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Exodus 23:30 – Strategy of Gradualness

Shabbat 27 Shevat 5783 (18.02.23)

מְעַ֥ט מְעַ֛ט אֲגָרְשֶׁ֖נּוּ מִפָּנֶ֑יךָ עַ֚ד אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּפְרֶ֔ה וְנָחַלְתָּ֖ אֶת־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

Rather, I will drive them out before you little by little, until you grow larger, until you increase and are able to occupy the whole land.

Hashem applies the “strategy” of gradualness here. It is not always possible to defeat enemies right away in their entirety. One of the reasons the verse gives for this is that the land would be overrun by wild animals. From human enemies you might still be able to predict how they react, but wild animals are completely unpredictable.

So it is sometimes with certain bad habits your animal soul makes you perform. Take, for instance, the bad habit of overeating or simply eating unhealthily. You think to yourself one day that enough is enough and that it is time to live healthy and especially eat healthy. You tackle it thoroughly. All the unhealthy food goes in the bin and you get yourself all healthy things. For a few days it goes well, but then. You go to visit someone and well…then you can’t say no and you eat what you don’t really want. When you get home you think, oh well, 1 unhealthy thing a day, that one biscuit, that one sweet, should be fine. Before you know it, your whole plan of healthy living has fallen apart and you are eating exactly what you did before.

This is a good place to apply the strategy of gradualism. Substitute 1 small thing for something healthy. Not a biscuit by the biscuit, but a healthy multigrain bar. When that habit is ingrained, you can move on to not the next thing to replace. This way, your new lifestyle will become a habit and then you won’t fall back. The moment you do fall back, you may have sent away an enemy, but a wild animal comes in return. Namely the disappointment that you have not succeeded in what you set out to do. This wild animal is even harder to defeat than the original enemy.

What applies to food can apply to anything, to any need or desire that your animal soul puts inside you that you want to change. This is the method of attack in all battles of the mind; by moving forward little by little, we can indeed “conquer the land”.

I am going to apply this strategy to my coffee abuse. I resolve to replace every “second” cup of coffee with a fruit juice or water. Because all the times I completely stopped in one go, I didn’t even last a week.

By Angelique Sijbolts

Sources: Kehot Chumash Mispatim

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