Life is a process of highs and lows and these highs and lows can come close together. Many families have had births that occur right after a funeral and vice versa. The question is will the high enhance the bitterness of the low or, the opposite- can we make the highs be a safeguard to the lows? Or even better, can we turn these temporary lows into long term highs?
A perfect illustration of this process happens right after the Jewish people’s greatest moment. The sea has just split in front of the people and finally they can breathe a sigh of relief. The Egyptians are truly gone and the reality of a Creator has never been more tangible. The Jews burst out into an incredible moment of cohesive prophecy where they sing out loud together the song of the sea. They then turn around and see a searing desert ahead of them. Three days later, they are in a desperate state, thirsty and scared. Despite the majesty of what they have seen, they are now depressed and bitter about their plight. How could this be? What changed in their perspective?
An incredible answer given is that when it comes to the big events of life, it is easy to see how G-d is involved. At a wedding and at a birth, people are thankful and often feel the divine hand. But, what happens after that, in the daily grind, when life becomes difficult and at times bitter- is G-d still there? The first lesson the Jewish people had to understand as they left the inspiration of the splitting of the sea was that when the daily grind sets in, even that can become sweet. How? It is by grabbing the tree of life, the Torah, that life becomes sweet because we then come to understand the depth behind difficulty. We are guided through the ethical challenges that confront us. It is when we realize that all bitterness can be the tool that ultimately helps us grow, it gives us the strength to get through it. As Victor Frankel famously put it, “once you have your why, you can survive almost any how”.