Parshas B'Shalach - A Challenge

By Reb Eliezer Bulka

Posted on 01/27/18

Mazal Tov to my niece and nephew, Rochel Leah and Yehoshua Greenwald, on the birth of their daughter, Tzirel Nechama. Mazal Tov to the Greenwalds, Shoneks and Bulkas and the great great grandmother, Oma Jakobovits.

Mazal Tov as well to the Davidi family on the engagement of their son Dovid to Shifra Aharanoff of Queens and on the birth of a granddaughter, Yocheved, to Yosef & Shira Shliachtzibur. Mazal Tov to the Davidis and the Perlmans and, once again, Oma Jakobovits.

The second to last of the many episodes that make up this week's parsha is the confrontation at Masah uMerivah. The double name seems somewhat anomalous. Indeed, the pasuk (17:7) does explain that there were two were aspects to this episode but more explanation is needed to understand the nature of the two.

B'nei Yisrael quarreled with Moshe saying (17:3), "Give us water so that we may drink!" Moshe counters "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test HaShem?" Ibn Ezra explains that there were two distinct groups involved in this episode. The first group were truly in need of water and this led to their altercation with Moshe. However, there was another group that still had water which they brought from Alush (their previous stop as per Bemidbar 33:14). They wanted to challenge HaShem to see if He would provide water. To the first group, which had at least some semblance of a legitimate complaint, Moshe answered "Why do you quarrel with me?" To the second, he charged, "Why do you test HaShem?"

The site is therefore aptly named Masah uMerivah after the two separate aspects of the confrontation. However, notes Ibn Ezra, the second group surely angered HaShem more than the first. Thus, in Sefer Devarim (6:17) we are warned "Do not challenge HaShem as you did at Masah." Merivah is not mentioned.