Don’t Pray. Just obey.
Aren’t we supposed to pray about everything? Shouldn’t we pray before doing anything? After all, Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Why wouldn’t we pray about everything we do? This week’s parashah offers an interesting insight into a very good reason why prayer might not always be the best thing for our situation.
In the beginning of our Torah portion, the Children of Israel are faced with a dilemma. Pharaoh realized what a terrible loss he had incurred by allowing the Israelites to leave Egypt, and so he begins pursuing them with a massive army. When he and his army catch up with the Children of Israel, they are in a particularly strategic position: they have the Israelites cornered. There is no where to go but into the sea. The Torah records the reaction of the Israelites:
When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the LORD. (Exodus 14:10)
The Children of Israel were trapped and they cried out to the LORD. And although the text isn’t explicit, it appears that Moses follows their lead because just a few verses later we read:
The LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. (Exodus 14:15)
What? Why does Hashem rebuke Moses because he prayed? Isn’t this a natural response, the response God desires? Doesn’t He want us to seek Him in times like these? Isn’t this the very purpose of prayer? Rabbi Yehudah recognized the problem most people would associate with this passage and therefore explained the situation: