What’s the Surprise?

Shevat 12, 5783
February 3, 2023
PARSHAS BESHALACH                
Candlelighting Time 5:04 PM

            We finally were liberated from brutal slavery at the hands of the Egyptians and we were ready  to move on to greater heights, serving Hashem with vigor, enthusiasm and passion. Would anyone have thought there would be misgivings about our attitude? Of course not, didn’t we leave the land of bondage without any food yet we relied upon Moshe and Hashem that we would be cared for? Certainly, that we would want to return to that land of misery and pain would be out of the question. Yet, we didn’t follow the path through the land of Philistines lest we might regret that we left Egypt when we would encounter potential combat and therefore return to Egypt a relatively safe haven. Why was there any doubt? And furthermore, Hashem knew whether or not we would recant our decision to leave Egypt so why does it seem that the decision not to go straight was based upon an uncertainty regarding our future conviction?  Perhaps the biggest question is that we witnessed the total and absolute destruction of the most powerful military regime and economic center of the world in a short time, a year. Parenthetically, we might want to corollate that with our global catastrophic year of Covid-19! The supernatural miraculous events that slowly but surely dismantled the Egyptian empire were wondrous and astounding and if not for Hashem’s intervention in hardening Pharaoh’s heart, he would have released us from his slavery. Even his pursuit of the nation unto the Red Sea was a Divinely orchestrated event to further demonstrate Hashem’s sovereignty and dominion over the world. When the sea split, all waters in the world divided as well. And who could have truly believed the raging waters of a huge sea would part and divide into 12 dry lanes full of drink and food to supply the people with their needs? The Cloud of Glory blocked the Egyptian missiles from attacking us and the waters came crashing down upon the evil Egyptians after we crossed over! Coincidental? Hardly! Yet we weren’t allowed to depart on a straight path!

            Meshech Chochma provides a powerful insight that is very applicable in 2023. The people had been slaves for generations and their exposure to Egyptian culture had a significant impact upon their minds and souls. The imagery of idol worship and their ideals were deeply locked into their spirit and essence. True, the last year had been an incredible series of lessons in believing in Hashem’s total domination of the world, his superlative harnessing of ‘nature’ to do His bidding. The precision of the attacks had been highly accurate and the salvation of the nation had been without error. However, to uproot those flawed thoughts that had become so embedded within their very being and allow them to elevate themselves to heights of dazzling perfection and excellence was perhaps impossible and not within their reach. Of course, they wanted to escape from their previous situation, but their reality was not in syn with that aspiration. They couldn’t quite see through the cobwebs of falsehood and duplicity that haunted them and threatened to trounce their plateau of recognition of Hashem that they had truly witnessed and become overwhelmed with His power and strength. Even when we intellectually possess the truth, implementation and absorption of that degree of veracity requires a lot of work and focus. It took them forty years of witnessing Hashem’s Presence in the desert to accomplish that goal.  


If Hashem could supply food for the entire camp of Israel in the desert, surely he can arrange for our livelihoods under easier and normal conditions. CHOFETZ CHAIM