Friday, February 3, 2012
Vayomer Moshe el ha’am al tira’u hityatzvu ur’u et y’shu’at Hashem asher ya’aseh lachem hayomki asher ra’I’tem et Mitzraiyim hayom lo tosifu lirotam od ad olam. Hashem yilacheim lachem v’atem tacharishum.
Moshe said to the people, “Have no fear. Stand by and witness the salvation which Hashem will do for you today. The Egyptains whom you will see today you will never see again. Hashem will fight for you today; you will hold your peace.
I frequently write ain somcheim al ha nes; do not reply on the miracle. It’s a value I believe is inherent in Judaism. We are a people of action. Parashat Beshalach is a perfect opportunity for this concept. Nachson Ben Aminadav, not willing to return to slavery, jumps into the sea before it splits. But this is midrash, and not actually in the text, and while action is important, we do know that the sea does split. In the end, the Israelites are saved by a miracle.
Still, this change is not instantaneous. Rambam teaches that miracles always occur within the natural order of the world. Nature is not speedy. Vayolech Hashem et hayam b’ruach kadim azah kol halailah vayashem et hayam lecharavah vayibak’u hamayim. And Hashem drove back the sea with a strong east wind all that night, and turned the sea into dry ground. All that night- for the entire night, an eternity for the Israelites who could see the Egyptian army just beyond the pillar of cloud protecting them, the Israelites sat surrounded by that cloud. All that night the Israelites could not move. All that night they prayed, they cried and they hoped.
It’s unknown from the text whether the sea moved all at once or slowly like the tides or whether the Israelites could see the changes in the water level. What we do know is miracles take time- time and patience clothed in hope.
I’m writing this on a bus traveling through the Negev. It is remarkably green this year. I am traveling with the Masorti Movement on a mission working for a modern, pluralistic Israel. We are making amazing progress, but it will take patience- patience and time to build. It is also clear to all here that we’re not just working on internal issues, but also fighting for survival. After sixty years we’re still sitting, we’re still crying, and we’re still hoping that the world will realize Jews also have a right to national aspirations and deserve a homeland of our own. Everyday in Israel is a miracle. Be a part of it.