Ten of the most astounding experiences mankind has ever gone through were complete. The climatic tenth was a confrontation with mortality itself by means of the death of the firstborn. After an experience like this, the world has changed, especially the Jewish people, forever more. At this point, the Jewish people have become the Untouchables! They are on fire! They are unstoppable! And yetG-d doesn’t think they’re ready to confront a potential threat of combat. That’s how this week’s Torah portion begins, with a circuitous route chosen for the Jewish people as they begin their travels from Egypt to Israel due to the intimidating nations along the more direct route. What’s going on?! Didn’t we just witness miracles beyond human comprehension?! Don’t you think we can handle a little intimidation by mere mortals along the way at this point?! We’ve got the Almighty backing us! Fear comes from a feeling of insecurity and being alone. We have the greatest Security Agent and Companion one could ever ask for! How could there be a concern of fear? And another fascinating question to ponder, why is G-d telling us His “thought process” as to why He chose a different path to take them down? It’s not often that we are shown the Almighty’s logic to His choices in guiding us. Why here?
There is a common occurrence in Couples Therapy that is very reminiscent of this experience. The situation will come up in a session where one party, let’s say the wife, describes how painful it has been for her in this relationship when her husband is not there for her. She feels lonely, sad, scared, and rejected. She emotionally shares all this with her spouse, and he (ideally) listens, empathizes, and warmly responds with apologies and reassurance to never let that happen again. He has an epiphany of what it’s like for her, and he strongly submits that he will change his ways. He begins to take action, showing care and concern for her to provide her with the comfort and security she needs. And then he checks in with her and finds out that she’s still feeling scared, sad, and lonely. What happened? Didn’t she hear him say that he understands and will change his ways? Doesn’t she see the changes? Why isn’t she feeling comforted?
The answer is that it takes time to internalize emotional change. Along with him accepting what her emotional reality has been, he also has to accept that her internal reality will not change overnight. It is going to take time for her to take in those words and experiences of change before she can feel the reassurance he is giving her. This is a tricky point in Couples Therapy, and truthfully, it’s a tricky point in human relationships. We expect our commitment to change to complete the resolution within the other immediately. But it doesn’t happen so fast. It takes time to emotionally settle in, become a part of the couples’ new interactions, and for their inner worlds to healthily adapt to them. Eventually, the love will shine through and the loneliness and fears will subside, but it takes consistency over time to undo the suffering of the past.
Perhaps the Almighty was teaching us this aspect of human nature when He shared with us why He was leading the Jewish people in a circuitous route out of Egypt. Yes, we had watched the retribution of our oppressors through the 10 plagues in all their glory and wonder. But we had also experienced 210 years of subjugation, slavery, and destitution. It was going to take time for our mindset to change as a nation. Despite our immediate experiences, we carried a history of pain with us. Immediately after the Almighty chooses this path, the Torah tells us that G-d lead us with a daily Pillar of Cloud and a nightly Pillar of Fire. The Torah says those pillars would never leave from before the nation. Perhaps they were to serve not only as guiding lights along their travels but also as constant reminders of His Presence. Perhaps they were a daily and nightly message at all hours saying, “You are not alone.” The Almighty knew these would set the tone to eventually affect the Jewish people’s mindset. And from here, their relationship would adapt and evolve into the true loving relationship it was destined to be.