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Letting Go (Beshalach – 02/08/20)

Rabbi Neil Schuman

Letting Go
America is a nation of doers. We work hard and we’re always searching for greater ways of achieving our goals. Yet sometimes we just need to let things go and develop on their own accord.
In our Parsha, Beshalach, the Jews leave Egypt, but then become trapped by the Egyptians at the Sea (Exodus Chapter 14):
9 The Egyptians chased after them and overtook them encamped by the sea, every horse of Pharaoh’s chariots, his horsemen, and his force beside Pi-Hahiroth, in front of Ba’al Zephon.
10 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.
Classic Jewish sarcasm kicks in:
11They 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?
13 Moses said to the people, Don’t be afraid! Stand firm and see the Lord’s salvation that God will achieve for you today, for you have seen the Egyptians today, you shall no longer continue to see them for eternity.
14 The Lord will fight for you, you just need to be quiet.
This is a very surprising directive. The Jews are trapped by the sea, and they’re told not to stand up and fight; rather, G-d will take care of everything.
In contrast, just one week earlier when the Angel of Death was let loose to kill all the firstborn in Egypt, the Jews were given the command to offer a lamb and place its blood on their doorposts. This act was dangerous for the Children of Israel as the lamb was a sacred animal to the Egyptians. It was a statement of belief on their part that they do not share their neighbors’ religious beliefs, but also one of courage as they could not be sure how their neighbors would react.
I just saw a 2006 Bollywood/Hollywood movie called “Outsourced.” In the Indian call center, a cow just moseys on in and none of the Indian workers take notice. The American manager is quite disturbed and asks, “Won’t the cow’s owner be worried?” They reply, “No, the cow will find its way home”.
The American says, “In our country we brand our cows. We take a hot iron to the animal and label it when it’s a little calf”. The Indians all squirmed in their seats in horror while the American was totally nonplussed.
Likewise, the Jews didn’t know how the Egyptians would react to seeing lamb blood on their doorposts, but they had to take the risk of  sacrificing the lamb  to stay alive, and then see the consequences in the morning.
By contrast, here they’re told, “The Lord will fight for you, you just need to remain silent.”
What we see is that sometimes we need to make tremendous efforts and sometimes we just need to be passive and let things play out.
This lesson was self-evident this week. The Democrats from Iowa needed to make efforts and go out and vote. Once they did, the candidates just needed to be patient. Yelling and screaming for results would do no good.
Likewise, in the House of Representatives and in the first days of the impeachment hearings in the Senate, the Democrats made the huge efforts that they felt were necessary. However, when it came time for the Senate to vote, they just needed to let go and accept the results. They made their best efforts, and they had to accept the outcome.
The parsha is teaching us this valuable lesson: action is not always the only or best option. When we need to act, we need to make sure we do our utmost and our best. And when things are out of our hands, we need to relinquish control and let things play out, letting G-d do the rest.
Have a wonderful week.

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