Believing in Hashem; believing in ourselves.
When would Hashem ever want us not to daven? In Parshat Beshalach, as the Jewish people were standing between the sea, the Egyptian army, and the desert, they naturally turned their faces upwards and pleaded to the Almighty for help. Remarkably, Hashem responds: “מַה־תִּצְעַ֖ק אֵלָ֑י (Why do you cry out to Me? Tell the Israelites to go forward).”
It’s not as if Hashem doesn’t want our tefilot (prayers). On the other side of the sea, we are attacked by Amalek, our long-standing enemy, and the Torah tells us when Moshe’s arms were raised, we took the upper hand. Moshe’s arms didn’t magically cause us to win, but rather, when the Jewish soldiers looked at Moshe’s posture of prayer, they were inspired to daven, and through the combination of G-dly intervention and human effort, we were victorious. What’s the difference between these two confrontations – against the Egyptians where we shouldn’t daven, and against the Amalek, where we had to?
One needs to understand the purpose of both wars. The Izhbitza Rebbe explains that the battle with Egypt was one of the awareness of the creator. Hashem displayed His might through the ten plagues and the splitting of the sea. We just needed to walk, and Hashem would do everything, supernaturally, to respond to Pharaoh’s original response to Moshe when he asked for the Jews to be free to worship Hashem: “’מִ֤י ה (Who is the Lord?)”
On the other hand, Amalek, who descended from Eisav, believed that our existence was meaningless and coincidental. Eisav sold Yaakov his birthright for the quick satisfaction of hunger. He wasn’t interested in the long term commitment of temple service. Eisav exclaimed, “Here I am going to die, so why do I need the birth right?” Amalek despised the idea of a world to-come where we receive reward or punishment for the actions we do here on earth. In order to persuade the world otherwise, we needed to fight him with meaningful human action. We partnered with Hashem through physical effort and prayer to display how, together, the creator and created can make a difference.
On Purim, we celebrate the fact that the Jews defeated Amalek once again. Hashem was, of course, behind our success, but He would remain quite hidden, allowing Esther and the Jewish people to come forward with bravery and self-sacrifice. At first, Esther refused to step up on behalf of her people. But after Mordechai inspired her asking, “Who knows, perhaps for the sake of a time such as this you have come to join royalty?”, she accepted responsibility and asked Jews to pray. Through her cunning and leadership, Haman, descended from the Amaleki King Agag, is trapped, and eventually hung on the gallows he built to kill Mordechai the Jew! Coincidence? I think not!
There are times in life where we raise our hands in prayer knowing that only Hashem can help as He overcomes the natural laws He put in place. At other times, He beckons us to act and overcome our natural tendencies to remain stagnant and passive and “join” Him to bring about the change. Esther revealed her hidden G-d-given potential to save the Jews, and for that we are eternally grateful.