This Parsha this week is Parshas Beshalach. In the Parsha the Torah tells us of the final Chapter in the Exodus from Egypt. After the Jews left, Pharaoh and the Egyptians had second thoughts about letting them free. They decided to chase after them. Six hundred chariots, armed with the best soldiers that this world power had, sped after the Jews. They caught up to the Jews and surrounded them at the end of the sixth day of Passover. On the morning of the Seventh day, Hashem told Moses to tell the Jewish people to go into the Sea. When the Jews went in, Hashem told Moses to stretch out his hand over the water and cause the water to split.When he did this, a miracle occurred: the waters parted and twelve paths were opened before the Jews, one for each tribe. As the Jews finished crossing the Sea, Pharaoh and his army ran into the Sea after them. Hashem told Moses to again stretch his hand over the water. Now a reverse miracle happened, as the water came crashing upon the Egyptians and drowned them.
When Pharaoh originally surrounded the Jews by the Sea, the wording used in the Torah is that Pharaoh Hikriv – Pharaoh “brought” close. (Exodus 14:10) However, the tense of this word is puzzling. It should really have said Pharaoh Korav – Pharaoh “came” close. The word Hikriv would mean that he brought someone else close. Here we are talking about Pharaoh coming close to the Jews. If so, we would assume that the correct word would be korav - that Pharaoh came close to them. Why does the Torah use the word hikriv?
Rashi offers one idea. When Pharaoh tried to convince the Egyptian army to go with him and chase after the Jews, he knew he had to try hard to persuade them. After all, they had just been through ten plagues from Hashem punishing them for what they had done to the Jews. Pharaoh therefore made an offer: Unlike other kings who go to battle with their troops and stay behind the front lines, I will lead you into battle and go before you. Thus when the Egyptian army approached the Jews, Pharaoh was hikriv - he pushed himself to do the unusual thing and to go ahead of the troops to the front lines.
The Medrash offers us another idea. Hikriv does not refer to the fact that Pharaoh himself came close to the Jews. Nor does it refer to the fact that the Egyptians came close to the Jews. Rather, it refers to what happened to the Jewish people. Pharaoh was hikriv - he brought the Jews close to Hashem. The terror and fright caused by the fact that the Egyptian army was surrounding them made the Jews come closer to Hashem. As they prayed and beseeched Him for salvation, they connected to Him. This was hikriv - this was the result, although it certainly wasn't the intention, of Pharaoh’s action.
The lesson of this Medrash is a most powerful and comforting one. When we find ourselves confronted by a challenge, rather than throwing our hands up, or getting upset, what if we just took a moment and thought about what the message of our challenge is? What if we used this moment as an opportunity to reconnect and reestablish our relationship with Hashem? Certainly, this would bring meaning and comfort to many of the challenges we find in life. It would also allow us to find purpose in and appreciate the various situations we face as we climb the ladder of growth in this world.