I’m writing this after reading a recent question/answer on your homepage. I wonder about this a lot. They experienced miracle after miracle, but they also survived horrible pain and trauma in Mitzrayim. Did Hashem soothe their emotional pain and comfort them? They sinned, yes, but if I was in their shoes I imagine I would be a total wreck and desperate for compassion and unconditional love and reassurance. When I’ve learned about that time in our history it makes me think about kids who are adopted by loving parents after enduring years of abuse. They will often test limits and lash out at the loving parents and need constant reassurance and patience. I know that Dor HaMidbar was a very great generation and they were tzadikim, but how could they also not have been broken inside? Did Hashem comfort them if they cried at night? What about each individual? Did each individual have total support and love from Hashem, not just the nation as a whole? Did each person know Hashem was totally there for them? If so, how could they have been so scared when they thought Moshe was late coming back from Har Sinai? Was he their go-between? Why didn’t they know Hashem was still there even when Moshe wasn’t? It’s very painful to me to think of how harsh the punishments were for Cheit HaEgel and the Miraglim. The people were scared and desperate. Why didn’t Hashem scoop them up and love them and reassure them everything would be okay?
There is no question that Hashem was providing the Jews in the desert with a tremendous amount of love, however we have to understand the way Hashem works. Hashem can show us love and care without it being a physical hug, and physical caressing. The same way a big king that wants to show love for one of his ministers is not going to do it by hugging him, rather he will show his appreciation, and love in other ways. So too, Hashem showed the Jews unending love I the desert. He still did miracles for them numerous times every single day, by giving them the manna, water from the rock, constant protection the clouds of glory. Most of all, was the special cloud of divine presence that constantly rested on top of the Mishkan, which was a clear sign of love from Hashem. This is clearly written in Shir Hashirim 1-6 “His left hand was under my head and his right hand hugged me”. The Targum says on this that it is referring to when the Jews were in the desert and had the clouds of glory etc. that these were a heavenly hug, that they had on a constant basis. Yes, when they sinned, they were punished, just like a father has to punish his child in order to correct him. Nevertheless, Hashem still showed His unending, unconditional, love for us, even though we sinned.