When Yaakov Avinu (our father, Jacob) had his dream of the angels ascending and descending the ladder, he woke and said “God was in this place, and I did not know!” When we look at Shirat Hayam, the Song of the Sea, in the Torah scroll, the poem is arranged in the shape of a ladder. We look at the miraculous splitting of the sea, the drowning of Pharaoh’s troops, the ten plagues, the whole rescue of the people of Israel from slavery, and we may say to ourselves “These were clear and obvious miracles. How can that generation not have been constantly aware of God’s presence?” But yet, they were able to sing the ladder-shaped song, and like their ancestor Yaakov, say “God was in this place, and I did not know.”

After leaving Egypt, the Torah tells us that the people walked for three days in the desert, and did not find water. The Midrash tells us that because of this, it was decided that the Torah should be read on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbatot so that Israel should never again go for three whole days without the water of Torah. Torah is the way that Jews may find God’s presence in their lives.

The first exercise of Torah given to the people after leaving Egypt was related to how they dealt with food. When they complained of hunger, God provided them with food from the sky, but with the caveat that they take responsibility for ensuring their spiritual well-being by taking a double portion on Friday, thereby making Shabbat observance, a spiritual practice, a part of what little they had to do for their own sustenance.

Time and again, the people complained that they missed the foods that they had in Egypt, and that they wished that they had been left to the comforts of slavery rather than the uncertainties of life in the wilderness. But spiritual awareness involves trust in the unknowable; not giving in to fear. God was very much in the place in which they stood, and they did not know. Slavery conditioned them to fear. They were thrust into a position of having to trust, and were unprepared. God was in their place, and they did not know.

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