Parshas Beshalach: The Secret to Shedding Bad Habits

In Parshas Bashalach, at the very beginning of the Parsha the Torah tells us how G-d led the Jewish people out of Egypt specifically in a roundabout, circuitous route, as opposed to the more convenient route by the land of the Philistines, ki Karol hu– because that was close. The idea is that if it would be convenient to turn around, and go back to Egypt, Bnei Yisroel would have as soon as they experienced challenge and difficulty. Therefore, by them going on a long inconvenient route, they would have “gone too far,” and would not be inclined to turn around, even amid great difficulty.

There are many questions as to how this makes sense. Firstly, why on earth would this nation of very recently-freed-slaves go back to this place where they were brutally oppressed, tortured, and enslaved for 210 years? How would that make any sense? What was the concern there? Why would they possibly consider going back after everything they have experienced? The just spent the last year witnessing the open miracles of the plagues that afflicted Egypt, and spared them. If G-d got them this far, why would He forsake them now? What was their concern??

There are to be sure, a number of answers to these questions. One answer I saw as described by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg describes how the reality is that the Jewish people being naturally inclined to go back to Egypt when things got tough, is not very crazy at all. It mimics a way that we all behave as well. We all know deep down what is good for us, but many a time, we go back to patterns and bad habits that are against our better interest, that afflict us and even torture us.

I know I should not got down stairs right now and grab a few spoonfuls of an intensely Chocolate flavor of Bonnie Brae ice cream. Doing so will undermine the healthy life style that I am so trying to embrace, as I have become a runner, and am now more mindful of my diet. But it would be so easy to go down there and stuff my face. It would be so comfortable to do so. Even though it is very much against my better interest.

I would be better off to learn this lesson from the parsha– to make it as difficult as humanly possibly to access the ice cream. I should have to work hard, and toil to get it– it shouldn’t be so close to me, so easy to access, ki Karov hu.

I believe the primary reason I was successful in running my 10k was because I had a coach who held me accountable. After every run I was meant to chart my progress- that I did the run, how hard it was, what my time was, etc… My failure to mark the chart would result in an text from my coach asking if I had run yet. Backing out, and not doing what I committed to, would be inconvenient. It would be difficult. I realized, I may as well plow forward. The absence of such a system would almost certainly have resulted in me backing out. If it would have been easy too, I surely would have, ki Karov hu.

This is indeed a profound lesson for the best ways to shed bad habits: to create as much resistance and barriers as possible to the negative habit. If I am trying to limit my screen time, it probably doesn’t make sense to enable all of the notifications from the apps on my phone. If I am trying to limit the time I spend on TikTok every day (if you are on the app and are not trying to limit your TikTok time, follow @TheRealTikTokRabbi for a life changing experience), it probably doesn’t make sense to have TikTok on my phone. If I am trying to reduce my time on the device, I need to make accessing the things that suck up my time as difficult as possible.

Hopefully by learning the valuable lesson that G-d is conveying to the Jewish People, we can succeed in our continual growth, achieve our goals, and rid ourselves of our bad habits once and for all!

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