Bitter is Better – A Bittersweet Lesson
How amazing! To sweeten bitter water, you’d probably throw in something sweet, like adding sugar to strong, bitter coffee. But HaShem is not at all bound by the laws of nature or logic. After all, He is the Creator! Even something bitter can be a sweetener – if and when HaShem wants. In this episode of the “Bitter Sweet Water,” HaShem teaches Moshe and Bnei Yisrael this lesson. The Midrash calls this a “miracle within a miracle!”
And for this reason, comments the great sage, the Ramban, that the Torah says וַיוֹרֵהוּ ה’ עֵץ – “ – And HaShem taught him a tree,” and not וַיַרְאֵהוּ ה’ עֵץ – “And HaShem showed him a tree.”
Indeed, this “bitter-to-sweet transformation” is also a lesson to us – it’s the secret of keeping healthy. You’ve probably been at the doctor’s office and got a vaccination shot that protects you against diseases like measles or chickenpox. Ouch! So, how do these shots work?
A vaccination contains a tiny bit of the actual bitter disease, so small and weak that it cannot make you sick, but just strong enough that it teaches your body how to react when it encounters the real sickness. Similar to the bitter stick that sweetened bitter waters, HaShem gifted us with a way to use the sickness itself to keep ourselves sweet and healthy!
BTW: This episode happened in a place called “Marah,” which not only means bitter – it is also related to the word “Morah,” translated “lesson” or “teaching!” How sweet is that?