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Home » Beshalach

Beshalach: Stay in Your Lane

Submitted by on January 28, 2020 – 6:20 pmNo Comment | 129 views

Your lane leads you from your current position to your chosen destination. If you stay in your lane, you streamline your efforts and make a bee line for your goal. If you veer from your lane, you waste energy, lengthen your journey needlessly, and most importantly, interfere with the person in the next lane. It is his lane, not yours and we need to respect each other’s lanes.

When G-d split the sea to let the Jewish people pass through and escape their Egyptians pursuers, He opened twelve lanes through the sea, one for each tribe. He could have opened one wide lane and let all the people pass through jointly. Instead, G-d chose to give each tribe its own lane so that each could stay in its lane.

A central tenet of Jewish thought is that G-d does not perform miracles in vain. G-d could have split the sea one time and that would have sufficed to save our ancestors. Why did G-d perform twelve separate miracles? What was gained by enabling the tribes to walk in separate lanes? Was G-d concerned that they would get so entangled as to be unable to disentangle in the morning?

Your Mitzvah
No. Clearly that was not the concern. The concern was this. When Jews find themselves in unexpected places, it is because mitzvah opportunities await them that only they can fulfill. No one can else can accomplish this Mitzvah, which is why they of all people ended up in this place.

We are each endowed with unique talents, connections, and opportunities that enable us to perform specific tasks. G-d marries our abilities to our tasks and sends us to places where these tasks await us. When you find yourself in an unusual place, you must ask yourself what task awaits you in this place. It must be a task that fits your lane. If you are good at teaching, stay in your lane and look for a teaching opportunity. If you are good at community organizing, stay in your lane and look for an opportunity in community organization.

If you take on a task for which you are not suited, you will fail on two counts. You will leave your task to someone less capable and it won’t be done as well. You will fail at the task you took on because you will have prevented the person suited for it from taking it on. In other words, you will bump your neighbors out of their lanes and force them into your lane. A double travesty.

When our ancestors found themselves marching through the sea, they found themselves in an unusual place. As such, each person sought out a specific task to accomplish commensurate with their unique abilities. Though every individual had a unique task, tribe members, because they resemble each other, had similar tasks. Had the tribes intermingled, their ability to focus on their unique tasks would have been hampered. Worse, they would have interfered with others fulfilling their tasks. By establishing twelve separate lanes, G-d enabled each tribe to focus on their specific task.

This was not a miracle in vain. It was an important miracle that established a precedent for all of history. When the nation settled in Israel, each tribe was allocated a separate tract of land. Each tribe received a portion of the land commensurate with its spiritual disposition, talents and inclinations. Some were on the coast, others on the mountain, and yet others on the planes. Each was situated precisely where they needed to be in accordance with their abilities and opportunities.

We too must learn from this and seek out opportunities to serve G-d that are commensurate with our unique abilities. When we find ourselves in unexpected places, we must ask ourselves, as our ancestors did at the Red Sea, why G-d brought us there. This holds true even when we are in our expected places. Suppose you came to town for a job offer that was well thought out and well planned. As a Jew, you must ask yourself, as our ancestors did when they arrived in Israel, not only what opportunities for gain brought you here, but also what opportunities to give.

We must each ask ourselves what kind of tasks we enjoy doing and what kind of tasks are we good at. We must then look around our neighborhood, community, and social circle, and find opportunities that are commensurate with our interests and talents. We must stay in our lane and not veer into the lanes of others, but within our lane, we must seek our opportunities.[1]

A Story
Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson was the wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. She was in the habit of visiting a particular location in Brooklyn on a fairly regular basis and was familiar with the route that her driver would take. One day, there was a detour and they were forced to take a different route.

Riding through the unfamiliar neighborhood, the Rebbetzin noticed a commotion on the street. She asked her driver to stop and investigate. He returned several minutes later and informed the Rebbetzin that a woman was being evicted from her apartment. The woman was shouting in frustration because she did not speak English and was unable to make herself understood to the authorities.

The Rebbetzin asked how much rent the evicted woman owed and soon learned that the woman owed several thousand dollars. The Rebbetzin proceeded to write a check for the specified amount and instructed her driver to deliver the check to the officer and return to the car. As soon as her driver returned, the Rebbetzin asked him to drive off and the woman never knew the identity of her benefactor.

A while later, the driver asked the Rebbetzin why she chose to help this woman at such a high cost to herself. The Rebbetzin replied that when the car turned onto the unfamiliar street, she was reminded of a conversation she had with her father at a young age. The Rebbetzin’s father was the previous Rebbe of Lubavitch and he told his daughter that if she ever found herself in a location unexpectedly, she should look for opportunities to do a Mitzvah.

Surely, her father told her, G-d sent you to this place because a good deed needs doing, and you are in a position to do it. Look out for these opportunities and when you find them, grab them. This is your mission in the moment. When they detoured from their usual route, the Rebbetzin said that she immediately began to look for an opportunity to help someone. When they came upon the commotion, she knew that G-d had sent her to this place at this time to perform this good deed.

This story embodies the idea behind the miracle of twelve lanes. G-d had a task that needed doing. G-d knew of a woman who was willing to do it and who had the means to do it. He brought the two together and left the Rebbetzin to exercise her free choice. She could have chosen to ignore the opportunity as so many of us often do. But she didn’t. The Rebbetzin seized the moment and fulfilled her destiny.

We can do it too.

[1] Likutei Sichos:6 p. 304.

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