by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
"It happened that when Pharoah sent the nation out of Egypt, G-d did not
lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was close..."
One of the commentaries, Da'as Zekeinim MiBaalei HaTosfos, explains this
passage in a very unusual way. It notes that "although it was close" can be
read "_because_ it was close," referring to the Nation of Israel rather
than the land of the Philistines. Because Israel enjoys a special closeness
to G-d, Israel could not be led out by way of the Philistinian Authority.
During 1991, at this time of year, Scud missiles were descending on Israel.
I was there. So I can speak about the open miracles that I believe we
witnessed, G-d's hand at work.
During the first two days, I recall that over 20 missiles descended upon
Israel. No one died from them (although it was reported that unfortunately,
a few elderly people and one child suffocated in their gas masks). The next
time the missiles flew, American patriot missiles were launched to greet them.
A teacher of mine told us -- warned us, actually -- that it was foolish to
rely upon an American missile for protection. There is a book called the
Chovos Halevavos -- Duties of the Heart -- that offers a similar warning
(which he quoted): "If a person places his trust in something other than
G-d, then G-d hands him over into the hands of that thing that he trusts."
The news reports later claimed that a patriot did hit one of the incoming
scuds that night. Unfortunately, it hit the back section, knocking the
warhead off course rather than destroying it. It hit a building near Tel
Aviv, killing one person -- the only warhead that caused a direct fatality
in the entire series of attacks on Israel.
The first two times, there was nothing to trust except G-d. So Israel
prayed instead of wishing on a missile... and we did better!
Even after one is convinced that G-d's hand is really at work in the world,
it is still a challenge to _trust_ G-d, to recognize that matters are not
in our hands. If we see or experience something of this nature, we must
learn and grow from that experience rather than slipping back into our
Concerning the Parting of the Sea, my wife reminded me of a statement of
our Sages (Mechilta), that "what a maidservant saw by the sea, Yechezkel
Ben Buzi [the prophet Ezekiel] did not see in all his days." Yechezkel saw
an incredible prophetic vision, referred to as "the Works of the Holy
Chariot." Great Rabbis studied this passage, and were never satisfied that
they fully understood it... and yet the Medrash tells us that a maidservant
saw even more than this!
So later Rabbis have asked: why, then, is the maidservant just a
maidservant, while Yechezkel is considered one of our great prophets?
Wasn't her prophecy even greater? The answer, they say, is simple -- the
maidservant saw what happened, and remained a maidservant. Yechezkel saw
less, but he grew from the experience. He learned from what he saw; he
allowed his vision to teach him new things about G-d's world and his own
We all have our moments of inspiration. We can either let them pass, or
grasp them, demand the utmost from them, demand the utmost from
ourselves... and grow!
Text Copyright © 2002 Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.