“The Children of Israel were armed when they went up from Egypt.” (Shemot 13:18)
From the outset, the Children of Israel were believers and sons of believers. Before the plagues and the Exodus, the Torah testifies that they believed in Moshe as Hashem’s true messenger, as it says: “Vayaamen ha’am — the nation believed.” The experience of the next year only took them higher and higher in their trust in the Alm-ghty as they witnessed the power and glory of His miracles. As they left the civilized environs of Egypt and set out for a journey through uninhabited wilderness, they took very little in the way of food and water. They trusted that if they followed Hashem’s instruction, He would provide for them.
However, there seems to be a glaring contradiction in the next verse. The Torah informs us that the same people who traveled with minimal provisions left the land of Egypt armed and ready for war; this, despite the fact that Hashem led them on a circuitous route in order to avoid confrontation with the dangerous Philistines. Although food would be a daily necessity, they took no food, thereby demonstrating total trust; yet they also armed themselves for battle, although the probability of confrontation was remote. Were they true believers, or not? Did they trust Hashem or their own prowess?
The lesson is that taking natural steps to achieve one’s goals is not a contradiction to bitachon — trust in the Alm-ghty; it is a requirement. We see at the end of the parashah the brazen attack on the newly freed slaves by the nation of Amalek. Moshe immediately instructs Yehoshua to conduct a draft and select men suitable for victory in battle with the enemy. The Mishnah at the end of tractate Rosh Hashanah describes the battle. Whenever Moshe raised his hands heavenward and directed the people’s hearts towards G-d, the Jews overpowered the enemy. If, however, Moshe dropped his hands, the Amalekites started to win the battle. In effect, the armaments that the Jews carried out of Egypt were not the factor that determined their victory nor was it the men chosen by Yehoshua to fight the attackers. It was the people’s trust in G-d that yielded success. Why did Moshe rush Yehoshua to draft soldiers? Again we see that although trust is the catalyst for success, human effort is a requirement for that trust to bring results.
Harav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, was asked if a businessman is permitted to buy hazard insurance. The question is that if the Alm-ghty decides to burn a warehouse full of inventory and cause the business a financial loss, does a man have the right to undermine the intentions of G-d, so to speak? Harav Moshe ruled that not only is it permitted — it is required. In all matters of business, a person should do whatever is natural to bring about success — as long as one maintains Torah guidelines. Even though the work does not yield success —it is the Will of G-d that does that job — one must still do things in a natural way.
The open miracles such as the splitting of the sea and the daily Heavenly food, mann, reveal the power and the kindness of G-d with which He runs His world. It is through these open miracles that one should learn that all human history, on a national or individual level, is miraculous. Our trust in Him brings success to us.
Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He lectures to audiences all over the world. He has distributed over 500,000 recorded lessons free of charge. He is author of the book 1 Minute With Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement, Sephardic Press, 2008.