Burdens and Baggage

Yael Eckstein  |  January 30, 2024

Drawing of four luggage bags stacked on top of each other next to a briefcase standing up.

That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. — Exodus 14:30

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Beshalach, which means “when he sent them away,” from Exodus 13:17–17:16.

There is a Jewish tale about a merchant named Yankel who carried his wares from town to town. One day, as a horse drawn wagon passed by Yankel, the owner recognized him and offered him a ride. Yankel gratefully accepted the offer, but a few moments later, the wagon-owner noticed that Yankel was still carrying his burden on his shoulders.  

“Yankel,” he said, “why don’t you put your bags down?” “Oh, it’s all right,” Yankel replied. “I don’t want to be any trouble.” “Yankel, you fool!” the owner exclaimed. “My horses are pulling everything in the wagon whether or not you are carrying them. Put down your bags and stop carrying all this unnecessary baggage!” 

In this week’s Torah portion, we read that God saved Israel by parting the Red Sea, allowing them to cross through, and then drowning the Egyptians who chased after them. However, in reality, God freed the Israelites from Egypt a full week earlier. Why is it only now that they are considered “saved”?

The Jewish sages explained that until the children of Israel saw that the Egyptians were dead, they didn’t believe that they were truly saved. They worried that their former masters could still return them to slavery. And since the Israelites didn’t feel saved, it was as though they weren’t yet redeemed. They were still enslaved, if only in their minds. 

Burdens and Baggage

Like Yankel in the story, the Israelites carried unnecessary baggage—the baggage of worry and fear—and it weighed them down. And in our own lives, we often carry burdens and baggage that we need not carry. We worry about our income, our homes, our children, our plans for the future. But it’s all unnecessary weight because, in reality, God is the one doing the heavy lifting anyway. He carries us and all of our burdens too. 

The psalmist writes, “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22). We can put down our burdens and break free from the imaginary shackles that hold us back. We don’t need to wait a moment longer—we can give our worries to God and step out in freedom today.  

Your Turn:

What are you worrying about right now? How would you feel if you had no worries in your heart? Now, take your worries and hand them over to God, and enjoy your freedom!