Updated: Feb 27, 2020
Rabbi Alexander Tsykin
This week, after the Jews leave Egypt, they find themselves walking in the desert. Originally, everything seems fine. Then they run out of water. Immediately, they turn to Moshe and complain. Moshe casts a staff into a body of water which was undrinkable and made the bitter waters sweet. The Torah comments that "There he put for them laws and ordinances and there he tested them." Which laws does Moshe give them then?
"Slow and steady wins the race"
The Rabbis explain that this refers to the laws of the Red Heifer, the laws of Shabbat and the laws of Torts (monetary damages). This presents a problem. Weren't these laws given at Mt Sinai?
Of course, the laws were given then. However, Hashem felt the need to give us something before then. We could not progress from having none of the many obligations which fall on Jews to having all of them at once with no time to grow into that new lifestyle. G-d gave us a few things to wet our teeth and to teach us what our lives would be like after receiving the rest of the Torah.
The progression we see in the Torah this week provides us with an example or hor we can effectively grow, or help others to do so. It is always tempting to take a lot on at once, but it is usually better to work on ourselves more slowly.