No Thanks – In Memoriam of Mr. David M. Warren (Menachem Dovid ben Harav Yosef Z’L)
“And Pharaoh approached and the Children of Israel lifted their eyes and, behold, Egypt was travelling after them and they became very afraid and the Children of Israel shouted to G-d. And they said to Moses, were there no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, to take us out of Egypt?” (Exodus 14:10-11)
A week after the tenth plague, surrounded by the Clouds of Glory, led through the wilderness by a pillar of fire, and this is how the Israelites react toward G-d and Moses at the first sight of the Egyptian army?
“You took us to die in the wilderness.” According to Nahmanides (Rabbi Moshe ban Nachman, Gerona, Spain; 1194-1270), the people were arguing that even if the Egyptians didn’t kill them, the wilderness would, from lack of food and water.
The episode is recalled in Psalms as follows:
“Our fathers in Egypt, they gave no heed to your wonders, they didn’t remember your many acts of kindness, and they rebelled by the sea, in a Sea of Reeds.” (Psalms 106:7)
Did the people forget the ten plagues? Did they not see the Clouds of Glory and Pillar of Fire? Why would them complain to Moses that they were about to die?
As Nahmanides emphasizes and even repeats, part of the nation simply refused to “admit” to G-d’s salvation.
From here we learn the extraordinary capacity within each of us to deny the obvious.
One could reason that when incidents of salvation are not obvious, a lesser man of faith would attribute them to coincidences. Yet, we see that even if G-d were to open up the heavens and split the sea one can still choose to not believe.
Why? Perhaps the consequences of believing the obvious pose serious challenges to a person’s lifestyle. One cannot live in contradiction. One cannot have faith and not follow the precepts of that faith. Therefore, it is easier to deny.
Free will isn’t limited to action. We also have the free will to believe what we choose to believe. The burden is to believe what we know to be the truth, no matter the consequences.