Rabbi Yonah Burr
Beshalach: Prayer or Demand?
וירב העם עם משה ויאמרו תנו לנו מים ונשתה ויאמר להם משה מה תריבון עמדי מה תנסון את ד'
The people contended with Moshe and they said, “Give us water that we may drink!” Moshe said to them, “why do you contend with me? Why do you test Hashem?
Rav Yeruchem Levovitz zt”l asks a penetrating question. Why does Moshe accuse Bnei Yisroel of arguing and testing Hashem? All they did was ask for water! Where do we see any kind of ‘testing’ of Hashem or squabbling here?
Moreover, the Ramban in Parshas Va’eschanan says a startling thing;
Don’t test Hashem the way you did back at Massah, where you challenged Hashem by asking, "Are You really in our midst, or not? If You perform miracles for us and bring us success in our service of You, and satisfy us with bread, then we will follow Your Torah." Clearly, these were their thoughts. If they see that Hashem gives them water miraculously, they would follow Him. If not, they would forsake Him. And this was considered a great sin, for after it was proven to them through the signs and wonders that Moshe was indeed the Prophet of Hashem and that Hashem speaks through him, it is no longer appropriate to test or challenge Him. We should no longer serve Hashem out of doubt or with requests for proof, for Hashem does not want us to serve Him for reward, and sometimes indeed it will be difficult to serve Him, but we should accept it all as righteous and just.
The Ramban is highlighting the difference between a prayer and a demand.
Prayer is a supplication. We pour out our souls and discuss our concerns with Hashem. We put our total trust in Him, as a young child would in a parent. Whatever Hashem decides is for the good. This attitude itself transforms us, making us worthy and deserving of Hashem’s mercy.
A demand is different. It carries an implicit message that I am only serving You because I hope You will fulfill my needs. My service is no longer truly for the King, but for the reward. By behaving as only a means to an end, such a service ceases to be a service at all.
Prayer builds our relationship with Hashem, while demands challenge Him to show whether He is "here or not!"
We are given the opportunity to stand before the King of Kings and place our trust in Him. Let’s use this gift to the fullest, transforming ourselves in the process!
Have a wonderful Shabbos!