Do You Feel Like You’re Being Punished by Your Problems?
2-½ minutes to read
Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Va’eira – Exodus 6:2-9:35
When things go wrong, why do they hit our most vulnerable spots? Wouldn't it be nice if once in a while life threw a softball? We never have too much time to transition. Nor do we get to choose between two private sector jobs with higher than expected salaries. It’s like we’re getting punished…
G-d Doesn't Punish People
Reintegrating to civilian life is chaotic. Many people want to help but don't know how. Others couldn't care less about you. After a while, it seems you're beset by plagues. Now, you're no Pharaoh. But the way G-d dealt with him in Parshas Va’eira will clue you into what’s going on:
“…behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the waters that are in the river, and they will change to blood.” (Shemos/Exodus 7:17)
Pharaoh failed to heed Moses's message to let the Children of Israel leave Egypt. So the Almighty brought plagues to get him to change his mind. And so they went: Blood, frogs, lice, wild beasts, pestilence, boils, and hail.
Each looks like a harsh punishment of Pharaoh and his people. Living through them must have been torture. But despite their appearance, G-d sent the plagues so the Egyptians would take certain lessons to heart.
In the first plague, the Almighty turned all the water in Egypt to blood. Pharaoh had proclaimed himself a god. But a deity doesn’t need to perform bodily functions. To keep his people from finding out he was human, he waded into the Nile River to relieve himself.
When the river turned to blood, Pharaoh could no longer hide. He should have learned humility when his people realized he wasn’t a god. But he didn’t.
The first plague also sent the people a message. The Nile was the key to Egypt’s economic life. When it turned to blood, they couldn’t water their crops. Their king-god had no power to prevent their financial ruin.
Make Sure You're Solving the Right Problem
Because they enslaved the Israelites, the Egyptians deserved punishment. G-d could have justified destroying them. Instead, He sent the plagues so they would examine specific aspects of their behavior. Had the Egyptians learned mercy and humility, the Almighty wouldn’t have sent more plagues.
The things that go wrong in your life or transition are messages from G-d. He wants you to focus your attention on an issue or behavior. Before solving a problem, consider:
1. Why. What is the reason this particular thing happened? You may come up with several reasons. Chose the one that relates to your weakest spot.
2. Clues. What signs has the Almighty given you about how he wants you to handle the challenge? They may not be obvious. But G-d never gives you a problem you’re not equipped to handle.
3. Solve. Choose a course of action that aligns with the reason you received the challenge. If you’re struggling to find a job, the solution may have nothing to do with finding work. Changing job-hunt tactics (especially if you're using my 5 Steps to a High-Paying Job) won't solve your problem. That’s why the first two steps are crucial to moving forward in a productive way.
You're not deserving of punishment like Pharaoh and the Egyptians. But their downfall can help you. When bad things happen, search for G-d’s message about how you need to change.
What problem have you had trouble figuring out?
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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!