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22/23 January: Parasha Beshalach

Shabbat comes in 4.17pm; goes out 5.25pm

______________________________________________________________________________             In the first verse of this week’s parasha, we learn that God led the Israelites out of Egypt through a longer route, “lest they regret [their departure from Egypt] when they see war, and they return to Egypt”.  If they had taken the more direct route toward the Promised Land, they would have had to confront the Philistines in battle. God “worried” that the Israelites would be daunted by war and they would run back into the slavery of Egypt.

But the very next verse informs us that “the children of Israel went up armed out of the land of Egypt”. Apparently, the Israelites gathered weapons before departing Egypt, so that they would be ready to face enemies that confronted them.

Question: If the Israelites were well armed, why was God worried that they would become so frightened by war that they would return to Egypt rather than to fight their enemies? Obviously the children of Israel had weapons and were expecting to use them.

My colleague Rabbi Marc D. Angel explains that the Torah is teaching us an important insight into human nature. “Yes, the Israelites had weapons; they had the physical tools to fight wars. But God knew that they lacked emotional preparedness. They had spears, but they did not have courage. They had weapons, but they did not have confidence in their ability to use them effectively.” They had lived so long as slaves, they did not have the mindset to act courageously as free, powerful people. Physical preparedness is not the same as emotional preparedness.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Paul Arberman

January 21, 2016