FedTalks Transcript Parshas Beshalach
There is an astounding medrash in this week’s parsha, based on the possuk in Tehillim ‘vayamru al yam b’yam suf’ – we, klal Yisroel, rebelled against Hashem, at the sea, in the Yam Suf.
The question is, what is the tautology, the repetition? “We rebelled by the sea, in the Yam Suf”. And the medrash reveals to us that even as we were walking through the sea on dry land, with all the myriad of miracles and nissim that accompanied this, the revelation of Hashem and His power, which then led to the magnificent shiroh. But even as we walked through, we turned, or some of us at least turned to the others and we did what we’re so good at. We kvetched, we complained, b’Yam Suf, in the Yam Suf, and we said – “it’s muddy. There is mud under our feet.” Even as we are being saved in the most incredible, miraculous way, it is possible to kvetch – almost a national sport. We’re known for it. We’re good at complaining, but can it be turned around? Can some good come of complaining?
The Chasam Sofer points out, based on the mishnah in Pirkei Ovos ‘lo omar odom l’chaveiro’ – nobody ever turned round to their friend at the time of Pesach, Shavuos and Succos, when Yerusholayim was cramped and it would have been natural to complain ‘lo omar odom l’chaveiro’, nobody ever turned round and said, ‘tzar li hamokom’, I’m feeling constrained. I’m feeling restricted, because even though we were, but we were together, we were in basking in the presence of the Shechinoh. We were focused, we were purposeful, we were b’simcha and therefore nobody cared. It’s all about the attitude.
I discovered an incredible report which I didn’t even know existed. The United Nations gives out, releases a report, the ‘world happiness report’, and the amazing thing is that Israel ranks fifth for healthy longevity and the 11th in the world for happiness. A nation that is beset and surrounded by enemies that just want to push it into the sea. We have every reason to kvetch and yet we’re 11th happiest in the world. It has long been recognized that there is a direct correlation, a relationship, between optimism and pessimism and mortality.
Numerous studies I’ll just cite you one, the Mayo Clinic, rated 839 patients between 1962 and 1965 and followed it up with them thirty years later, the 723 that were still alive, they reported there was a 19 percent increase in risk of mortality, which and I quote, came about as a result of pessimism. Pessimism is significantly associated with mortality. What does this tell us? What does this mean? It means that everybody in life has a reason to kvetch if we’re looking for it, but if we use that and we challenge ourselves instead to grow, then it can be amazing.
When we are put together in Eretz Yisroel, by the Beis Hamikdosh, and instead of kvetching we challenge, under difficult and adverse circumstances, we challenge ourselves and indeed others to grow, then that’s not a bad thing. It’s an amazing thing and we can become absolutely great.