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01/14/2022 12:37:19 PM


My first full time job was many years ago, before I had moved to Montreal, when I was teaching at the State University of New York. In my first year, a student came into my office with a complaint about her mark for the first semester. She felt it was too low!!

I tried to explain how I marked fairly, and I had given the mark she deserved.  She was furious with me, and said she was going to report me to the dean. I told her that I don’t mind if she complains to the dean, because my marking system was more than fair, and I would be happy to justify my mark to the dean. [In my 7 years of teaching at that university, only one other person ever complained about a mark.]

What bothered me at the time about this student was that previously, I had helped her with some difficult problems. I couldn’t understand how she had the nerve to complain so aggressively, without any sense of gratitude. I expressed my frustration to a senior colleague, who explained to me: “Menahem, you’re new here. Remember this rule: it’s not ‘I appreciate all that you have done for me,’ but rather, ‘what have you done for me LATELY.’

A classic example of this attitude appears in this week’s parasha, where the people complained to Moshe.  They complained that they didn’t like the taste of the water. BUT JUST BEFORE, IN THE PREVIOUS VERSES, IN THE SAME ALIYA, WE READ OF THE GREAT MIRACLE OF THE SPLITTING OF THE WATER OF THE RED SEA. Soon after that, they said that they wish they had died in Egypt, where they had plenty of food [what??!!  they were slaves. Of course, the Egyptians had to feed them; otherwise, they would not have been able to work!] They complained that Moshe and Aaron took them out of Egypt, in order to kill them of hunger in the desert!

So HaSHem gave the people manna to eat. And yet, also as related in this week’s parasha, they arrived at a place called Refidim, where they complained to Moshe about the WATER, to the extent that Moshe was afraid they would stone him to death.

Thus, we see that the theme of water in this week’s parasha illustrates what my senior colleague had told me many years ago: people ask, “what have you done for me LATELY!"

As we approach tu bishvat, and we eat the fruits that remind us of the Land of Israel, let us give thanks to HaShem that we have merited to see the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty over Erets Yisrael, despite all its problems, and we pray for the welfare of the land and its inhabitants.

Shabbat shaloM

Sat, June 25 2022 26 Sivan 5782