Between a Rock (Chariots) and a Hard Place (The Sea)

The W.O.R.D. – 1/13/11. When a US Congresswoman is shot at a public gathering, it’s enough to cause future leaders to ask, “Who needs this?”  When a woman who gave strength to countless others thanks to her song of healing –“Mi Sheberach” – is taken from this world at the age of 59, it’s enough to cause other people of faith to ask, “Why should I pray?”

However, if we allow ourselves to give in to our doubts, that is when violence and disease take over our lives and win.  That is when we stop living our lives and start waiting for death.

In this week’s parashah, our ancestors were stuck between the approaching chariots of the Egyptian Army and the Red Sea.  They didn’t know what to do.  Should they go back to Egypt and submit to the Pharaoh?  Should they fight the approaching forces?

God said to Moshe:  “Daber el bnai yisrael v’yeesa-oo – tell the children of Israel to go forward (Ex. 14:15).”   Stick together and keep going.  Have faith.  As we know, the waters parted before them, they crossed the sea.  The waters crashed down over the Egyptians.  Once on the other side, nothing seemed so challenging.  They could handle whatever would come next.

Now, I cannot guarantee a miraculous parting of the sea to solve whatever challenges we face.  However, we all face situations where we are not sure how to proceed, and all avenues cause us to be anxious.

According to one well-known Midrash on this week’s Torah portion, God did not part the Red Sea for the Israelites automatically.  God only acted when an individual by the name of Nachshon ben Aminadav chose to enter the waters.  Nachshon chose a path, and God helped him succeed.

It is the same for us today.  When it seems as if we have been painted into a corner, we need to choose a path and ask God for the strength to make the journey.  Whether we are facing the threat of violence, the pain of illness or any other obstacle, we need to chart our course and invite God along for added strength.  And when we have overcome one obstacle, we’ll realize that we have the wherewithal to face down whatever comes next.





About Rabbi Avi Friedman

I am the rabbi of Congregation Ohr Shalom - SJCC, a progressive Conservative and traditional congregation. I am also husband to Jodi as well as father to Gabi, Jonah, Jessica and Ilana. I have been a part of the Summit community since 2005.
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