Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

The origin of this idiomatic expression may, for all we know, lie exactly in this part of Exodus, where the children of Israel are squeezed between the advancing chariots of Pharaoh and the deep blue sea behind their backs. The moment is incredibly cinematographic and of course calls for the now less cinematographical stand where Moses is accused of an irresponsible behavior, “What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt?”.

His attempts at calming down the crowd, promising the imminent Divine interference seems to be in vain thus he turns for the help to God, who answers him in the most extraordinary way, “Why do you cry out to Me? Tell the Israelites to go forward”. The commentators, discussing the “crying” of Moses, again, present a very modern approach to conflict resolution.

As Tur HaAroch writes, ” As to the meaning of the line: מה תצעק אלי, G’d simply criticized the nature of the prayer Moses had offered. He told Moses that instead of uttering a sort of complaint, he should simply have asked G’d how to act in this new set of circumstances, a situation for which he had not been prepared. Seeing that I had given you an assurance that I would deal with Pharaoh, all you had to do was to ask for guidance how to act in this situation.”

Panic breeds panic, despair breeds despair. However, if we find the strength to remain calm under the new set of circumstances and ask for appropriate guidance, the change is sure to follow.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.