D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
God is never late
The slogan God is never late, reminds me of a similar 12-Step saying that goes something like: Not in our time but in God’s time. We may yearn to have a problem resolved, a pizza delivered, or see the end of a pandemic sooner rather than later, but often that isn’t the way things happen. Time and again we are left waiting and waiting for our desired outcome to materialize. Hoping to get what we want sooner rather than later, has little to do with when it actually happens.
In this week’s Torah portion Beshalach, the Israelites depart Egypt and in so doing leave slavery behind them. But while they depart Egypt quickly, the route they take is not the quickest one to the Promised Land. That route would have meant traveling דֶּ֚רֶךְ אֶ֣רֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּ֔ים , through the land of the Philistines (Ex. 13:17). Instead, God leads them on a more circuitous and difficult route, דֶּ֥רֶךְ הַמִּדְבָּ֖ר יַם־ס֑וּף , roundabout by way of the wilderness at the Sea of Reeds (Ex. 13:18).
The text informs us God was concerned that if the Israelites took the short route where they surely would have fought the Philistines, they might have a change of heart and want to go back to Egypt. In addition, since the short path kept them close to Egypt, it would have been less complicated for the Israelites to return to a life of slavery.
The Talmud tells us that there is a long way which is short and a short way which is long (BT Eruvin 53b). In other words, when something comes to us too quickly as opposed to being hard earned, we don’t always appreciate it. Sometimes the harder way of doing something turns out to be the better way. God may have taken the Israelites on the longer route to the Promised Land and God may be taking us on the longer route to becoming free of the Coronavirus, but in the end God is never late.