Off the Pulpit: Complaining About Miracles
By RABBI DAVID WOLPE
As soon as the people leave Egypt, they begin to complain. Moses, frustrated, asks “Why do you try the Lord?” The word for “try” is “tenasun” which is Hebrew has the same two letters, nun and samach, that spell “nes” or miracle. Moses is reminding the people that they just experienced an astounding miracle, and they are turning it into a complaint.
In our own day we understand the dynamic. When the pandemic first broke out people prayed for a vaccine. Miraculously the vaccines were created and suddenly, the distribution, availability – indeed the very speed with which they were created – has for some turned a miracle into a grievance. It seems as if there is no beneficence and no blessing that human beings will not quarrel about.
Whether it is the end of slavery, the creation of Israel, or the gifts of modern medicine, perhaps we are not programmed to simply be thankful. Every nes, miracle, turns into a nisayon, trial. But thank God the miracles keep coming, and we may yet learn to turn from grumbling to gratitude.
Rabbi David Wolpe is the senior rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.