On the bitterness of the water of Mara
AFTER THE CROSSING OF THE RED SEA and the secrets of the magnificent mystery, after dances and tambourines, after triumphant hymns, they come to Mara. The water of Mara, however, was bitter and the people could not drink it. Why, then, after marvels so numerous and so magnificent are the people of God led to bitter waters and the danger of thirst? For the text says, "And the sons of Israel came to Mara and were not able to drink the water of Mara because it was bitter. For this reason the name of that place was called bitterness"1 But what is added after this? " Moses," the text says, "called to the Lord and the Lord showed him a tree and he threw it into the water and the water became sweet. And there," the text says, "the Lord established ordinances and precepts for him."2 There, where there was bitterness; there, where there was thirst, and what is worse, thirst in the presence of an abundance of water; there "God established ordinances and judgments for them."3 Was there not another place more worthy, more fit, more fruitful, than that place of bitterness?
In addition, the statement, "The Lord showed him a tree, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet,"4 is very strange. Why should God show Moses a tree which he should throw into the water to make it sweet? It is as if God had not been able to make the water sweet without the tree. Or did Moses not know about the tree, that God should show it to him? But we must see what beauty the inner meaning holds in these words.____________________