Taking the Hard Way
By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky
This week we read Parashat Beshalach, which describes the moment when the Children of Israel left Egypt. After that moment the Torah says,
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them [by] way of the land of the Philistines for it was near, because God said, lest the people reconsider when they see war and return to Egypt (Exodus 13:17).
This verse was understood in different ways. Many understood this verse as saying that God did not want the people of Israel to meet with the Philistines too fast. God feared the people of Israel would be frightened by the possibility of war against the Philistines, and thus they might want to return to Egypt.
In addition to this explanation, others understood this verse as saying that God did not want to make it too easy for the Israelites by leading them on the shortest way. Therefore, God chose a longer way for the Israelites.
Following this last interpretation, one Midrash compares God’s decision to a king who had a son. The king was ready to give his son a big inheritance. However, he thought that if he gives his son his inheritance at his son’s young age, the son would not be able to understand its value, nor to take care of it. So, the king waited some years for his son to grow, learn and understand. The Midrash explains that God thought about Israel in the same way. God said to himself, if I lead Israel so they enter the Land of Israel too soon, they will not be able to appreciate it. I will wait until they receive the Torah and learn all the laws regarding the Land of Israel, and then I will let them enter the land.
I believe that the spirit of this explanation is something we all know but many of us find it hard to apply in our lives: When things come to us too easy, we tend not to value them as they are worth. For example, a person who was born in a humble home, but thanks to his hard work and wisdom was able to become wealthy, usually knows how to value what he/has and how hard is to achieve it. However, a person who was born in an extremely rich house and never has to work hard for what he/she has hardly can understand how difficult is for so many people to secure their livelihood.
This presents a real challenge for us, parents, teachers, and leaders. Although we all wish the best for our children, students and followers, we need to comprehend that if we want them to grow in wisdom, appreciation and gratitude, they need to work hard and fight for what they aspire. If we put things too easy for them, we are not really doing a favor for them.
As the Children of Israel, who had to travel to the Promised Land through a long and hard journey, we also need to overcome challenges in life to appreciate what we have and be attentive to others needs. May we be wise enough to apply this important principle with those who we love.