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Parshas Beshalach (5778)

Just Don't Get in G-d's Way!

There is a well-known passage in the Talmud in Sotah 2a which states that “it is as difficult for G-d to arrange a shidduch (match) between two people as it was for Him to split the Sea.” Much ink has been spilled over the centuries by the great Talmudic commentators to explain the connection between matchmaking and the Splitting of the Sea.

Perhaps we can understand the connection as follows:

As we read in this week’s Torah portion, the Jews have just left Egypt, and things began to deteriorate very rapidly. Pharaoh rallied the troops of Egypt, who followed the Jewish people and cornered them at the edge of the Sea.

Out of fear and frustration, the Jews cried out to Moses, “Were there no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the Wilderness?” (see Exodus 13:11).

Faced with the sea at his back, a huge army of Egyptians only a short distance away, and a terrified Jewish nation looking to him for guidance, Moses began to pray to G-d for salvation. Surprisingly, G-d responded by telling Moses, “Mah titzak eilay – why do you cry out to Me? Speak to the Children of Israel and let them journey forth [into the Sea]”.

Rashi explains that G-d was telling Moses that at this particular moment – when the Jewish people were in jeopardy – was not the time to engage in lengthy prayers. Rather, he should instruct the Jews to enter the Sea.

This exchange between G-d and Moses is quite difficult to understand. Wouldn’t this be the most appropriate time for prayer? Shouldn’t Moses have prayed to G-d in this moment of crisis, more than at any other time?

The Midrash in Shemos Rabbah 21:6 tells us, based on a verse in Exodus 14:27, that G-d made a “condition” with the Sea when He created it that it would split for the Jewish people when they needed it 2448 years later.

What this really means is that part of G-d’s Divine Plan for the Jewish people was that the Sea would split for them at the exact moment that it did. Everything was perfectly orchestrated by G-d from the beginning of time up to until that point so that when the Jews would arrive the waters would part for them. Moses and the Jewish people didn’t have to pray for their salvation at that time - all they had to do was to show up and enter the Sea – and let G-d take care of the rest.

In other words, G-d knew exactly what He was doing. The job of the Jewish people was simply not to get in His way. Had Moses and the Jewish people standing at the Sea prayed for even one more second, they would have missed that Divinely orchestrated moment that G-d had already set into motion from the beginning of Creation and all would have been lost!

And therein lies the connection between G-d’s arranging a shidduch between two people and the Splitting of the Sea.

The Talmud in Mo’ed Katan 18b teaches that the person who one marries is bashert, or predestined, since the beginning of time. [See the Talmudic commentators there who discuss the possibility of marrying someone else’s bashert.]

This means that part of G-d’s Divine Plan – which He carefully orchestrated from the beginning of Creation until now – is that this couple should meet each other at the exact moment that G-d decided they should meet. All the man and woman have to do is to show up and to allow the Divine Providence to do its job.

It is “difficult” for G-d to arrange a shidduch between two people because, just like the Splitting of the Sea which depended on the Jews showing up at the right time and place, so, too, does a shidduch depend on the couple showing up at the right time and place for it to be successful - and sometimes the man or woman “get in G-d’s way” and make mistakes or errors in judgment which cause them to miss that moment and to mess up G-d’s Divine Plan.

The take-home message here is that G-d knows exactly what He’s doing and has got it all figured out and perfectly planned to the second – and all we have to do is to try our best not to do anything which will thwart His Divine Plan. And if we do our best not to get in His way, then we will merit to see His salvation.

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