Many people have trouble with or fear change, but change is frequently necessary for progress and personal growth.
There is an interpretation of Exodus 13:18 and the word “chamushim” which can mean that B’nai Yisrael left Egypt “armed” or that only 1/5 of B’nai Yisrael (our slave ancestors) left Egypt. 4/5 chose to stay, just not the way they did. Indeed, commentators have suggested that one of the reasons for the plague of darkness was so that the Egyptians would not see what God was going to do to our brothers and sisters who were choosing to stay in Egypt.
By the time of the plague of darkness. Egypt had been humbled and the slaves were essentially free. B’nai Yisrael knew that Moses’ words were true and that they would be able to leave – sooner than later. Why might the 4/5 of our ancestors refuse to leave? Fear of the desert to which they were being led? Fear of the unknown and uncertainty? Because they saw rebuilding Egypt as an opportunity? Maybe things weren’t so bad by then?
The commentators who posit the 1/5 theory, argue that those people had what God thought it would take to be the people who would merit the Torah and who would truly become God’s people. The majority—4/5 did not. God wanted people of faith. Can you imagine a person who would experience the burdens of slavery and oppression, see 7 plagues—open miracles, be actually aware of what God wants for you and still say, “No thanks. I like it here”? Those individuals could not be part of the Jewish future. So the darkness lasted long enough for God to destroy the 4/5 and for the 1/5 to bury them (so that the Egyptians would not believe that God did not distinguish between the Egyptians and B’nai Yisrael). This was survival of the fittest and divine, not natural, selection on a massive scale.
I am not sure I like that interpretation, but perhaps there is a message in that Midrash. There is an expectation for each of us to have faith and take action, no matter what the uncertainty. There is another Midrash from this week’s Parasha that God did not part the waters of Yam Suf until B’nai Yisrael actually demonstrated their faith by moving forward into the waters up to their necks.
Have you ever been confronted with choices, one of which required you to act on your beliefs or have faith? What did you do?
This is the Parasha of the Splitting of the Sea and our Shabbat Torah Study will be with Rabbi Aaron Bergman. His topic is, “Did the Sea split because we are not supposed to swim after eating?-Water imagery in the Torah.” His teaching is always amazing, so I hope you can make it. 10:00 a.m. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.
This Shabbat is also known as Shabbat Shira because of the spontaneous expression of wonder and gratitude of B’nai Yisrael, singing in soulful harmony after the parting of Yam Suf. We will complete our study in time for the sermon and to be inspired in prayer by Hazzan Gross and our awesome choir during Musaf.