Pinny Arnon

The Path to Peace Is Not Peaceful

Photo by Cole Keister on Unsplash

In this week’s Torah reading, Beshallach, Pharaoh frees the Israelites from Egypt after the ten plagues that were detailed in the previous two parshiot. The opening verse of Beshallach relates that “it was, when Pharaoh released the people, that G-d did not lead them through the land of the Pelishtim because it was near, for G-d said, “so that the people do not change their minds when they see war and return to Mitzrayim” (Exodus 13:17).

Here we find that Hashem did not lead the Hebrew nation along the short and direct way to the Promised Land. He chose, rather, to direct them on a lengthier, more circuitous route. He did so because He knew that they would encounter conflict on the way, and if the return to Egypt would have been quick and easy, they would be more inclined to return to slavery rather than battle their way to freedom.

Every verse of Torah is eternally relevant, and here we find a fascinating insight that provides profound guidance for the Hebrew nation today. From this verse, we learn the following truths about human nature: Human beings are inclined to take the path of least resistance. We are capable of tolerating situations that are less than ideal rather than investing the significant time, energy, and resources required to achieve a more optimal outcome. We are willing to subject ourselves to an accustomed pain and discomfort rather than venture toward an uncertain better future. We would often prefer a slow and predictable defeat rather than a difficult and costly victory.

These truths are as applicable to the nation of Israel today as they were at the time of the Exodus from Egypt 3300 years ago. We find ourselves currently in a terrible war that we have not chosen. There are those who are crying out for a ceasefire and a cessation of the violence and destruction that is horrific to all people of conscience. Yet what these appeals for the suspension of military action fail to understand is that a ceasefire will only return us to the untenable situation that predated the current war. While the violence and conflict were less extensive and severe previously, the conditions made us susceptible to the massacre of October 7th and the war that would eventually be waged later if not now.

In essence, the calls for a ceasefire are precisely what Hashem was averting by leading the nation circuitously rather than directly. There will be those, the verse teaches us, who will urge us to retreat rather than fight life’s necessary battles. Yet we must push through the inevitable struggle if we want to reach our desired destination. There is evil in this world, and it must be countered. This is not only for our own sake, but it is for the benefit of all of G-d’s children who are subjected to cruelty, violence, and abuse.

In Proverbs, it is written that the Torah’s “ways are ways of pleasantness and all of its paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17). Elaborating on this verse, the Midrash teaches that “everything which was written in the Torah was written in order to create peace. Even though the Torah writes of war, even the wars were written to create peace.” (Midrash Tanhuma, Tzav 3). Torah is a book of peace, but it also a book of truth. The truth that the Torah divulges is that the route to freedom is not free, and the path to peace is not peaceful. There is a cost for everything of value, and there is conflict on the way to resolution.

Pnei Hashem is an introduction to the deepest depths of the human experience based on the esoteric teachings of Torah.

About the Author
Pinny Arnon is an award-winning writer in the secular world who was introduced to the wellsprings of Torah as a young adult. After decades of study and frequent interaction with some of the most renowned Rabbis of the generation, Arnon has been encouraged to focus his clear and incisive writing style on the explication of the inner depths of Torah.
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