You grumbled in your tents and said, “The LORD hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us.” — Deuteronomy 1:27
The Torah portion for this week is Devarim which means “words,” from Deuteronomy 1:1–3:22, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 1:1–27.
A colleague once shared a statement that profoundly changed the way he viewed his life. This friend is a rabbi in one of the most isolated Jewish communities in the world. One day, a Jewish musician came to town and after the concert, my friend and the musician began talking. My friend told the musician how hard it was to be a rabbi in such a remote and small Jewish community. “It’s extremely difficult,” he said with a sigh. The holy musician replied, “Who says easier is better?”
In this week’s reading, Moses recalls a time when the Israelites were sure that easier was better. They complained to Moses that God had brought them out of Egypt, a lush and bountiful land, in order to go to Israel, an arid part of the world and a place heavily guarded by its inhabitants.
As they put it, “The LORD hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt . . .”
The Jewish sages explain what the Israelites meant with a parable: Imagine a king who has two sons and two fields, one field well-irrigated and one dry and parched. To the son he loves he gave the irrigated field; to the one he hates he gave the arid field. The land of Egypt is irrigated, the Nile rises and waters it. The land of Canaan is arid, “and God brought us out of Egypt to give us the land of Canaan,” the Israelites said.
However, the truth is that when God gave the children of Israel a land which was more difficult to cultivate, He was giving them the better land. Because sometimes, easier is bad and difficult is good. As the spies who went to check out the land acknowledged: “It is a good land that the LORD our God is giving us” (Deuteronomy 1:25).
What is so good about a difficult land?
In order to cultivate the land of Israel, much prayer would be necessary, drawing the people closer to God. Much work would be needed, making the people more humble and enhancing their connection to the land. So many good things come out of hard work and prayer. When everything is easy, and a person neglects both, his life is severely lacking. He is less happy and leads a less successful life.
So next time you feel down because of the challenges God has given you, remember that He gives challenges to those He loves. Every challenge is a chance to grow closer to God and to make something special of yourself and your life. Easier isn’t always better, and sometimes our difficulties are our greatest gifts!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President