As is typical in the book of Exodus, a lot happens in this week’s parasha, Be’shalach, not the least of which, by the way, is Moses’ Shirat Ha Yam, the Song of the Sea. Moses sings this after the people cross the Sea of Reeds, after the Pharaoh and his army are drowned in the sea.
The people have been through a lot by now. Four hundred years of slavery, living through the plagues (though they weren’t victims, they had to be scary to witness), and daring to marshall some hope, relying on the unknown shoulders of Moses and Aaron, it was a lot! Certainly they had been tested.
So now freedom is in sight. Pharaoh let the people go, but God puts another wrinkle in the freedom fabric, “God did not lead tem by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was nearer.” (Ex 13:17)
Why? Why go the long way? What’s wrong with a short-cut, or at least a direct route after all this time? The text says, “God said, ‘The people may have a change of heart when they see war, and return to Egypt’” (Ex 13:18)
God seemed to be concerned that hope of freedom had a tenuous hold on the people’s hearts and minds. They would spook easily. JPS Commentary says that “the coastal road to Canaan had been heavily fortified by the Egyptians. A chain of strongholds, way stations, reservoirs, and wells dotted the area…” (p 69/Exodus) Perhaps God felt the people needed to live a bit with this idea of no longer being slaves, without more outside pressures.
God is saying, “Let’s hear it for the long way ‘round.” Maybe direct lines aren’t always the best way. Maybe we need transition time, which may take longer, but what we’re trying to accomplish on the journey will stay with us longer.
Have you found this to be true in your major transitions in life?
In one year, I experienced a move across the country, a new town, a new home, a new husband who suddenly lost his job, personal medical challenges, and my father dying suddenly from a heart attack.
Too many transitions, too much, too quick. Looking back, I was ready to turn tail and run…somewhere, anywhere. I probably could have benefited from the long way ‘round.
Let’s hear it for the long way ‘round.