Rashi cited a Midrash (Shemot Rabbah 9:10) that reveals that because the river had protected Moses in his infancy (Exodus 2:3), Moses' smiting of the water would not have been appropriate. This brings up another question: why should Moses have been thankful for a river? After all, a river is an inanimate object. It possesses no free will of its own. What sort of lessons regarding gratitude are we supposed to derive from this passage?
- It is irrelevant that a river is an inanimate object without free will. The river provided the necessary buoyancy and currents to bring Moses to safety. We should be grateful for all the good in our lives, even if they are inanimate objects without free will. Two stories, courtesy of Alan Morinis (Everday Holiness, p. 65), exemplify this concept:
- When Rabbi Menachem Mendel, better known as the Kotzker Rebbe, was ready to replace a pair of shoes because they had been worn out, he would first neatly wrap the shoes in newspaper because his thought process was "How could I just chuck a pair of shoes that have served me so well for so long?"
- After praying, R. Eliyahu Lopian was folding up his tallit (prayer shawl), and he had to rest it on the bench in order to fold it. He realized the bench was dusty, and he subsequently retrieved a towel so that he could dust off the bench. The student to which he was talking was going to do the task, but R. Lopian stopped him and said that he had to clean it himself because he "had to show gratitude for the bench upon which he folded his tallit.
Moses' abstention from the first two plagues provides us with an idea as to how long we should be thankful, as well as the extent and magnitude of the gratitude we should express. By using Moses' example, we can better learn how to fill our lives with gratitude.