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The Torah teaches us that how we view the world is heavily influenced by how we feel within.

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinical Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is “Matot-Maasei” (Numbers 30:2 –36:13) and with it we conclude the Book of Numbers. As you might have guessed, it is a double Torah portion. The first reading, Matot, discusses the laws of vows, the laws of koshering, eating utensils, and much more.

The second reading, Masei, focuses primarily on reviewing the 42 different places that the Jewish people stopped in during their 40 years of wandering in the desert as they made their way to the Land of Israel. We’re told that the name of every place contains within it a hidden message or lesson. It is this latter idea that I would like to focus on in this week’s article.

One of the places that the Jewish people encamped in was called “Marah.” You might recall that we were first introduced to Marah in the Book of Exodus when the Jewish people arrived there soon after leaving Egypt. When they got there they found that the water was bitter, as it says, “but they could not drink the water because it was bitter.” This is why the place was named “Marah,” which means “bitter” in Hebrew.

A number of commentators suggest that maybe it wasn’t the waters that were bitter, but rather, it was really the people who were bitter! They might have been bitter due to their new surroundings, the uncertainty of the desert, tiredness, or for many other possible reasons – even legitimate ones!

When a person is “out of his comfort zone,” when things aren’t going as expected or planned, and especially when one has no idea what the future holds, one becomes irritable, grouchy, and . . . “bitter.”

When one is bitter, everything in one’s surroundings seems bitter as well. According to this approach, the water at Marah was truly fine and drinkable. Even if it wasn’t Evian or Perrier, it was free water! But when you’re bitter you can always find something to complain about.

The water wasn’t bitter. The people were. Attitude is everything.

The stay at Marah may also teach us how to cheer up when we are bitter. After the people complained that the water was bitter, God told Moses to throw “a tree” into the water. After he did so, the waters were sweet and drinkable. The sages teach us that the tree represents the Torah, as it says, “The Torah is the tree of life.” (Proverbs 3:17)

In order to make our lives as “sweet” and as “drinkable” as possible, we have to turn to the Torah for guidance on how to live. When we live by the Torah’s values and commandments, life becomes more meaningful, and a more meaningful life is a happy life. Furthermore, Torah offers us much advice, teachings, and remedies for those days when we feel “bitter,” making them that much easier to cope with.

A Torah life is a happy life.

For more of Rabbi Ari Enkin’s insights on this week’s Torah reading, click on the links below:

https:// unitedwithisrael.org/living-torah-family-takes-precedence-over-money/

https://unitedwithisrael.org/living-torah-vows-and-promises-must-be-taken-seriously/

https://unitedwithisrael.org/living-torah-keeping-your-word/

https://unitedwithisrael.org/doing-your-part/

https://unitedwithisrael.org/living-torah-in-every-challenge-search-for-a-blessing/

https://unitedwithisrael.org/journey-to-israel/

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