Dvar Torah - Parshah Beschalach and "Armed" as a State of Mind - by Grant Schmidt, President
We begin in Parshah Beschalach which means, "let go," which follows the Jews having left Egypt and being led to the Red Sea, aka the Sea of Reeds.
"13:18: So God led the people around [by] way of the desert [to] the Red Sea, and the children of Israel were armed when they went up out of Egypt." copy and pasted from Chabad.com's parsha page.
Only having begun their journey to freedom, they reach an impasse at the Red Sea. They are famished and worn out, but for the first time ever they are "armed." They had weapons, but did they have the will to use them? Even moreso, did they have the faith and trust in God that no matter the physical obstruction or threat in the physical world that God would fulfill his promise and lead them to their survival?
Upon arriving at the water's edge, The Jews see the Egyptian army and Pharaoh behind them cutting off any retreat. They cower with fear they will be besieged, slaughtered, or put back in bondage from whence they came.
Despite the miracles and plagues and all that they had seen, 80% of the Jewish people had decided to stay in Egypt. Those who chose to stay chose the fear of the known hardship to the unknown of escaping. That 80% perished during the plague of darkness. This has historical and contemporary precedent to how the Jews have often had difficulty in assimilation; while seemingly the easier path, it has been ruinous. But what of the resolve of the 20%? Did those following Moses have the resolve to escape and fight for their freedom? They were "armed." They had seen God on their side; but did they have the resolve to "stand fast?" No. Despite the weapons the Torah tells us they had in hand, they disappointed God by not being ready to fight and have the trust that God would be on their side yet again. Despite the arms, they despaired.
If the Jewish people were unarmed and the Torah told us so, then it would make sense for them to be afraid, but the Torah makes a point to say that they were "armed."
Being armed and being ready are two separate things. If God's people had been ready to fight Pharaoh and the Egyptian Army, they would not have disappointed God, because it would have shown God that they knew--- that they had faith and trust--- in God. If this had been the case, then the Jewish people would not have had to wander the desert for 40 years for all of the enslaved generation to die off. God needed those with this "slave mindset" to die off so that a new generation with faith and trust could flourish and take on the challenges and literal battles ahead.
So what about today? What lessons are we to gleam? As an analogy, a husband and wife can pray and pray for a child, but it takes physical investment in addition to prayer.
We learn the recipe for miracles and survival is:
(Physical action) + (Prayer) = Survial & Spirtual Intervention in the Physical World.
If you want the Jewish people to survive and live beautiful lives, do not rely on the government; do not assimilate. Do not be unarmed. The Torah makes a point that the Jewish people were not simply spoon-fed wards of God, being led unarmed through the desert. He did not teleport them to Israel. God had led them, sent them adversaries, and armed them. So too should you be armed--- but only if you have the able mind, able body, and the willpower and faith to use it appropriately. Being armed is both physical but it is also emotional (can you control your courage), it is mental, and it is spiritual as this week's Parsha proves.
As the old adage goes, "armed is a state of mind." This week's parsha proves, "Armed is really a state of heart and mind."
Written by Grant Schmidt, 2022/ 5782