Beshalach 13 blindness

This week’s idea is a continuation of what we learned last week: (
Last week we saw that human nature is such that a person's feelings are much stronger than any logic or rational. In this week's parsha we can see two more examples of the previously discussed cognitive dissonance.

This week, in Parshat Beshalach the Jews arrive to the Red Sea and the Egyptians are pursuing them. The Torah says (Shmot 14:10-13)

The Egyptians chased after them…Pharaoh drew near, and the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold! The Egyptians were advancing after them. They were very frightened, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us to die in the desert? What is this that you have done to us to take us out of Egypt?”

Is there anything here that bothers you?

On one side: there are the Egyptians pursuing the Jewish people without any fear, despite the fact that they are only 600 and have already been devastated by ten plagues.

On the other side: there are the Jews, frightened, they fear that they will be destroyed, although they are 3 million in total, 600.000 of which are adult males and they just experienced the ten most incredible miracles of history.

So the questions are (1) how come the Egyptian's are still chasing after the Jews despite all they have suffered? Didn’t they get it?

And (2) why did the Jews cry in fear of the Egyptians instead of just confronting their pursuers and fighting them? They were many more in number and they had God on their side.

From both of these questions we can learn a very important lesson in human behavior.

From the behavior of the Egyptians we learn that if you really want something, no matter what happens along the way, your “desires” can blind you and you will continue to pursue and chase after what you are convinced you need. Too often a person's desires are much stronger than his logic.

What can we learn from the Jewish people’s behavior? They were 600.000 male adults against 600 Egyptians and God has proved to be on the side of the Jews.  The Jews could have fought the Egyptians, however it was psychological. The slave mentality paralyzed the Jewish nation and thus limited their vision and ability to overcome their former masters. This behavior stems from a similar pattern to that of the Egyptians as described above. In the case of the Egyptians, we see that their desires and needs overcame their logic; and with the Jews, their feeling of inferiority was stronger than their logic and paralyzed their confidence.

From this we can learn that change is not easy, we might rationally know what is the right thing to do, we can logically understand what is the correct behavior but from there to actually changing our behavior there is a long way to go. There are many obstacles to overcome before we can internalize and adopt new ways to act and conduct ourselves, whether it's overcoming old habits, desires, inferiority complexes. It is a process, which takes time and patience. We see that God understood this and therefore he didn't let the Jews fight until they were ready. God knew it would take them time to change their mentality and understand that they were no longer slaves, so he killed the Egyptian's for them, the Jewish people didn’t have to lift a finger. Only later, in the Parsha, when more time had passed and they were ready, did God let them fight against Amalek – of course with some Divine Assistance….as still… it is always good to have G_d on your side…

Shabath shalom,
Denes Ban


Added on: January 24, 2013

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