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Beshalach(Exodus 13:17-17:16)

The Narrow Place

Parshat Beshalach tells how the Jewish people have left Egypt and are heading out into the desert, when suddenly they find Pharaoh and his troops chasing after them. The Jews become frightened, and declare: "We'd rather be slaves in Egypt!"

This is a shocking statement, given that the Jewish people had endured for 210 years of back-breaking labor and slavery. How could that situation possibly be preferable to the freedom they now enjoyed?

The answer is that slavery has one great advantage: Comfort. In Egypt, the Jews were provided with all their basic needs, like food and shelter, and they didn't have to make any decisions about how to spend their day or what to accomplish.

It's interesting that in Hebrew, the word for Egypt - "Mitzrayim" - is similar to "Maitzar" which means a narrow place. On one level, the Jews preferred a confined environment, rather than the broad responsibility that accompanies freedom. Sometimes it's the smallest box which makes us feel the most secure.

Indeed, all transition can be scary - whether getting married, starting a new job, or moving to a new city. It's even said that a baby in the womb is terrified of what awaits on the other side!

Ultimately, it's that "comfort" that we have to fight against - or we'll never move forward in life. So if you're struggling with a decision, ask yourself: What's the worst thing that can possibly happen? And in 10 years from now, will I regret not having made that decision?

In this parsha, the Sea finally splits, and the Jews walk through to freedom. At which point they break out in joyous celebration - not just because they'd beaten the Egyptians, but even more, because they'd conquered their own paralyzing fear.

February 11, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 5

(4) Anonymous, February 10, 2017 2:18 PM

Amen! Excellent article and very well written! Thanks for posting!

(3) Anonymous, January 28, 2015 12:21 PM


This is great! Thanks for posting it!

(2) Raphael Sisa, February 6, 2009 5:28 PM

I think it's very motivating to imagine that whenever we've hit a place of comfort in our lives, it's almost like we've returned to "slavery." Making an immediate action against that comfort, one item that will push you out of your boundaries a bit can be very free-ing. For instance, I'm not great at giving speech's, but I realize if I set a goal to give a speech in one month, then I have that time to prepare and become a better speech-giver than I am today. For our ancestors, leaving Egypt, leaving slavery, began with a first step--something we all need to keep in mind. Don't turn back!

nina, January 23, 2013 9:34 AM

Great insight-comfort is like slavery!

I think this is a wonderful thought-maybe this is why Jacob wasn't allowed to live a life of peace, because Gd wanted him to become greater? And personally, when I have moved out of my comfort zone-leaving a job I loved to do it in another countery and in another language-it was scary, but it made me feel great and rejuvenated. I will show my daughter your post because we recently discussed this, but you brought up a new aspect with many applications. Thank you!

(1) ellie, December 31, 2008 9:54 AM

people leaving egypt

i think this alot of help if u are trying to get info to write a bat mitzvah speech

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