Even when change involves something longed for – marriage, a promotion, a new job, a new house – there is often a reluctance to leave the old and familiar. The story of yetzias Mitzrayim, Kriyas Yam Suf, the midbar and the entry into Eretz Israel are all narratives about the challenges that accompany transformation. They teach profound and enduring lessons about change and what it means in terms of development and growth.
During the forty year journey in the midbar, whenever the pillar of fire stopped, the nation began a period of temporary encampment before moving forward to the next level. Each stage of the journey, although demanding, was a golden opportunity to reach even greater heights in faith and submission.
At various stages of our lives we also have our “protective clouds” lifted from us and are then directed with a “pillar of fire” to move from our “comfort zones” in order to meet the challenges that engage us along the way. Our biggest asset in development is when we overcome the barriers and inconveniences that hinder our growth. Transcending these impediments requires a redefining of self, therefore it is precisely when we allow those tests to remold our consciousness from a position of complacency and over confidence to a place (encampment) of humble acceptance that we are most rewarded.
As we progress through life, we find that some of our most difficult changes involve shifts in attitude. A very common feeling is that hard work should be rewarded with achievement and benefits. When lack of seeming accomplishment follows on the heels of tremendous effort, a person can go into a paralysis of sorts. Whether we are pursuing a new job, a shidduch or better davening, when we have put forth much effort it is natural to feel we are entitled to some measure of success. This is especially true because our society around us puts such a premium on results, rather than on effort.
So let us travel through the Yam Suf together now, cleansing ourselves of the old ideologies in order to make room for the Sinai experience that will follow. We were all surprised when we first learned that the Israelites did not cross over to the opposite side of the Yam Suf, but rather traveled in a half circle, emerging from the Yam Suf on the same side that they had entered in. Although it would seem that the Bnei Israel were going “around in circles” and did not actually proceed on their journey, yet this proved to be of the greatest benefit. As a result of this circuitous passage, the possessions of the Egyptian pursuers washed up at their feet; with the Chazal informing us that this treasure was even far more valuable than the wealth that the Israelites brought out of Mitzrayim. Here is a lesson for all generations that when we follow the path of the Torah, accepting Hashem’s will irregardless of the results, we become beneficiaries of the greatest of treasure which is closeness to Him.
Perhaps we can also learn another valuable insight from the fact that each of the twelve Shevatim traveled in their specified positions both through the Yam Suf as well as during the forty years in the Midbar. This can help to teach us never to feel envious if a sibling, fellow student, co-worker or neighbor looks to be in a better “position” in life, as illustrated by the following: In a jewelry store, the gold and diamonds are placed behind the glass counters, while the silver ornaments are more frequently handled because they need to be polished. The conclusion that could be mistakenly drawn by a stranger unfamiliar with the values of precious stones and jewelry is that the silver items that receive the “shiny” attention are more valuable. Therefore a possible lesson that we can derive from the individual positioning of the Shevatim is to realize that following our perfectly divinely crafted pathways in life will lead us to the development of our own unique “golden” talents which are truly our most cherished possessions.
May we all always merit to pass through our personal Yam Suf challenges with joy, gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to experience change and the growth that accompanies it, transforming ourselves into vessels worthy of holding the Torah. May our inner and outer essence be as pure as refined gold, inlaid with sincere humility.
Zeh Keli V’anveihu!
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