Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
  LifeLine
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Beshalach

by Rabbi Yaakov Menken


"And it was, that when Paro sent the nation out, that G-d did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, though it was close; for G-d said 'the people may change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.'" [13:17]

The Jewish people needed to break away entirely from their lives as slaves in Egypt. They were not ready for war, to resist. There was a spiritual component of this as well, given our Sages' teaching that the greatest war is the one within ourselves, between our Good and Evil Inclinations. The Philistines shared many of the same immoral practices as the Egyptians, and exposure to their society could have been a further negative influence. Instead, G-d effected a "clean break" from the degraded practices and enslavement of Egypt, taking us out into the open desert.

Rabbi M. Miller of Gateshead, in his book "Sabbath Shiurim," identifies this -- the sudden break -- as one of two competing models for how one should halt a bad habit or practice. The other, of course, is more gradual -- and he finds a source for this in the Torah as well: Moshe says to Paro, "and now, let us go out three days' journey into the desert, and we will sacrifice to HaShem our G-d." [3:18]

Why did Moshe imply that the people would return in three days, when they were never to return? The Malbim says that Moshe wanted to offer Paro the easiest possible request -- demonstrating the extent of Paro's evil when he refused even to do that. For the Jews, however, says Rabbi Miller, this was designed to accustom the Jewish nation to the idea of leaving. They could go out into the desert for a while, but still have the opportunity to return. This provides a paradigm for the idea of a slow, gradual transition.

So, which method is best? When a person wants to change his life for the better, should he gradually modify his practices, or suddenly leap into a new pattern of behavior?

The answer, Rabbi Miller says, is that we need both. To make a sudden change has obvious risks -- if one fails in the attempt, then he or she has accomplished nothing, and may be too bruised to try again. "To undertake more than one is really capable of, and then to regret one's action, is worse than never to have tried at all: the aftermath of failure can become a serious and permanent drawback to moral progress." At the same time, the advantage of sudden change over gradual shifts is that once a person successfully crosses a narrow bridge, he or she can "burn it" -- and permanently close out the bad behavior.

What one should do, he says, is follow the model of the Israelites. First, think about making a "small" change -- to go out three days' journey. Gradually build strength and confidence. Improve gradually. Then, when one is ready, make the leap forward which will firmly establish new practices and do away with the old.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Yaakov Menken


 






ARTICLES ON LECH LECHA:

View Complete List

Abraham's Dwelling
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5765

Lech Lecha
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5769

The Treaty
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5773

Looking for a Chavrusah?

The chessed of Avraham
Shlomo Katz - 5773

Avraham Foreshadowed Self-Sacrifice To Make Aliyah
- 5768

Better A Second Time Around
Shlomo Katz - 5767

> A Self-Starter
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5759

Emunah: Keeping the Faith
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5768

Rabbi Frand on Parshas Lech Lecha
- 5769

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

There's No Place Like Away From Home...
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5764

Jews vs. Judaism
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5763

Mission Impassable
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5757

ArtScroll

Jealousy or Love?
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5760

The Dawn of a New Era
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5759

Nowhere Man
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5764

Entering the Land of Canaan
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5770



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information