When the Jews finally leave Egypt towards Israel, "G-d did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines because it was near" (Shemot 13:17.) The Torah implies that the land of the Philistines was the most direct, easiest route, and that's why we did not utilize it. Isn't that backwards? Shouldn't the fact that "it was near" be a reason to travel that path?
Rashi picks up on this and explains that we avoided that path because it would have been too easy to go back to Egypt from there. The Ramban suggests that it means we avoided it "despite the fact that it was close." But the Rambam, in his Guide for the Perplexed, says that we read it correctly. The reason we did not travel by the land of the Philistines was because it was the easiest route. HaShem taught the Jewish people that we should not always take the path of least resistance, but should challenge ourselves. HaShem took us through the desert where we were hungry and thirsty so that we would become tough and develop confidence. Growth opportunities are often most abundant along the more difficult path.
Rabbi Michael Macks will be contributing weekly divrei torah as he is able