In Parshat Beshalach, we see one of the most epic stories of the Torah – the epilogue to the Exodus – the splitting of the sea. Pharaoh has freed the Israelites, he’s sent them out of Egypt. But then he has a change of heart. He dispatches his army into the wilderness to go chase down his former slaves.
The Israelites see the mighty Egyptian military coming, and they’re terrified. They scream to Moses – we wish we would have peacefully died in Egypt, rather than be massacred in the wilderness. And then, of course, God saves them. The Almighty splits the sea, allowing Israel through, and destroys the Egyptian army in the waves.
And the nation has one of the most incredible and inspiring responses ever. They look at God, and they are awestruck; the text tells us, Vayaaminu, and they believed in God, and in Moses, God’s servant.
And you know, every year, I get overwhelmed by the whole thing. God saves them and loves them, and in response, the people feel that
But here’s the thing that gets me every time. This story, this chapter, is
Because, well, what happens next?
The people are
The people are
The people are hungry
Seeing a pattern, anyone? Right after the people declare their belief, right after this epic, loving connection between God and the people of Israel, the people almost seem to lose their faith – and for no apparent reason, because there’s no indication that God will stop saving them! Indeed, every time they complain, there’s God, saving the people, again!
This lack of faith in God evinced by the people in the desert… it seems like a pretty consistent pattern, and a distressing one, at that.
However, there is one oddball thrown into the mix of this week’s
There’s this episode with Amalek, who attack the nation in a surprise battle. Unlike the previous three episodes, this time, the nation calmly follow Moses’ lead, and they win this surprise battle.
So why are they faithful when it comes to the Splitting of the Sea, and Amalek, but they’re full of doubt that God will provide for
In a video on Aleph Beta that we released this week, I address this question. My theory is that we have two different relationships with God, one in which we see God as our protector about “big” things – that’s where we care about military prowess, and the ability to protect us from our enemies. But the other relationship is one in which we see God as active in our lives in my “little” concerns – will I have enough food on the table for my family? Will my car will
But here’s the thing. As Rabbi Fohrman reminded me when I talked to him about this theory, the Torah wasn’t written in neat little
So that’s my question for all of us. Does this theory hold? Do we see the Israelites continuing to have
So I kept digging, looking through not only this
And here’s the thing: I think it does. Because remember the classic stories we all come back
However, they don’t always have that same fear. Because look at all of the military stories of the book of Numbers. They battle with Arad, Sichon and Og, and Midian, and in each of these battles, the people calmly and patiently trust God, fight, and defeat their enemies – even as, interspersed between these stories, they lose faith about everything else.
The lessons we see through the Israelites’ struggle with faith – different types of faith – feel very real. There’s the magnificent God – the God who looks out for our nation, for our entire world. But that same God is also one who is there, with me, through the little things. Can I have faith in both? It can be difficult. When it comes to the big things, my faith feels more certain. When anti-Semitism looms, will God protect us, making sure that the Jewish people survive continues to endure? Yeah, I believe so. But will God help my unemployed friend with his financial struggles? There, it feels harder to muster the same certainty. But when we talk about faith, finding God in the marriage of the two types is always my goal.
I’d love to hear what you think, and how you relate to this struggle. Watch the video, and leave comments.