Is G-d With Us?
The Israelites have left Egypt and are experiencing freedom for the first time. Obstacle one: the Sea of Reeds. Moses and G-d tag team it, and the Israelites cross. Next, the bitter water of Marah. Again, Moses and G-d make a miracle and the bitter water becomes sweet. And to eat, a heavenly food called manna that comes from the sky.
Every time the Israelites come up against an obstacle, G-d gives them exactly what they want. That’s a pretty sweet deal! It seems like G-d does not do that for people anymore. Rough, huh?
We live in an amoral universe where good and bad things happen all the time. We can’t pin point the “why” of certain things. And when we read stories in the Torah about G-d handing things out like a cosmic Santa Claus, it seems really unfair. It makes people doubt how G-d can even exist.
The thing to remember about this Torah portion is that the Israelites were slaves. And slavery can do a lot to the psyche. They may have had post-traumatic stress disorder, where they constantly have feeling of re-living the darkness of their old lives, despite the fact that they are free. They have never had the ability to make choices for themselves and are now burdened by their own free will. And even though they are free, what good is it if they are going to die in the desert?
So G-d throws them a bone. G-d puts up with their complaining because G-d knows that they are dealing with a lot. This is where the g-dly sense of “doing good” comes from. Preparing food for a family, caring for the sick, giving money to those in need: this all stems from a divine precedent set for us in the Torah.
You can pray all you want, but G-d will not always give you exactly what you want. That’s because we are free now. G-d helped our spiritual ancestors to go from slavery to freedom, so that we can turn inward and see the g-dliness that is inside us, and perform miracles for others.
Does this mean that G-d is no longer with us? Absolutely not! Later in the Parshat, Amalek attack the Israelites. Moses begins praying and Joshua raises an army. Between the two of them, they defeat Amalek.
It took a combination of Moses praying and Joshua acting to defeat the Amalekites. Not one of them could have acted without the other. G-d didn’t destroy the army of Amalek for the Israelites. Instead, G-d inspired their strength and encouraged the Israelites to work together to achieve their goal.
This, I believe, is where G-d is in our lives: the divine inspiration to band together against obstacles we cannot endure alone, giving us the g-dly power to overcome whatever we face.