A Life Lesson Parshat Beshalach: The Desire to Quit
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Beshalach(Exodus 13:17-17:16)

The Desire to Quit

Pharaoh had finally agreed to let the Jewish people leave Egypt. God then led the Jews to Israel on the longest route out of Egypt. God knew that if He took them out on the shortest route, the Jews would encounter a war along the way. And God said...

"Perhaps the people will reconsider when they see a war, and they will return to Egypt" (Exodus, 13:17).

A Life Lesson

Even though the Jewish people had just personally witnessed an awesome series of miracles, God knew that at the first sign of trouble they would want to return to Egypt and back to their lives of slavery.

How many times have you set a goal for yourself and the moment something didn't go as smoothly as you had planned, you immediately experienced self-doubt and seriously questioned your ability, worthiness, and even the goal itself? And the dream that you were so certain you wanted ends up slowly drifting into the large sea of the other unaccomplished goals and dreams you had in the past. Isn't it amazing that on Monday you knew exactly what you wanted with crystal clear clarity and had a solid game plan to achieve it, and by Wednesday you're about to give up?

The reason for all of this is due to two internal, distinct and powerful drives that God gave as a gift to all of us. One drive wants to change the world, climb the highest mountains, and leave the planet in a radically and more improved place than it now exists. The other drive will then challenge, question, and doubt every part of this journey and try with all its might to prevent you from never accomplishing anything.

Why would God, who loves us more than words could ever express, give us a desire not to grow, succeed, or experience the pleasure of great accomplishments?

The answer is simple: Only through struggle and fighting the burning desire to quit can we ever have the unbelievable joy and ecstasy that comes from achievement. If God knew the Jews would want to run back to slavery at the first challenge they encountered after just witnessing all of the miracles that He preformed for them, then clearly the drive to quit and retreat is alive and well within all of us. It doesn't matter how big, great, or strong you are -- this force will always be there.

Knowledge is power and by knowing that this "drive to quit" was designed by God to actually make you great will now give you the ability to see it for what it is: A test. Will you recognize that this drive's only purpose is to get you NOT to change the world and then fight through the urge to run away, or do you stop in your tracks and question your very existence?

Every time you begin a project, start an exercise program, want to launch a new career, or go towards any meaningful goal, you must know that you will encounter a war. This war might be disguised as the people who tell you that cannot succeed, or the rejection you face, or the obstacles you'll inevitably encounter. Remember, you were "pre-designed" by God to have a burning urge to retreat to Egypt. Make no mistake about it, you will be tested.

Great men and women have all faced the exact same tests and they have doubted themselves and all had the urge to quit. But for them, going back to Egypt was not an option. So they instead kept their eye on the ball and kicked their self- doubt in its shin's and went on to greatness. And people look at their great success stories and bemoan to all who'll listen that they too would have achieved greatest if they had the same circumstances. And that's the great irony -- their circumstances aren't just the same, but identical. The circumstance was the desire to quit. Great men and women blast through it, while others reconsider when they see a war and return to Egypt.

So, while having a good plan is important, not giving up on it is everything. And sometimes even after you choose to fight the war, you might not win. But take much comfort in knowing that it's completely up to God whether or not you'll have the strength and ability to win the war. But that was never the point. Because the purpose of the test was to just fight the war and refuse to retreat to Egypt. And since we're all designed for greatness, it's only through choosing to fight and march on that we'll inevitably experience the ecstasy of success. So the next time you want to become better in some way tomorrow than you are today, know that the great men and women of history who've achieved so much are no different than you and I. They just hung around for the war.

Published: February 5, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 21

(15) lenny, January 10, 2014 2:05 AM

great vort

I just have one question. if G-D took them around the desert so as not to give them the temptation to retreat and give up how are we meant to have the strength to continue the struggle and face the war if we don't even have that protection that they had. The fact that G-D took them around the desert and didn't put them in a situation of war out of fear that they would not fight- shows me that I don't have the strength to fight if G-D ever puts me in a situation of war.
Please explain.

(14) Anonymous, January 8, 2014 1:40 PM

Amazing!

This is amazing, thanks for posting!

(13) Anonymous, January 24, 2013 8:00 PM

awesome

thank you!

(12) Jong, January 21, 2013 11:08 PM

Powerful

Rabbi, you always write articles with full of insight. Thank you so much. I hope that I will always hang on to your words, keep my eyes on the ball and persist until I have my goal accomplished.

(11) jay schiffres, February 4, 2012 2:29 AM

A wonderful commentary but...

What you have written is meaningful to me. As an artist, I have quit. I will try not to in the future. The "but" I feel is the destruction of the Egyptian warriors who were drowned after G-d had separated the sea. It haunts me. Why did they have to die? G-d could have closed the waters before they attempted to follow. I know there must be a reason and I know that somehow it is related to this portion. But how?

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