Blog Beshalach  Shevat 13 5779 בלוג בְּשַׁלַּח, י”ג שבט תשע”ט

Our sages have questioned whether or not we humans have bechirah chofshit, free will because this portion Beshalach says that the Creator hardened the heart of Pharaoh although the word actually means strengthened. Pharaoh became more and more confident in his resolve, pointing to the fact that we are each responsible for our own actions whether we accept that or not. Another important principle derived from this portion is “do not expect the Creator to do what you can do for yourself.” In contrast, some religions teach that all we need to do is pray and wait for God to do miracles. This is not what Torah teaches.

Let me read from Exodus 14: 11-14 “To Moses they said, ‘Was it for lack of graves in Egypt, that you had to lead us out to die in the desert? What was the point of bringing us out of Egypt? Did we not tell you in Egypt to leave us alone; we said, we would rather work for the Egyptians! We prefer to be slaves of the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’ Moses said to the people ‘Do not be afraid! Stand firm, and you will see the salvation of the LORD to rescue you today: the Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.’

Moses was treating cry-baby Israel with kid-gloves but “The LORD responded to Moses, ‘Why cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to march on (Ex 14:15).” This is showing us that God will help us, but we need get moving! He is teaching us to become responsible and to grow up – a process that takes us from faith to trust, from free will to intention. The Creator demonstrates immense patience as He always gives us the opportunity to grow. We however prefer to remain in Egypt. Where do you think that you are in your process? Are you still in Egypt or have you entered the Promised Land? Many people are waiting for the after-life to really begin living. They believe that this life is meant for suffering, but the after-life will end all that. The Torah is an instruction manual on how to develop a relationship with the Creator, and with each other, right here, right now upon this earth that He made for us. He wants us to grow up and be responsible! Moses was the one to whom the Israelites constantly complained both in Egypt and in the desert. Notice that we never see any of them going directly to the Creator.

How many of us are so complacent with ourselves that we don’t want to be moved out of our comfort zones? The Creator challenges us to do something about our situations. It is so easy to complain even directly after we have seen how He has worked in our lives, showing us miracle after miracle. We are a people of give-me, give-me instead of asking what we can give. We search out congregations dependent upon what we can receive instead of how we can serve. We have been taught that all we need to have is faith and the rest will be provided. The Torah teaches us however, to work as result of our faith. My people Israel had just witnessed one miracle after another culminating in the crossing of the Red Sea and the drowning of their enemies. At the end of chapter 14:31, it says, “When Israel saw the mighty deed that Adonai had performed against the Egyptians, the people revered Adonai and put their faith in Adonai and in Moses, his servant.” Yet, immediately following this, they complained, first about having no water, then no food and again no water. Our faith, our trust is temporary and dependent upon results. That’s why we tend to go to the supermarket of religions to fit our personal needs, but the Creator is fed up with our religions. He only cares about our kavanah, the intentions of our hearts. Our Rabbi Yeshua spoke much about the hypocrisy of religion, warning us that we have been deceived – that we cannot make anyone else responsible for our own actions; we are responsible.

If I had been in charge instead of Moshe, I would have asked the Creator to put all the Israelites on flying carpets and fly them across the Red Sea waving good-bye to the Egyptians stuck on the shore. None of them would have died. The Creator chose His way to show us that we are responsible for our actions and that there are consequences for our choices. The Egyptians needed to learn Who was the true God and Israel had to learn that their freedom had to be worked for – they had to struggle to help the women, the children and the elderly to reach the other side. They were all responsible for each other. God will do nothing that we can do for ourselves. Doing for ourselves doesn’t mean that we don’t trust in God; we know that He is with us. He has given us life and a community and when we have done all we can do, He is there to do what we cannot do.

How much of Egypt is still within us? Egypt means how much we are dependent upon others. Egypt means we don’t think for ourselves because someone else will do the thinking for us; it means that we are trusting in modern-style gods. We have the Creator with us day and night – a proverbial cloud by day and fire by night. We need to keep going, to keep working. Upon what are we totally dependent? Are we using our free will and being responsible? We are living in times in which the values of the Torah are being lost. We are returning to the days spoken about in the Book of Judges where everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes. Those who truly follow the God of Israel are fast becoming a persecuted minority. Contrary to the values of this modern world, you and I are responsible for our own lives or do you believe that the community in which you live, or your family or your government are the ones that need to take care of you? The Creator asks us to do our best; He doesn’t ask us to be perfect and that when we fail, we can remember that we can turn back to our God, the God of beginning again.

רנב”י  Ranebi

Edited by Peggy Pardo