The Passover story is based on the Exodus from Egypt. The parting of the waters with the crossing on dry land is one of the older and best-known stories of the Bible. What a miracle it was. How did this miracle come about?
The Book of Exodus has the story of the Israelites panicking as the Egyptians chased them to the edge of the sea. In desperation, they complain to Moses. He tells them to relax. In Exodus 14:14, Moses said, “The Lord will battle for you. You hold your peace.”
Many people today are eager to see the Messiah arrive and to repair all of the things that are wrong with the world today. Some have said that the answer is prayer. Others have said we have only to wait for God to fix things. They wait and expect that the Lord will battle for us. This seems to be the answer that Moses gives to the people.
But the very next verse gives us a different answer. God puts the problem back to Moses. God tells Moses it’s his turn to act.
“Why do you cry out to Me?” God said. “Tell the Israelites to go forward. And you lift up your rod and hold out your arm over the sea and split it so that the Israelis can march into the sea on dry land.”
God had the power, but God’s action would only occur after Moses and the people did something.
Judaism has a vast interpretive tradition. One genre of this tradition is Midrash – a collection of legends and comments that goes back two thousand years. Much of it is recorded in the Talmud, compiled from 200 to 600 A.D., and some is in other texts from the same time and later times. Midrash is still being created today.
I want to focus here on the story of a man named Nacshon ben Amminadab. His genealogy is recorded in I Chronicles 2:10. He is the father of Boaz who later married Ruth in the line of King David. The midrashic tradition said the waters did not part immediately when Moses lifted his rod. To the contrary, they stayed together as the people wailed in fear. It was then that Nachshon committed to change. Nachshon began to cross the sea.
He waded in, but the waters didn’t part. He kept going to knee depth and waist depth. Only when the water was up to his nose, meaning when he was fully committed, did the waters part. The people crossed and the story in the Bible continues.
People may pray for the Messiah to save us. They may pray for a miracle to change the world, but it is our actions and our commitment, which really makes a difference. As our grandparents of blessed memory have said, “Pray as if everything depends on God, and work as if everything depends on you.”
May this year be a time in which the Passover experience leads us to experience slavery, oppression and suffering. Let us pray that it is eliminated. And, let us act to remove it in all its forms, in our community, in our country and in the world.
Have a happy, rewarding and energizing Passover.
Congregation B’nai Chaim is located at 29500 Via Princesa in Murrieta. For more information, visit www.bnaichaim.com or find them on Facebook.