, and our first response as a united Jewish nation was to give gratitude! The reaction of these two instances in Tanach teaches us that acknowledging the good that’s been done to us is in our very nature.

However, the examples of Yehudah’s birth and geulat mitzrayim have another thing in common, aside from the response they receive. Both examples are treated with gratitude, yet they’re both examples of big miracles. The ability to give birth and witnessing a large body of water split in two are both examples of experiences we cannot understand unless we actually experience it. Perhaps that is why it received such a strong response in Tanach, because both are such miraculous events. And so this section of the Parsha caused me to realize another fact about human nature; it’s easy to acknowledge the big events in our lives. After experiencing something truly monumental, it’s almost impossible not acknowledge.

But what about the events in our lives we take for granted? The ability to wake up, that our body functions healthily, having food in our fridges? If as Jews we’re supposed to always be thankful,
why don’t we have similar responses to Bnei Yisrael and Leah each day?

After much thought, I concluded that the problem does not lie with the system, but rather its users. Judaism is structured in such a way that focuses on all areas. Upon waking up, we say ‘Modeh Ani’, we thank Hashem for health during prayer and after every time we use the restroom. We say a blessing before and after eating food. There is no aspect of our lives that isn’t centered on the acknowledgment of Hashem. The fault lies within us, we as people treat that which is always granted to us as mundane and expected. That is why we don’t feel as passionately as Leah or Bnei Yisrael did, because we treat big and constant miracles on different levels. Even though both are miracles nonetheless and both deserve attention.

May Bnei Yisrael’s response to the miracle of Kriyat Yam Suf remind us of whom we are named for and with that be able to be thankful to Hashem for the big and constant miracles He reforms for us.

Student studying in MMY