Parshat Beshalach opens with Bnei Yisrael leaving Egypt. Pharaoh has second thoughts about “letting” the Jews go, so he rallies the remaining Egyptians to pursue Bnai Yisrael on their armored chariots. The Jews see the Egyptians approaching and get very scared and cry out to Hashem. This is what they say to Moshe (14:11-12):
“Were there no graves in Egypt that you had to take us into the desert to die?! What have you done to us by taking us out of Egypt?! Isn’t this what we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us be and we will continue to serve Egypt’ – for it is better that we serve Egypt than die in the desert.”
Rashi notes the obvious question: where and when did Bnei Yisrael say anything that resembles what they claim to have said in the underlined passage?
Rashi quotes the Mechilta’s answer to this question, and refers us to a verse at the end of Parshat Shemot. Moshe and Aharon had approached Pharaoh for the forst time, and instead of easing the burden on the Jewish People, Pharaoh had responded by making their slavery harder and no longer providing the straw for bricks. Upon hearing go this development, the Jewish leaders confront Moshe and Aharon and say (5:21): “May Hashem look upon you and judge, for you have made us abhorrent in the eyes of Egypt, and you placed a sword in their hands to murder us.”
At first glance, this Mechilta is very difficult. These statements in Parshat Shemot do not match up at all with the statements in Beshalach. Furthermore, even if you could in some way understand the parallels between these two verses, it completely ignores the ten plagues and Exodus from Egypt that transpired in between.
I’d like to suggest an understanding of our pasuk in light of a common parenting situation. Your child is jumping on the couch. You tell them to stop. They keep doing it, so this time you warn him, that he might hurt himself, so he should really stop jumping on the couch for his own good. He keeps jumping, and sure enough he falls off the couch and bumps his head, and he’s crying. What’s your first response? Mine is usually, “I told you so!” and then remembering that my child is in pain I ask, “are you OK?”
Many of us suffer from the “I told you so” mentality. We get stuck in our ways, stuck in wanting to be right that we ignore all of the other factors. The Jews are scared. So they respond defensively- by going on the offense against Moshe and by saying, “We Told You So!”
Hashem doesn’t get angry at Bnei Yisrael. He understands where they are coming from. Instead he merely tells them, “Be quiet”. Don’t open your mouths until you can overcome your “I told you so mentality.”
Bnei Yisrael overcome this mentality after the Splitting of the Sea. And it is at this point that the people begin to understand that God had been with them all along, and they respond by opening their mouths to recite the Song at the Sea.
This clarity doesn’t last long and soon enough the people are right back in their “I told you so” mentality. But Parshat Beshalach is proof that we can overcome this tendency, and focus on the “What can we do now?” instead of the “I told you so.”