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Beshalach

by Rabbi Yaakov Menken

"It happened that when Pharoah sent the nation out of Egypt, G-d did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was close..."

A commentary (Da'as Zekeinim MiBaalei HaTosfos) explains this passage in a very unusual way. It notes that "although it was close" can be read "because he was close," referring to the nation of Israel. Because Israel enjoys a special closeness to G-d, Israel could not be led in the same way as the land of the Philistines.

During 1991, at this time of year, Scud missiles were descending on Israel. I was there. So I can speak about the open miracles that I believe we witnessed, G-d's hand at work... and hope that some readers are able to recall what happened and accept the validity of this viewpoint.

During the first two days, I recall that over 20 missiles descended upon Israel. No one died from them (although it was reported that unfortunately, a few elderly people and one child suffocated in their gas masks). The next time the missiles flew, American patriot missiles were launched to greet them. The news reports later claimed that a patriot did hit one of the incoming scuds, but in its back section - knocking the warhead off-course. That was the one warhead that caused a (single) direct fatality in the entire series of attacks on Israel [This was based on reports at that time some later sources doubted that even a single Patriot missile hit a target].

A teacher of mine told us - and warned us - that we would be foolish to rely upon an American missile for protection. There is a book called the Chovos Halevavos - Duties of the Heart - that offers a similar warning (which he quoted): "If a person places his trust in something other than G-d, then G-d hands him over into the hands of that thing that he trusts." The first two times, there was nothing else to trust... and we did better!

Many people cannot believe in G-d to the point that they are ready to trust Him. Obviously, the first step is to be convinced that G-d's hand is really at work in the world. For others, they may occasionally be inspired by something they see, or something they read... but the question then becomes one of learning and growing from that experience, and avoiding our natural tendency to slip back into our routine.

Concerning the Parting of the Sea, my wife reminded me of a statement of our Sages (Mechilta), that "What a maidservant saw by the sea, Yechezkel Ben Buzi [the prophet Ezekiel] did not see in all his days." Yechezkel saw an incredible prophet vision, referred to as "the works of the Holy Chariot." Great Rabbis studied this passage, and were never satisfied that they fully understood it... and yet a maidservant saw even more than this!

So later Rabbis have asked: why, then, is the maidservant just a maidservant, while Yechezkel is considered one of our great prophets? The answer, they say, is simple - because the maidservant saw what happened, and remained a maidservant. Yechezkel saw less, but he grew from the experience. He learned from the experience, and allowed his vision to teach him new things about G-d's world, about his own spirituality.

We all have our moments of inspiration. We can either let them pass, or grasp them, demand the utmost from them, and from ourselves... and grow. finding out there!


Text Copyright © 1995 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.

The author is the Director of Project Genesis.


 

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