Weekly Torah Commentary — Beshalach January 25, 2013

“It happened that when Pharaoh sent out the people, that Hashem did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, because it was near, for Hashem said, ‘Perhaps the people will reconsider when they see war and they will return to Egypt.’ So God turned the people toward the way of the Wilderness toward the Sea of Reeds.” Shemot/Exodus 13:17-18

According to science, the shortest distance between any two points is a straight line. According to Hashem’s ways, there’s a different perspective. He led the children of Israel not by the shortest way but by the most effective way. And He still does.

In recent months here in Israel, dozens upon dozens of new ’round-abouts’ have been constructed for the purpose of easing traffic and in the hope of minimizing the danger of accidents. Roundabouts require the driver to slow down, to pay attention, to remain alert. I propose that in every life Hashem inserts ’round abouts’ for the same purpose. Life does not progress along a thin, straight line. Life happens, as the saying goes, and is filled with unexpected turns, unanticipated requirements to ‘slow down’, and constant demands for our attention to what is happening in the now.
Often we may feel that Hashem is doing with us exactly what is described in the verse above: He is leading us, directing our steps, not in what appears to us as the easiest and quickest route, but by a series of two steps forward, one step back. His leading in our lives, however, is not about “quick” and “easy” – it’s about taking us through the experiences that form character and encourage holiness. That, my friends, always requires that we slow down, pay attention and remain alert to His work within us.

In a word, the ups and downs of life are designed to teach us responsibility. For a people delivered from slavery whose primary responsibility was simply to do what the taskmasters told them, it was a huge mind-shift to learn personal and communal responsibility. It still is…..

You are responsible…
* for your thoughts, your speech, your actions
* for your direction in life
* to refrain from blaming others
* to forgive and learn from your experiences
* to cultivate your own self-respect
* to nurture your own health, mental, physical and spiritual
* to employ your gifts and talents in the service of others
* to strengthen your own relationship with Hashem

Each of these areas of life take time to develop. Wisdom does not come any other way.

When the community of Israel were encamped by the sea, Pharaoh’s army caught up with them to capture them and return them to Egypt. The Israelites panicked and cried out to Hashem. Moses re-assured them and then we read, “Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and Hashem moved the sea with a strong east wind all night long, and He turned the sea to damp land and the water split.”

Note the words “all night long”. Hollywood’s depiction of this event would have us believe that the path through the sea was instantaneous. Not so!

While Egyptian horses chomped at the bit behind the pillar of fire that hid them from the Israelites,
the children of Israel wrestled “all night long” with the choice to either believe what they’d been told — that Hashem would deliver them — or to succumb to fear. We know the end of the story but during those long night hours, they didn’t! We forget that but their experience is emblazoned in our Torah and in our memory in order to remind us that every period of doubt or anxiety we experience is no different. Hashem’s promises have no expiration date.

In Tune with Torah this week = thank Hashem for all the “roundabouts” you’ve experienced in your life and resolve to view any new ones with a fresh perspective – they are opportunities to learn and grow.

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