My six-year-old son got a mosquito bite last week. He scratched at it for days, and of course that made it worse. He couldn’t sleep from the pain, and he opened up quite a large sore on his leg.

I tried to help him, I really did. I held him on my knee and explained that the more he scratched, the worse he’d feel. I spoke calmly and rationally to him, and I’m positive that he didn’t hear a word I said.

The We all do it, all the timemoment I left the room, he was back to picking at it again. You see, when your foot is itching, you don’t want to be told, “Think about something else and the pain will go away,” because you’re convinced that your scratching is somehow bringing you short-term relief. It doesn’t, of course; if anything, it only makes it worse, but at least you feel like you’re doing something.

We all do it, all the time. Alcoholics drink to drown their sorrows, but their sorrows learn to swim. Bankrupts scatter their remaining funds on harebrained investments and get-rich-quick schemes, only to fall ever deeper into debt. It’s as logical as my son scratching to get rid of his itch—the more you rub, the worse you’ll feel in the end.

No matter how much we try to problem-solve, a permanent solution always seems to remain tantalizingly over the horizon. The harder our wheels spin in the mud, the deeper a hole we dig for ourselves. We try to run away from our problems, only to find that we bring our problems with us. If doing what we’ve done till now is what got us into this mess, what makes us think that doing more of the same will save us?

The Jews of the Exodus thought they knew what their problem was: Egypt. As slaves and strangers in a strange land, they were positive that the path to happiness lay in leaving Egypt. Imagine their shock after escaping the land of their bondage and arriving at the Reed Sea, only to discover that the Egyptians were right behind them: “They raised their eyes, and look! The Egyptians were advancing after them. They were very frightened, so the children of Israel cried out to G‑d.”1

Up to that point, they had assumed that leaving Egypt would automatically solve all past and future difficulties. They weren’t ready to admit that their problem was greater than just being trapped in the wrong land. Yet the reason why running away from our troubles never helps is because our troubles tend to tag along. We think we’re being proactive, but we’ve just kicked the can of worries a little bit further down the road. It’s not going to be easy

The long-term solution begins only when we cry out to G‑d. When the Jews were ready to admit that they had a problem and submitted to a Higher Power, they were finally on the path to freedom. That’s when G‑d promised them, “You will never see the Egyptians again.” 2

It’s not going to be easy, and we’re unlikely to arrive at the Promised Land immediately. There will be setbacks along the way, and we have to find a positive outlet to replace the negativity. Yet if we want to able to cross the sea in safety and watch while our enemies drown on the other side, we need to stop the destructive behavior of the past, connect to G‑d, and then begin to walk forward securely into the future.