Parshas Beshalach
Exodus 13:17 - 17:16

Acting On Our Fear! ©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Samuel and Mrs. Miriam Goodman, may they rest in peace.

And Pharaoh {was} approaching, and they looked up, B'nei Yisroel {with} their eyes, and behold Mitzriam {was} marching after them. They were greatly afraid! They cried out, B'nei Yisroel, to Hashem! They said to Moshe, "Were we without graves in Mitzriam {was it necessary} to take us {out} to die in the wilderness? What is this? {What is} indeed accomplished by bringing us from Mitzriam? Is this not the {exact} word that we said to you in Mitzriam, saying 'Forsake us from our portion and {let us continue being}slaves in Mitzriam.' It was better to slave in Mitzriam than to die in the wilderness." Exodus 14:10-12

Dear reader, B'nei Yisroel was expressing their deeply held concerns about exploring freedom and the potential dangers that they feared may result in so doing.

Years ago after returning to observant Judaism I experienced fears similar to this. My former spouse had custody of our sons. The courts established a visitation schedule for summer, winter, spring and holiday breaks. The idea of such a schedule is so that each parent may make plans with their children during their visitation time. That year my visitation time was the second half of summer. One day during our six weeks of visitation without any notice my youngest son wanted to return to his mother's home. He said his mother assigned him some chores and he wanted to get them over with. He said he would take the bus to his mother's house and return later, around 3:30 that afternoon. We walked across the street and waited together for the bus. We hugged and he got on the bus.

At 3:30 that day my former spouse left a harsh message, "Your son will not be returning to your home at 3:30 today. We are leaving town to visit his brother in Las Vegas. When we return, I'll have him call you."

This was upsetting! I reminded her that in doing such an act she would be in violation of the court's visitation order. She attempted to do the same thing during Thanksgiving and Chanukah. Now, dear reader, there are more details involved than we have space for. Yet the point is what does a father do under such circumstances? What does a father do when his children are enticed to visit a brother, grandparents, Disneyland and other such fun places during his visitation time? Does a father let the child go? Does a father stand up for his rights knowing both he and the child are being played like a banjo? Does the father up the ante? Does he trump the Disney trip with something greater?

Holy reader, any direction a parent chooses in this situation is difficult. That is somewhat how it was for B'nei Yisroel. The situation in Mitzriam was extremely difficult. What would happen if B'nei Yisroel challenged Pharaoh and the people of Mitzriam? What would they do? How would they react? This was the same concern that I had. What would my former spouse do if I challenged her?

This is the same thing many of us experience when placed in difficult circumstances. What does one do when another employee, an associate, an employer or a client makes an improper advance? What does a student do when a trusted family friend, relative or teacher attempts to touch them?

Holy reader, each of us face challenges like B'nei Yisroel did. B'nei Yisroel challenged Pharaoh! I challenged my former spouse! There is a proper course of action. We need to find the proper course and act on it. Sometimes we feel great anger, frustration, righteous indignation and betrayal yet acting on our anger... our frustration... our righteous indignation... our feelings of betrayal will only heighten the difficulty. Being calm while sizzling in the frying pan is not easy! One must be careful how they approach these matters. Being hasty... flying off the handle... threatening... may not be the best approach.

B'nei Yisroel challenged Pharaoh! They challenged Mitzriam! They won! They gained their freedom after years of being slaves in Mitzriam. They were experiencing their freedom when they observed "Mitzriam {was} marching after them." They did what was correct! They observed Hashem's commands and now things seemed to be turning against them. "Mitzriam {was} marching after them... G-d forbid!" They lose custody of their children... G-d forbid! Their boss terminates them... G-d forbid! The situation takes what looks like a very bad turn... G-d forbid!

Dear reader, it is in trying times like these that turning back to Mitzriam IS WRONG!! When we apply the proper principles.. When we observe the Torah.. When we do as Hashem has commanded LOOKING BACK IS WRONG! It is NOT the proper action for us! It is a challenge to G-d!

Now when we do wrong, when we make mistakes that is a different issue. We do need to correct our improper behavior. When the above incident happened I was angry! I responded in anger. That was the wrong approach. I needed to revisit that mistake. I needed to learn from that error! In that sense each of us should us these situations to learn and improve from.

Yet even in our failings as well as in our perfect obedience to Hashem faith in Hashem is required! Faith that Hashem will hit the grandslam homer... faith that Hashem will help us pick up the pieces and move forward... B'nei Yisroel was quick to point out their original concerns when Mitzriam {was} marching after them. That is how we are sometimes when we look back. We look back with regrets. If we look back with regrets because of our sins... our failings... our errors that is one thing. If we look back with regret because we applied the proper principles and things didn't turn out as we expected... We observed the Torah and still have problems... When we do as Hashem has commanded and life doesn't seem to be any better then THAT IS WRONG!

The Torah was written to struggle with oppression. Jews are commanded to be the light to the universe and the righteousness to the world. Light opposes darkness! Righteousness condemns evil... sin... wrong... Observing Hashem's commands often seems odd to our enemies, our neighbors and even many Jews, G-d forbid!

Now, holy reader, there is little joy in facing the marching army of Mitzriam! There is little pleasure in confronting the oppressor. There is little happiness in these struggles that Jews must face but desiring to turn away from Hashem... from His Torah... from His commands... to return to Mitzriam... to return to slavery to give in to the oppressor is VERY WRONG!! This is what B'nei Yisroel was verbalizing to Moshe.

This is not to say we don't feel let down at times. This is not to hide from our disappointments. Yet as Jews the higher goal is to believe in Hashem! The higher plain is to believe our difficulties... our problems... our challenges are not nearly as great as they appear. Things may not be the way we want them to be, but that is the test of our faith!! May we be very cautious how we act on our fear!

May Hashem bless each of us with faith that controls our fear and wrongful emotion...

Good Shabbos!

Dr. Akiva G. Belk

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