Weekly Torah Commentary — Beshalach January 9, 2014

Exodus 13:17 – 17:16

The Egyptian army that chased the Jewish people was a much weaker force than it had been the previous year. The country had been decimated by the Ten Plagues. Most of its horses had perished and a good number of its military officers had died in the plague of the first born the week before. Only 600 chariots and supporting troops remained.

Opposite the advancing for was a physically strong “army” of 600,000 men who had strong leadership, a high morale after the experience of their miraculous deliverance, and in addition, were well-armed with weapons they took with them from Egypt. It would seen that they could easily have wiped out the advancing Egyptians for all the advantages were on their side. So why on earth did they go into a complete panic upon seeing the Egyptians bearing down on them?

ATTITUDE. It was all about their attitude. For hundreds of years, the Jews had been the slaves of these advancing peoples. The Egyptians had been their oppressors. They had been so beaten down, that when Moses announced their imminent deliverance, they found it nearly impossible to believe him. Therefore, their own slave mentality, their conviction that the Egyptians ruled and they had no recourse, no ability to overcome them nourished a defeatist mentality.

And they were right. If they did not believe they could win, they would have lost, no matter how much stronger they were physically. Attitude was the determining factor.

It still is……

What any of us can accomplish in life is truly all about attitude. You can achieve as much as you think you can. If you convince yourself that you cannot do something, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The power of our own thoughts is incredible! If you want to do something, you will. If you think you can’t, you won’t.

You are probably all familiar with the well known poem, Children Learn What They Live, by Dorothy Law Nolte. A portion of it reads:

If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.

One could substitute the word “slaves” for children, and you readily see the comparison. But the poem doesn’t stop there. The key line of the poem is this one:

If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.

This poem is about the child in all of us; not just those under the age of 10 or 12 today. Perhaps a worthy exercise this Shabbat would be to review these lines in terms of your own life, rather than the usual application to children you are raising or your grandchildren, as important as that is.

Ask yourself: Are fear, self-pity, guilt, shame feelings that strongly influence my attitudes? If so, recognize it; admit it; don’t point fingers at your parents or anyone else. YOU are now the adult with the ability to make choices. Forgive and move on. How?

As a student of the Torah, you no doubt have learned that your security is in the Almighty, in His love, His compassion, His beneficence towards us. As the prophet Jeremiah reminds us, “I know the plans I have for you, to give you a future and a hope,” says God.

Do you believe that? I mean, really believe that? If you do, you will never join the company of those who make a half-hearted effort at a goal only to justify their failure. Or the company of those who never try at all. When we look at our life through the distorted lens of self-doubt and inadequacy,
we accomplish little or nothing. But that is not the way God created you to live.

Each of us has been created with tremendous potential, as were the now liberated slaves. Had they internalized the love of God which had done such miracles for them; had they taken an honest look at themselves, they would have realized the strength they had, and they’d have stood to fight the Egyptians, rather than fall into panic and terror.

The same is true for us all. The lack of confidence in God and the plague of false humility can be overcome and we can accomplish a great deal more than we ever thought possible.

In Tune with Torah this week = where is your personal sense of security and confidence? In your job, your family, your talents, your routine? Or is it in the all-encompassing love of God and His gifts to you that equip you to fulfill the purpose for which you were born? God believes in you – He’s waiting for you to match his investment with your own.

Shabbat Shalom

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