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Self Realization or Transformation?

Friday, 26 January, 2018 - 10:14 am

Having miraculously crossed the Sea of Reeds into which the evil oppressors of the Jewish People were drowned, the Jewish People were faced with a new challenge. Bitter Water. What to do? A beating sun in the middle of the Sinai Dessert, nowhere to turn, the only water to be found is bitter and undrinkable.

G‑d tells Moses to throw a piece of wood into the water that will transform its taste. And so it was, “. . . he threw it into the water and the water became sweetened”. (Exodus 15:25)

What magical wood was this? Our Sages differ on this matter. The Midrash explains that this was oleander – one of the most bitter, and to certain animals, even poisonous plants. Yet according to the Zohar, the kabalistic work of ‘light’, this was a branch from the Tree of Life.

Here’s the question: Since this entire episode was miraculous in nature, for one piece of wood could not possibly transform the taste of millions of gallons of water (the amount necessary to satiate an entire nation), why the need to discuss the type of wood. What significance is there to this mysterious wood? And what can this teach us?

Each of us at one point or other has had to face ‘bitter waters’; the forces of evil, both from within as well and from without, that attempt to veer us off track It is here that G‑d, in His infinite wisdom, provides the secret to transforming and sweetening the bitterness and evil. Throw in a piece of wood.

According to the Midrash this means self realization: Make the bitter water “realize” how bad it is to be bitter, so that of its own accord, they become sweet. Show the evil how bad it is, so that it no longer wishes to be evil. Throw in a some oleander.

Yet the Zohar and Jewish Mysticism take a different approach – transformation:  One branch of life; one ray of light; one kind word, have the capability to transform a bitter flavor into a sweet one. Revealing a much greater good makes evil pale away.

“One candle can dispel an entire room of darkness.” – Let’s do a Mitzvah today and transform the world.

Shabbat Shalom,

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