RUN WITH IT?
This week's Torah portion describes how God decides to avoid the Philistines and chooses instead to guide the Jews to the Red Sea. The classic question is asked, why does God avoid the direct route to Israel? Why does he choose an incredibly complex route that could take 40 years to traverse a distance that would take a turtle about a month to travel?
The Torah gives its own reason for the diversion. It states that God didn't want the Jews to travel through the Philistine’s territory because he was afraid that if they encountered a war, they would just turn back to Egypt. So what happens, they go to the Red Sea instead and are embroiled in what the Torah itself calls a war.
What is the difference between a war against the Philistines and a war against Pharaoh at the Red Sea? A few major differences pop into mind. Pharaoh as opposed to the Philistines in enemy #1, at the Red Sea God himself can defeat Pharaoh and the miracle will be undeniable as opposed to a battlefield victory against incredible odds and so on and so forth. These reasons are enlightening, but the Torah itself says the decision is made not because of the conflict between Pharaoh and God, but because of the potential actions of the Jews. Against the Philistines, they will turn and run - at the Red Sea, the possibility exists that they will do something else entirely.
Faced with the threat at the Red Sea, the Jew's couldn't run. God stuck them in a situation where they had two choices - die or have faith in God. Ultimately, one Jew had faith. That act of faith, a single and rare act among the Jewish people in the desert enabled the Jews to survive and demonstrated that they had within them the fundamental character needed to be the people of God. Faced with a choice between running or fighting the Philistines, God says that the Jews would have run. Faced with anything but the most impossible situation, they wouldn't have demonstrated the faith. They would have turned and run because they would have had the option to turn and run.
Today, we are facing a similar situation. We thought we had the opportunity to make peace with the Palestinians by surrendering the ancient land of Israel and keeping instead the ancient land of the Philistines. Faced with the option to fight for our holy places or surrender them we did exactly what we would have done leaving Egypt - we chose to run. So God has done what he did when we were leaving Egypt. He has left us with no choices in order to prevent us from making the wrong one. Our enemies won't allow us to turn tail and run, we face two choices - die or have faith in God.
Perhaps the war on terror, perhaps Arafat's stupidity with the Karine A affair, perhaps all of these elements will bring together the forces and opinion needed for Israel to properly deal with the problem. Perhaps they are the opening in the Red Sea that will allow the Jewish people to flow through safely.
After the Red Sea, it took 40 years for the Jews to reach the level needed to enter Israel. After the greatest miracle ever, it took 40 years before the Jewish people were God's people and before they warranted the land of Israel.
Today, we are in the desert. We suffer from regular attacks and a low level war. The threat of a greater war is imminent as our enemies are stockpiling missiles and other weapons meant to hit and kill our civilians. We have been left with no choices. The time is near when we must once again rely on God for our safety and security. Perhaps in 40 years we will finally be able to live in our land in peace.
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