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    Long cuts & short cuts – B’shallach

    From Egypt to the Promised Land is not a great distance.

    The obvious route to take is the coastal road – a ten-day march, according to Ibn Ezra. Yet that was davka the route the Israelites did not take.

    “It came to pass, when Pharaoh let the people go, that God did not lead them through the way of the land of the Philistines… But God made the people take a roundabout way, the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea” (Ex. 13:17-18).

    Why avoid the shorter route? The Torah says, ki karov hu, “Because it was near”. The very nearness, convenience and appeal of the route was what disqualified it!

    The problem was that once Pharaoh changed his mind he and his chariots would easily have overtaken the Israelites and they would have no chance of resisting the Egyptian might. In the long run, the long route was better than the short.

    A short cut is not always a good thing. Taking longer over a task is often preferable.

    There is for example no short cut to the formation of a nation. Many new nations have suffered because they lacked training in the skills of government.

    There is no short cut to the formation of a congregation. It takes time for a small group to find each other and become a chevra.

    In personal life too self-development takes time and patience. And one’s place in the World to Come, though already reserved (“All Israel have a share in the World to Come”), takes a lifetime of care to be earned and confirmed.

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