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Weekly Chizuk

Parashas Beshalach

The Power of Bitachon to Bring About Miracles

And God said to Moshe, "Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the Children of Israel to go."?(Shemos 14:15)

(Based on the Or Ha-Chaim's commentary on the Torah.)

Imagine the scene: The Jewish People are gathered at the edge of the sea. Behind them is the mighty Egyptian army, relentlessly advancing on them. The situation is getting more desperate by the minute, and there is nowhere to turn. At this dark hour, Moshe turns to Hashem in heartfelt supplication. The Almighty's startling response is, "Why are you praying to Me?!"

Incredible! To whom should one pray if not Hashem - and especially at such a difficult time as this?! And if one's prayers are not answered, he should continue to pray until he sees some sign that his prayers have been accepted. Logically, we would have expected God to answer Moshe's prayer by instructing him to lift up his staff and split the sea. Instead, He told him to stop praying! What is the meaning of this?

Furthermore, what did God mean by His pronouncement: "Tell the Children of Israel to go"? Go where? Behind them were the Egyptians, and in front of them was the sea, which had not yet split open.

In answering these questions, the Or Ha-Chaim teaches us a very important principle in life. Chazal tell us that when the Jewish People were standing before the sea, they were on trial in Heaven. The prosecuting angels claimed that the Children of Israel were not worthy of being saved. While in Egypt, they had begun worshiping idols just as the local people did. "These [the Jewish People] are idol-worshipers, and these [the Egyptians] are idol-worshipers!" (Zohar, Terumah, 170b). Moreover, the Jews had just shown their lack of faith in God by saying that they would rather go back to Egypt than die in the desert.

How does one win a case in the Heavenly court? Normally, the side of rachamim (mercy) is strengthened by the good deeds one performs. However, the Jewish People's idolatry had just the opposite effect, and gave strength to the side of din (strict judgment) instead. Hashem wanted to judge Israel favorably, but He saw that the power of Heavenly mercy was very weak.

In order to bolster Israel's position, Hashem gave Moshe a potent piece of advice: "Why are you crying out to Me?" It's not in My hands. Even though I want to perform a miracle, the force of strict judgment is preventing Me because they are not worthy. Therefore, "tell the Children of Israel to go." This is My advice to strengthen the side of rachamim. Speak to the Jewish People and tell them to rely on their emunah by going into the sea even before it splits. Tell them to have faith with every fiber of their beings that I will perform a miracle for them, to match their willingness to endanger their lives. By doing so, they will strengthen the power of rachamim. Because of their actions, the sea will miraculously split. Such is the power of emunah and bitachon to tip the scales to the side of merit; they are such tremendous forces that they can overturn midas ha-din.

The Power of Bitachon

This idea is echoed by R. Chaim Volozhin in Nefesh Ha-Chaim (section 1, ch. 9):

We read in the Torah: "Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the Children of Israel to go." This tells us that everything depended upon them. If they were to display perfect emunah and bitachon by fearlessly going into the sea, then the sheer power of their faith would cause the waters to split before them. Their faith alone would arouse Heaven to perform a miracle for them.

* * *

There was a certain person in London who was diagnosed as having an advanced case of cancer. His attending physician told him that the situation was hopeless and that he should conclude his affairs as soon as possible. At the time this man received this grim prognosis, one of the gedolim of Jerusalem was visiting London. In desperation, the sick man went to him, crying, "I want to live, I don't want to die!"

The Rav looked at him compassionately and answered, "Even though there may not be hope according to the laws of nature, there is still hope above the laws of nature. We are bound to a principle of measure for measure: the Almighty responds to us according to the way we conduct ourselves. If we act within the realm of nature, then He treats us according to the laws of nature. However, if we live above the laws of nature, then He reciprocates and treats us in a way that is above the laws of nature.

"If you take it upon yourself to conduct yourself in a way that transcends nature, then by that same way Hashem will let you live."

The man agreed, and asked the Rav if he had a specific suggestion for what he might do. The Rav thought for a moment and then replied, "Since you are a very wealthy man, you should donate an extraordinary amount of your assets to support Torah. Is it unnatural for a man in your situation to give away half of his fortune?" The man answered in the affirmative, and he promised to carry out the Rav's advice. Wasting no time, he met with his accountant and tallied up his entire estate. He then gave half of it away to support Torah.

This incident happened eight years ago. According to the doctors, this man should have died long ago. He is still going strong.

Wishing everyone a Gut Shabbos!

Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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