For Parshat Shemot
Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald
"Strategy in the light of Emunah (faith)" is fundamentally different from regular strategy, which is built exclusively on man and his capabilities.
A regular strategic outlook is based on the principle of exclusivity – as if only man determines and shapes reality and the future. It recognizes two extremes: areas which apparently are under man's exclusive control and depend on his ability to make plans and to carry them out. And the opposite – areas which are entirely beyond man's control and his ability to influence them. The limits of the influence of this strategy are the limits of man's ability.
The Emunah – based strategic outlook is based on the principle of partnership between man - the individual and the community - and the divine leadership which directs the development of the world and history. This partnership should be taken into account appropriately while planning strategy and while executing it. This partnership is a two-sided coin. On one hand, the divine providence influences man's actions, and gives them power and influence beyond regular human ability. On the other hand, man can "work with G-d" and be a partner to "the work of the Creation" in divinely-led wide-ranging and historical processes. He is granted the possibility to influence some of the factors and the way events develop, for good or for bad. From this arises the responsibility for the partnership in world events. Man's influence is beyond the limitations of human ability.
This principle is explained in depth in several places of the Natziv's commentary on the Torah.
Sefer Shemot opens with the divinely-led chain of events leading to the enslavement of Am Israel and the exodus from Egypt. G-d has already revealed this to Avraham in the Covenent Between the Pieces (Bereshith 15:13): "Know for certain that your offspring will be strangers in a foreign land, and (the nation of that land) will enslave and torment them for four hundred years. And I will also judge the nation that will enslave them, and they will leave with great wealth." The process of enslavement will be as strangers, in a foreign land, and will entail slavery and torment. Avraham was not told, however, the extent of the enslavement and the suffering. This will be determined by the conduct of Am Israel. "Even though these kingdoms will arise in the future, it depends on these conditions. And therefore it is not clear now…but this is certain…that altogether: being strangers, enslavement and suffering will continue four hundred years from the day that He spoke to him…and it is not clear how long will continue only (the situation of) being strangers, and how long will be the enslavement and how long affliction, only generally, and later on everything will be clear. (The Natziv, Hamek Davar)
When Moshe Rabbenu is sent to take Israel out of Egypt, he was informed that the name of G-d which will be revealed by the way He will act in Egypt is "I will be that which I will be." This name sheds light on Am Israel's influence on the process, in which "the way it will happen isn't clear yet since it depends on the preparations of the receivers (Israel). And therefore 'I will be'-will act in accordance to 'that which I will be'-the power that Israel will give me." (The Natziv, Shemot 3:14)
It was already apparent by the end of Parshat Viyigash that Am Israel, which just went down to Egypt to be strangers there, temporary, and for a predetermined time; chose to settle there for an unlimited period of time. "And Israel settled in the land of Egypt in the land of Goshen, and they took hold of it, and they were fruitful and multiplied greatly." (Bereshith 47:27) Rashi says: "And they took hold of it – the term implying (holding it as) an estate." This behavior had strategic implications on the nature of the subsequent slavery. "This entire verse speaks of the guilt of the sons of Israel, since G-d decreed that 'your offspring will be strangers' and they desired to be 'residents,' and instead of being foreigners as decreed, they wanted an estate in a land that was not theirs." (Cli Yakar)
The settlement strategy in Egypt also influenced the intensity of the enslavement. Instead of separating themselves from the Egyptians and concentrating in the land of Goshen, they mingled into their society all across Egypt. The friction and the exposure to the Egyptian population created a threat that intensified the decrees. (The Natziv, Shemot 1:7)
Even the divine and formative event of the splitting of the Red Sea was decisively influenced by the behavior of Am Israel. "That G-d gave the tribe of Yehuda the insight that the (divine) providence at the splitting of the Red Sea will be in a natural manner, and He gave Binyamin the insight that it will be a marvelous miracle. And he who prevailed at that hour determined the manner of the Splitting of the Red Sea according to his will and insight." (Natziv, Shemot 3:14)