Stand Still or Move?

Parshat Beshalach 5772

There’s a saying: When in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.

There is nothing worse than not knowing what to do. How do you decide what to do when every action seems to have negative consequences?

This week I want to explore how the Jewish People dealt with such a situation.

The Bitachon and Hishtadlut Balance

The Jews have left Egypt, but now Pharaoh and his army are in pursuit.

Is this a time for bitachon (trust) or is it a time for action (hishtadlut)?

Here is the translation from Judaica Press of a few verses:

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.
11 They 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?
12 Isn’t this the thing [about] which we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, Leave us alone, and we will serve the Egyptians, because we would rather serve the Egyptians than die in the desert.
13 Moses said to the people, Don’t be afraid! Stand firm and see the Lord’s salvation that He will wreak for you today, for the way you have seen the Egyptians is [only] today, [but] you shall no longer continue to see them for eternity.
14 The Lord will fight for you, but you shall remain silent.
15 The Lord said to Moses, Why do you cry out to Me? Speak to the children of Israel and let them travel.
16 And you raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and split it, and the children of Israel shall come in the midst of the sea on dry land.
17 And I, behold! I shall harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they will come after you, and I will be glorified through Pharaoh, and through all his force, through his chariots, and through his horsemen.
18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I will be glorified through Pharaoh, through his chariots, and through his horsemen.

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My Questions

Shemot 14:9

What is Pi Hachirot? What is Baal Tzefon?

Shemot 14:10

Why does this verse say that Pharaoh came near? Wasn’t that already clear in verse 9?

In verse 9 said that Egypt was pursuing (va’yirdefu). This verse says journeying (nosei’a). What is the difference?

In verse 9 the verb pursuing is plural. Here the verb journeying is singular. Why?

Shemot 14:11

Verse 10 said that the Jews were crying out to God. Now it says that they are complaining to Moses. Why the change?

Why do they mention the desert? Is that where they are now?

Why are they blaming Moses for taking them out of Egypt? Isn’t that what they wanted?

Shemot 14:12

When did the people say that they would rather stay in Egypt?

Shemot 14:13

In Moses’s reply, why does he stress “today”?

Shemot 14:14

What is implied by “be still” (tacharishun)?

Shemot 14:15

Why does Hashem rebuke Moses for crying out?

Shemot 14:16

Why does this verse say “and split it”? Did Moses split the sea? Shouldn’t the verse say “and it will be split”?

Shemot 14:17

How will Hashem be glorified through Pharaoh?

Shemot 14:18

Why is it important for Egypt to know that Hashem is God?

Your Turn

How do you decide when to act and when to be still? How do you balance hishtadlut and bitachon when faced with a difficult decision?

Please share your questions and suggested answers in the comments.

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Picture Credit: from flickr.

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
Click here to grab your copy of my free ebook How to Learn Chumash with Rashi.