Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Jew, the Athletic Shoe, and the Red Sea Blue

This week's parsha is b'shalach. Trust me, if I weren't paid to know that, I unfortunately wouldn't. I never kept up with the weekly portions very well, since I didn't always make it to shul, much less on time. I wish I could say I'll mend my ways, but as a single girl who spends shabbos in different places each week, going to shul becomes very complicated and chancy. Of course, you don't know whether or not that's a sorry excuse, do you...?

Anyway, let me get back to the point. In this weeks parsha, bnai yisroel are fleeing from the subjugation of the mitzrim. They run straight to the yam suf. Oh no! In front of them lies the sea, behind them, Pharaoh and the evil Egyptians. On either side they see wild animals emerging from the dense forests of the wild. Should they take a chance on the wild beasts? Return to Egypt, beg for mercy? Or forge on the path that Moshe has so far led them: straight on, to the water.

The Jews were stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Out of the frying pan into the fire. Out of the lion's den, into the lion. Between the serpent and the eagle...ok, enough.

Some dissenters voiced their complaint to Moshe: "Why did you take us here to die? Aren't there graves in Egypt?" Instead of replying, "Oooh, sarcasm," Moshe said they should stop and all daven to Hashem. Hashem said, "No. Now is not the time to stop. Davening is often the correct course to take, but not now. Action is needed. Go, go!"

And Nachshon, from the shevet of Yehuda, stepped into the sea. Silence. Nothing happened. He took a few more steps into the water. Nothing. Until his knees. Nothing. His waist. Nothing. His chest. Nothing. His neck. Nothing. His mouth. Nothing. As the entire nation of Yisroel watched, Nachshon submerged his nostrils in the Yam Suf. Instantly, the sea split. Etc. It wasn't until Nachshon acted, until he said -now is not the time to pause, to fret, to change our minds. We have seen the signs of Moshe and Aharon, we have witnessed the ten makos. We have been saved from 210 years of torturous enslavement. Do not back down. Just do it. Act.

It is puzzling why Bnei Yisrael even halted for a moment at the shores of the sea of reeds. After so much pain, suffering, backbreaking labor and tragedy, they wonder if they should return to Egypt? They were, perhaps, suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome -content to remain slaves because it was what they were used to. In some small part of their minds they even preferred it to freedom, since it entailed no action, no decision-making on their part. A life with no choices is also a life with no choices to make. How easy, how simple. How horrible. Mitrayim contains the word tzar-narrow. Sometimes it is the most narrow of places that hold us in so strongly. But Nachshon showed them the way. It wasn't a new way, they were already headed in that direction. But all they had to do was make that critical decision to be free, to go forward, make new lives for themselves, and live.

Often in life, we do not realize it, but we are standing in between an army of Mitzrim and an ocean. JUmp in. Live. Just do it.
Go forward into the ocean of possibilities. Hashem will guide you. The ocean will reveal your course.

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