In this week’s parsha, we find a couple of instances when the Jewish people used the medium of prayer. One of those times was when they stood at the Red Sea. They were in a quandary. The Egyptians were chasing them from behind, while the Red Sea was in front of them. What were they going to do? Our Rabbis teach us that - for a change - the Jewish people were split. There were four factions. One group wanted to return to Egypt. A second group wanted to fight the Egyptians. A third group started to daven. A fourth group wanted to jump into the sea and trust in G-d.
G-d told Moshe His response to each faction. About the group that wanted to return to Egypt, G-d said that you will never see them again. For the group that wanted to fight, G-d said that He would take care of the Egyptians. To the group that started to daven, G-d said, “Why are you davening to Me.” To the fourth group, G-d said to go ahead and jump into the sea.
Now, what was G-d saying about the third group, “Don’t daven to Me”? What is wrong with davening in a difficult situation? Rashi provides a solution. G-d was saying that although davening is great and very important, now is not the time to daven. You have to act – you have to do something. We must daven, but we also have to try to help ourselves.
I am reminded of the story of somebody that I know who was not ready for a college test. This person did not know whether to say Tehillim or to study. The person opted for the former and flunked the test. True, prayer helps, however, “G-d helps those who help themselves.” We have to give effort. If we try to do something for ourselves, then we can ask G-d for His assistance. Study first and then daven for success on the test. Just to go straight to G-d without any effort from our side is relying upon a miracle. G-d doesn’t run the world in that manner and we are not permitted to rely upon miracles in most circumstances.
So, one of the many lessons that we can learn from this week’s Parsha is that we must try to accomplish and not just sit back and wait for G-d to take over. That will help us build our faith and trust in G-d and - very importantly - our faith and trust in our abilities with which G-d has blessed us.