The Bible Says What? ‘Don’t expect God to provide’

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The Bible Says What? ‘Don’t expect God to provide’

 Rabbi Miriam Berger takes a controversial topic from the Torah and looks at a Reform response

Torah scroll (Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash)
Torah scroll (Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash)

With our history of wilderness wandering, it isn’t surprising that we find a number of moments in the Torah when God is seen as the provider of water to the thirsty. 

However, we have to read such verses very carefully. In Genesis 21, when Abraham had expelled Hagar and Ishmael from his house at the behest of his wife Sarah, Hagar thinks she is going to have to watch Ishmael die of dehydration. 

On a quick reading of the text, one might look at it and think that God provides water at this time, but as Benno Jacobs teaches: “No miracle takes place, as the well is not created just now; Hagar had merely not seen it in her desperation.” 

 I think this is one of the most crucial lessons the Torah can teach us. When life is at its hardest and we are desperately praying for a miracle or despairing as we know such a thing could never happen, the Torah does not say “God will provide.” 

Instead, we are encouraged to look around us. Psalm 121 prompts us to ask where our help will come from. Is the answer to our problem right under our nose, but our emotional turmoil stops us from seeing it?  

 It will not always be as simple as seeing the well when dying of thirst, but it does encourage us to stop, take a step back from the situation, and see if we can look at it in a different way.  

 We may all prefer to pray to God who provides water to the thirsty, but perhaps we may find life easier if we simply pray for our eyes to be opened to the possibility of finding water ourselves. 

  •  Rabbi Miriam Berger is principal rabbi at Finchley Reform Synagogue

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