The Narrow Place
Beshalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16 )
Parshat Beshalach tells how the Jewish people have left Egypt and are heading out into the desert, when suddenly they find Pharaoh and his troops chasing after them. The Jews become frightened, and declare: "We'd rather be slaves in Egypt!"
This is a shocking statement, given that the Jewish people had endured for 210 years of back-breaking labor and slavery. How could that situation possibly be preferable to the freedom they now enjoyed?
The answer is that slavery has one great advantage: Comfort. In Egypt, the Jews were provided with all their basic needs, like food and shelter, and they didn't have to make any decisions about how to spend their day or what to accomplish.
It's interesting that in Hebrew, the word for Egypt - "Mitzrayim" - is similar to "Maitzar" which means a narrow place. On one level, the Jews preferred a confined environment, rather than the broad responsibility that accompanies freedom. Sometimes it's the smallest box which makes us feel the most secure.
Indeed, all transition can be scary - whether getting married, starting a new job, or moving to a new city. It's even said that a baby in the womb is terrified of what awaits on the other side!
Ultimately, it's that "comfort" that we have to fight against - or we'll never move forward in life. So if you're struggling with a decision, ask yourself: What's the worst thing that can possibly happen? And in 10 years from now, will I regret not having made that decision?
In this parsha, the Sea finally splits, and the Jews walk through to freedom. At which point they break out in joyous celebration - not just because they'd beaten the Egyptians, but even more, because they'd conquered their own paralyzing fear.