Many years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Majdanek Concentration/Death Camp in Poland. There is a huge sculpture that looks somewhat like a menorah that dominates the landscape. As visitors get closer, they see that there is a long sloping path that goes under the menorah; the way out is a steep set of rock stairs. The symbolism was to show how easy it was to slide into the situation that led to the Holocaust, and how difficult it was for those caught up in it to get out.
This week’s Torah portion reflects a similar idea. The process by which the Children of Israel came into slavery in Egypt looks somewhat quick and easy; it occurs over the course of just a few verses. The way out, however, took 400 years and a series of miraculous events. Even then, by the end of the Torah, the Israelites still had not reached the Promised Land. The contrast is striking.
Often in life we make decisions or take actions that are not well-thought out; we take the easy route instead of the right one. Sometimes the repercussions are not really consequential. Other times, though, we find ourselves entangled in webs from which we are not able to extract ourselves so easily. Parashat Shemot–and the many parashiyot that follow it–remind us that what may seem inconsequential now may end up being quite significant further down the road. It is up to us to see beyond the moment and think about the future.