Jews like free things. Or so goes the stereotype. Legend has it that when God offered the Israelites the tablets, they inquired as to the cost? When they heard the word free, they said, “We’ll take two!”
Besides liking free things, Jews like to kvetch. Another stereotype. As soon as they began traveling in the desert, they started to complain. In fact, they started to kvetch about free things: We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge…
This was obvious chutzpah. After all, God had just taken them out of Egypt, handed them the blueprint to all of existence, the Torah, and all they did was complain. They sounded like a bunch of spoiled brats, a nation of obnoxious, misbehaving, entitled children demanding … fish, of all things.
But the Talmud says it wasn’t really fish they were talking about. “Fish” is a euphemism for promiscuity or intimacy…
Huh? What? Come again?
As we examine this puzzling complaint of the Israelites recorded in this week’s Torah reading, we will find the answer to the question that every Jew asks one time or another: “Why can’t I just live my humble life ‘free of charge,’ without commitment or attachment? Why do I have to carry this burden of Torah and mitzvos?”
Hint: Because, anything that does not involve a mitzvah is like a marriage without commitment – i.e. “meaningless.”