January 6, 2014
“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.” — Exodus 13:17–18
The Torah portion for this week is Beshalach, which means “when he sent them away,” from Exodus 13:17–17:16, and the Haftorah is from Judges 4:4–5:31.
The saying goes “winners never quit and quitters never win.” But that doesn’t mean that winners never think about quitting. Everyone feels like throwing in the towel at times. Some people do, while others persevere — and that makes all the difference.
This week’s Torah portion begins with an explanation of God’s chosen route for the Exodus. Scripture tells us that while there was a quicker path to the Promised Land, God chose the longer road. Why? Because the shorter path would have led the Israelites directly into war with the Philistines. Yet, the second verse informs us that the Israelites went out of Egypt “ready for battle.” Why did God feel that it was necessary to steer them away?
God, who created us, knows what makes us tick — and He also knows what makes us stop in our tracks.
The Israelites had witnessed unbelievable miracles during the ten plagues. They had also experienced God’s deep love as He consistently spared them — and only them — from the harsh plagues. Now, they were excitedly on the long-awaited road to freedom. They were inspired and ready for anything — or at least, so they thought. But God knew better. God understood that it is human nature to get discouraged at the first sight of adversity. One attack from the Philistines and the newly freed slaves would have high-tailed it back to Egypt.
At that time in history, having the Israelites confront an extreme challenge was not in anyone’s best interest. So God had them avoid it, although later on when they were ready, God did have the Israelites deal with many challenges and battles.
Today, we all experience adversity in our lives. In letting us know the reason for His decision regarding the Israelites’ route out of Egypt, God’s message to us is that everyone feels like quitting sometimes. It’s in our nature. But if God designs an itinerary for our lives that brings us into battle or adversity, it’s because we are truly ready to fight it.
Every time we start something new — a weight-loss program, a new career, or pursuing any dream at all — we begin with confidence and inspiration. However, at some point, we are bound to come up against a wall. We will feel like turning back and quitting – it is written in Scripture. But we don’t have to.
The urge to quit is a universal test, and if we are brought to that trial, it’s because God knows that we can pass it. So fight through those walls and battles. If God brought you there, He will certainly see you through it.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President