Parshat Pesach 7th day: Exodus 13:17-15:26; Numbers 28:19-25; II Samuel 22:1-51.
This past year has been filled with the need to make decision after decision in an uncertain world with too little information.
Parents, educators, government officials, communal leaders, businesses leaders, all of us weighing health and safety concerns while trying to do the right thing. All of us feeling as if we are in way over our heads, drowning in uncertainty and yet called upon to make difficult decisions. Due to the plague of COVID, at some point or another, we have each had to take a leap of faith.
The Torah portion for the seventh day of Passover describes the Israelites leaving Egypt, the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea and jubilant dancing led by Miriam once the Israelites made it across. According to Midrash, the crossing of the Red Sea was not solely a miracle, but a miracle facilitated by a leap of faith.
As the scene is set, the fleeing Israelites are being chased by the Egyptians and have arrived at the shores of the Red Sea. There is no way to cross. The Red Sea looms before them; with the Egyptian chariots thundering behind them there is no escape. It is then, according to Midrash, that one brave soul, Nachshon, starts walking into the sea chanting the Song at the Sea (found in the Passover Torah reading): Mi chamochah bailim HaShem; Mi chamochah ‘nadar b’kodesh. “Who is like You, oh God? Who is like You in holiness?” The sea does not miraculously part; however, Nachshon bravely keeps moving forward.
The water reaches Nachshon’s knees and no miracle. The water reaches his waist; still no miracle. The water reaches his shoulders and finally his mouth. But he keeps moving forward. As the water begins to enter his mouth, Nachshon tries to continue singing “Mi chamochah” but with a mouth full of water, he cannot pronounce the “ch” sound and instead sputters out a hard “k.” Mi chamochah becomes Mi kamochah (the way it is read in our daily prayer service) and only then as Nachshon is about to go under, do the waters miraculously part. Yes, a miracle, but only a miracle that happens following a courageous leap of faith.
Today, we are chased by the fears and demons of how to live safely under the threat of COVID. We need to be a little bit like Nachshon. We need to test the waters, and even if we feel that we are in a little over our heads, keep moving forward.
Jeffrey Lasday is the chief operating officer of the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit and the acting chief operating officer of Farber Hebrew Day School.