THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

Be­shal­lach

The Jewish Chronicle - - JUDAISM - RABBI JOSEPH DWECK

“For God said the peo­ple may have a change of heart when they see war and re­turn to Egypt” Ex­o­dus 13:17

In Be­shal­lach, God ma­jes­ti­cally leads the peo­ple through the desert to the Promised Land — how ex­cit­ing the prospect of a new life must have been for the re­cently freed slaves.

How­ever, we soon dis­cover that God is con­cerned about our for­ti­tude and He di­verts our path away from Philis­tine ter­ri­tory lest we see im­mi­nent war and rush back to the se­cu­rity of Egypt.

Ram­bam de­rives an im­por­tant prin­ci­ple here: God does not chal­lenge His cre­ations with cir­cum­stances they can­not han­dle. It teaches an es­sen­tial les­son re­gard­ing our re­la­tion­ship with God and free­dom.

We do not sim­ply say that God spares us sit­u­a­tions we can­not han­dle be­cause it would be un­fair. It goes deeper; God does not present sit­u­a­tions we can­not over­come be­cause He is not in­ter­ested in our fail­ure. No one roots for our suc­cess more than our Maker. When we ac­knowl­edge this, we al­low our­selves to ac­cept His help­ing hand to face dif­fi­cul­ties and thus achieve great­ness.

The idea makes sense, but do we re­ally think this way? Per­haps sub­lim­i­nally, many of us be­lieve that God waits to catch us in our trans­gres­sions. Af­ter many years of coun­selling peo­ple, I can con­fi­dently say that we of­ten al­low our­selves to be­lieve God is a fore­bod­ing be­ing and our ul­ti­mate task is to avoid His wrath. Noth­ing is fur­ther from the truth.

God does not de­light in our de­feats nor seek ex­act­ing pun­ish­ment. He not only em­pow­ers His cre­ations but wills their tri­umph. His chil­dren’s suc­cess is, in a sense, His suc­cess. With each of our achieve­ments, our cre­ation is vin­di­cated. How­ever, there is one caveat. The achieve­ments must be our own ac­com­plish­ments, which stand in­de­pen­dently on their own mer­its.

If God were to cre­ate en­ti­ties al­ready com­plete, hav­ing achieved whole­ness by no choice of their own, what value would they re­ally have? The mean­ing of our ex­is­tence lies in our full free­dom to cre­ate our­selves, which is the great­est beauty of cre­ation. How we ul­ti­mately ex­ist is a di­rect re­sult of our choice to ex­ist.

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