A few weeks ago, while reading the Beshalach weekly Torah (bible) portion , I noticed for the first time that the party responsible for taking the Jewish people out of Egypt changes from verse to verse. Thus we find the Torah portion beginning with the words “And it happened when Pharaoh sent out the people ….” (Exodus, chapter 13, verse 17). In other words, the one apparently responsible for driving out the Jewish people was none other than Pharaoh himself.
However, a few verses later it says “It was told to the king of Egypt (Pharaoh) that the people had fled ….” (chapter 14, verse 5). Thus perhaps this sentence is correct and the Jewish people were not thrown out by Pharaoh as originally thought but rather they took matters into their own hands and simply checked out of Egypt.
Then just six sentences later in verse 11 a third possibility is introduced. As the Jewish people are encamped by the sea and the mighty Egyptian army is approaching for the slaughter, they turn to Moses and say “Were there no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the wilderness? What is this that you have done to us to take us out of Egypt?” So perhaps it wasn’t Pharaoh that kicked them out nor was it the Jewish people themselves who took the initiative and simply left but rather it was one man by the name of Moses who was the actual one responsible for taking the Jewish people out of Egypt.
Of course each one of these options is merely a subjective interpretation of a current event. In the eyes of the all-powerful Pharaoh, he probably believed that he was the one responsible for sending the Jewish people away. Contrasting this were Pharaoh’s ministers and advisers who believed that the Jewish people had simply fled. Finally the Jewish people themselves were convinced that it was Moses who had taken them out of Egypt.
The truth, however, was that the ultimate one responsible for taking the Jewish people out of Egypt was neither Pharaoh, Moses or the Jewish people themselves but rather God. The language of the Torah (chapter 13, verse 14) clarifies the matter, “And it shall be when your son will ask you at some future time, “What is this?,” you shall say to him, “With a strong hand God removed us from Egypt, from the house of bondage.”
The point I believe the Torah is trying to teach us here is that in the present moment, man, using his subjective interpretation of current events, tends to attribute everything to the actions or policy of some key political or social figure. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to rise above this and to actually see the divine factor at play. Hence it is usually only “at some future time,” with plenty of hindsight, that one can fully understand the role that God plays in shaping history.
If this understanding that was granted to me a few weeks ago is correct, then perhaps we can try to search for a bit of the divine in the recent Israeli elections. In other words, rather than relying on the standard reasons that are being given for the shocking success of Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party, perhaps we can rise above our normal limits and actually discern a possible reason for God elevating this party to such a lofty level. Having said this, it should be clear that what I’m about to say here is mere speculation since no one knows for sure what are the intentions of God. Nevertheless, and despite the fact that I might be 100% wrong, I’d like to suggest the following.
One of the key components of Yair Lapid’s party is that everyone needs to share in the twin burdens of Israeli society – army service and the work world. With this call he is touching upon a frustration of many in Israel with the broadly defined Haredi community. Although this sector is not as black and white as the Israeli press tries to depict it, it is nevertheless a fact that many adult males in the Haredi community do not serve in the army or participate in the tax-paying work force.
For many in Israel there’s a feeling that this issue can no longer be swept under the carpet. Moreover, this feeling exists not only amongst the “anti-religious”, as some try to portray it, but even amongst many observant Jews themselves.
Moreover, unlike his father, the late Tommy Lapid, who was stridently anti-Haredi, and unlike Avigdor Lieberman who tried to advance similar ideas but also with respect to the Arabs (something that is not P.C. in Israel), Yair Lapid has managed to promote the issue in a somewhat non-abrasive manner. This being the case, there’s a real chance that this issue will actually be dealt with in the not too distant future.
If so, then perhaps this is where we can detect the “God factor.” In other words, despite the fact that some people here in Israel undoubtedly want to promote this issue because of hatred, perhaps this is God’s way of introducing into our consciousness a more expanded, more holistic, understanding of Torah and Judaism. While some believe that a Torah lifestyle is limited to the study hall and fulfillment of “practical mitzvoth,” thereby excluding seemingly external endeavors such as making an honest living and serving in the army, perhaps God is coming to teach us that they’re all part of the Torah since by its nature the Torah is broad and inclusive as opposed to being narrow and restrictive. Stated differently, taking the ideas and lessons of the Torah and going out with them into the world in order to develop and build the world is not an action that is outside the realm of Torah but rather it is the very essence of the Torah.
Thus, while some amongst us try to promote exalted ideas such as the declaration of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, perhaps God is coming to tell us that as a people we’re just not there and that it is far more important at the present moment to first acquire a more expanded understanding of Torah and Judaism. Moreover, maybe it is this expanded understanding and changed mindset on the part of the collective Jewish people which is the necessary precursor for eventually internalizing and accepting the concept of expanded Israeli sovereignty and other lofty ideas.
If my theory is correct, then this is something that is much bigger than Lapid or the Haredim. Nevertheless, since God works through humanity to advance His divine plan, perhaps He has chosen, for reasons known only to Him, to bring about this expanded understanding to the Jewish people davka (specifically) now at this particular point in time and davka via a freshman politician by the name of Yair Lapid.
This column was originally published by the Times of Israel.