Once the Jewish people crossed the Red Sea, one would think their troubles were in the rear-view mirror. And yet, immediately after their salvation, they ran into another problem: they had no water. To make matters worse, when they finally did find water on the fourth day, it was bitter and unsatisfying. It seems as if the Jewish people can’t catch a break!
If we look at the verse a little closer, however, we notice a strange ambiguity which may show that it wasn’t just ‘their luck’: “They came to Marah, but they could not drink the water of Marah because they were bitter” (15:23). What we see is that the verse doesn’t specify that the water was bitter, necessarily, but simply that “they were bitter”. Additionally, it seems somewhat peculiar to call water a “they” and not an “it”. The Ba’al Shem Tov (among others) therefore explains, that in reality the verse wasn’t referring to the water as bitter, but to the people and their attitude. This is perhaps reflected in what the Jewish people said to Moshe even after all of the plagues and miracles G-d provided them: “let us go back to Egypt and work for them” (14:12).
In this way we notice how while it is certainly true that the Jewish people were tested in the desert, they weren’t entirely innocent. Perhaps their own attitude was making like more difficult.
Oftentimes we go through our days criticizing: our job, the world, even our closest friends. But at the same time, we seem to only entertain how everyone, or everything, else is at fault. Many times the problems we see in others is a projection we create through our own bitterness: We’re in a bad mood and have less patience, yet we blame the colleague/computer/spouse for their being too slow; We didn’t get enough sleep and can’t focus, yet we blame our children for not doing their homework properly. Perhaps the water they were given was just fine, the problem was within. Before finding fault outside of ourselves, it’s important to dotwo things: 1) Look at what we can improve on the inside, and 2) to keep a positive attitude. Depending on our mood, even our food will taste that much better.