Cast Off Your BurdensJanuary 8, 2014 - 5:00 am
“That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore.”—Exodus 14:30
The Torah portion for this week is Beshalach, which means “when he sent them away,” from Exodus 13:17–17:16, and the Haftorah is from Judges 4:4–5:31.
In this week’s Torah portion we read: “That day the LORD saved Israel . . .” Which day? The day “Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore.” It was the day when the Israelites crossed through the parted sea and then the waters came crashing down on their Egyptian pursuers.
However, didn’t God take the Israelites out of Egypt a full week earlier? Why is it only now that they are considered “saved?”
The Sages explain that until the children of Israel witnessed first-hand that the Egyptians were dead, they didn’t feel saved. They worried that they might be pursued and captured at any moment. Since the Israelites didn’t feel saved, it was as though they weren’t saved. They could not be truly free until they were free from worry.
The saying goes, “Worry pulls tomorrow’s clouds over today’s sunshine.” And it’s true. Worrying about the future steals the joy and blessings that God has given us today. Even worse, in most instances, those clouds of tomorrow are usually completely imaginary and never come to pass. Worrying is useless at best and harmful at worst. But that hasn’t stopped the majority of us from doing it!
The only way to rid ourselves of worry is to supplant it with a much more powerful force. We need to transform our fears into faith through prayer and by casting all our troubles on the Lord.
There is a Jewish tale about a merchant named Yankel who used to carry his wares from town to town. One day, as a horse-drawn wagon passed by Yankel, the owner recognized him and offered him a ride. Yankel gratefully accepted the offer, but after a few moments, the wagon owner noticed that Yankel still was carrying his burden on his shoulders.
“Yankel,” he said, “why don’t you put your bags down?” “Oh, it’s all right,” Yankel replied. “I don’t want to be any trouble.” “Yankel, you fool!” the owner exclaimed. “My horses are pulling the wagon and you and all your things, whether you are carrying them or not. Put them down and stop carrying all this unnecessary weight!”
We shake our heads at foolish Yankel, who insisted on carrying his burdens unnecessarily, but isn’t there a foolish Yankel inside us all? We bear the burden of worrying about our income, our homes, our children, our plans for the future. But it’s all unnecessary weight because God is the one doing the heavy lifting! The psalmist put it this way, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).