Beshalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16 )
SThe most important thing to remember when things look hopeless is not to give up hope! In this week's Torah portion, the Jewish people were in a hopeless situation if there ever was one: They were being chased by the strong, murderous Egyptian army and were backed up against a raging sea with seemingly nowhere to escape. Yet an amazing thing happened -- God made the sea split and let them walk through it to safety and freedom!
The lesson is that no matter how dark things may seem, we should never get depressed or give up hope, but rather always keep hoping and believing that God can and will 'split the sea' for us too.
In our story a kid learns how to erase the word 'hopeless' from his dictionary.
'Danny, forget it -- it's hopeless!' Kevin said loudly, flipping his pencil high into the air and drawing some annoyed stares from the kids sitting across from them at the big library table. 'We're going to flunk this test no matter how much we study. What do you say we just blow it off and go have some fun while we still can?'
The two of them had been banging their heads together for more than an hour trying to study for the killer trigonometry mid-term exam they were having the next day, with no apparent success.
'I know how you feel,' said Danny. 'It is pretty frustrating. But maybe if we just kept at it a bit more we could get it.'
Kevin laughed out loud. 'You're dreaming Danny. This stuff is impossible!' I'm outta here," he said as he stood up. "Are you coming or not?'
Danny shook his head. 'Nope. I'm going to try to stick it out and see what happens. You never know.'
'Maybe you never know, but I do. It would take a miracle to be ready for a test like this by tomorrow and I don't see any miracles coming around the corner.' With that, Kevin tucked his book under his arm and stomped out.
Now on his own, Danny tried over and over to figure out the mathematical maze in front of him, but it just wasn't happening. He looked at his watch -- close to supper time, his mom would expect him home. As the boy packed up his knapsack, he looked out the library window into the gray winter sky and sighed. 'God, You know I don't want to give up, but I really do need a miracle because this one is way beyond me.'
As Danny began trudging home, he felt a cold tingle on his face. It had started to snow in flurries which became steadier by the time he got home.
He ate supper and was just clearing the table when his sister, Elisa, burst in smiling ear to ear. 'They're predicting twelve inches overnight!'
'Snow, Danny! We're in for a big storm. Maybe they'll even cancel school tomorrow!'
Danny ran to the window. Sure enough, it was starting to snow heavily. He felt a surge of energy and thought, 'Wow, straight from heaven.'
Sure enough, school was cancelled the next day. Danny helped his dad shovel the sidewalk, then he sat down to start cracking his math book when the phone rang.
'Hi Dan, it's Kevin. Wanna get together?'
'Sure, come on over and we'll study for the test together.'
'That depressing test is the last thing on my mind. I've been trying hard to forget about it. I called to ask you if you want to go sledding over at the golf course.'
'But Kevin, now we have an extra day to study and we can really do it.'
'We could have a whole week off to study and it wouldn't help. You want to waste the whole day locked up with your book and still flunk in the end, go ahead. I'm hitting the hills. Bye.' The phone went silent.
Danny sighed. Kevin's negativity had taken some of the wind out of his sails. He looked down at the difficult problems in his math book, then out at the inviting white hills. Maybe it is hopeless. No! I just can't give up. If God already sent me the snowstorm straight from heaven, He can also send me a way to pass this test. But how?
Suddenly he heard a knock on the door. Who could that be on a day like today? he thought. He opened the door and was surprised to see his cousin Evan.
'Hi Danny. Since there's no school, I figured this would be a good chance to visit you guys.' Although they lived in the same part of town, they hardly got to see each other since Evan was a year older and went to a different school.
'Evan it's great to see you too, but I just don't know how much fun I'm going to be today. I have this big trigonometry test and."
Evan's eyes lit up like he had just been offered an ice-cream sundae. 'Hey, trig's a lot of fun. I aced it last year. Maybe we can work on it together. I'd be happy to help you figure it all out if you want.'
They sat down and an hour later Danny not only understood his math problems well enough to pass his test, but also came to see that there is no such thing as a hopeless situation -- as long as we're willing not to give up hope.
Q. How did Danny and his friend feel differently about their chances of passing the test?
A. Danny's friend thought it was impossible so he gave up hope, but Danny felt that even though it was very hard that maybe there would be a way to succeed, and he did.
Q. How should you try to feel if things seem very bad?
A. Try to remember that God is right there with you and He can always help and make things better.
Q. What life lesson can we learn from what happened to Danny?
A. Sometimes things can really seem hopeless and we can be tempted to just give up, but God wants us never to give up hope but rather try our best, ask Him for help and trust that things can work out no matter how bad they may seem.
Q. Do you think Danny's hopefulness had anything to do with the how well things turned out for him in the end?
A. Although we can't always see how, our attitude to life has a powerful effect on whether or not we will succeed. Thinking positively and asking God for help like Danny did can bring a lot of miracles into our lives too.
Ages ten and up
Q. Are there ever situations that are genuinely hopeless?
A. Certainly, situations can arise in life that can seem that way. However when we remember that God not only created and supervises the world, but is closely involved with every part of our lives big or small, we will realize that He can always change things for the better and therefore we need never give up hope.
Q. Our sages teach that God never gives us a test that we cannot pass. What do you think this means?
A. God knows who we are and our true capabilities. He put us in this world to grow spiritually and the life situations we encounter are 'tests' that we can always 'pass' by using them for spiritual growth. While things won't always necessarily turn out the way we want them to, we can rest assured that whatever happens to us is from God and if we try we can find a way to grow closer to him through it.