Secrets of Jewish Survival When All Hope Seems Lost
It was an impossible situation. Though they had come so far, it sadly seemed that their efforts had reached a dead end. Like today’s quandaries in Israel, our ancestors in the current Torah portion had no plan and no prospects.
Though they had successfully broken free from Egyptian slavery, they now found themselves at the shore of the Red Sea, with the Egyptian army in hot pursuit behind them. It seems like Israel today is similarly stuck between a rock and a hard place—surrounded by the most vicious enemies on all their borders as well as in the court of public opinion.
The recent ruling from the Hague’s International Criminal Court on whether Israel is guilty of genocide will go down in perpetuity as one of the most shameful eras in modern history where the world is accusing the victim of war crimes whilst deliberately turning a blind eye to the unspeakable atrocities of the aggressor. The mere consideration of the case already is itself complicit in the crime. The fact that the current verdict is not shamelessly biased against Israel, though relieving, does not redeem the court from having the audacity of even entertaining such a preposterous accusation. It reminds us of Abba Eban’s satirical observation that “If Algeria introduced a United Nations resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.” Like then, our situation today seems bleak and hopeless.
But here the Torah tells us the amazing salvation that our ancestors experienced at their weakest moment. Moses commanded them to proceed fearlessly into the water hazard, and miraculously the Red Sea split before them, paving the pathway to their freedom.
But G-d’s salvation didn’t happen until the Jews proved that they were ready for it. During that dramatic standoff, Nachson ben Aminadav, the leader of the tribe of Judah, jumped into the sea and began to walk through it, per G-d’s command through Moses. As soon as he displayed his faith—walking the walk beyond just talking the talk—G-d intervened through the miracle of the Splitting Sea.
In much the same way, it’s hard to be positive about the Jewish future today. It feels like we’ve hit a brick wall. Never did we dream that antisemitism could get this ugly, in our lifetimes. The silence of the world’s condemnation of Hamas is deafening. We feel lost and alone. If we can only have the courage to do as our ancestors did when faced with similar circumstances, we can be sure to experience miracles, as they did. We need to have the courage of the legendary Tzanchanim—the IDF Paratroopers brigade, who courageously jump out of airplanes in order to succeed in their mission. Do you have what it takes to jump out of your comfort zone—freeing yourself from fear and anxiety—as you cast your trust in G-d Almighty?
The Talmud tells us that finding your soulmate (Sotah 2a) and achieving financial success (Pesachim 118) are equated with the Miracle of the Splitting Sea because the secret to securing these human achievements is applying the faith and courage we displayed on the shores of the Red Sea. Admittedly, this isn’t easy at all. One of the most difficult tasks for rational human beings is to let go and trust in G-d’s protection and power. We tend to conjure picture-perfect images of what kind of lives we will lead, only to discover, the hard way that things most often don’t turn out the way we expected.
Just like the lesson that the Jews learned at the Red Sea, we all learn this vital lesson as we desperately try to keep things together in Israel: Ultimately Hashem is in control of our lives and there is nothing we can do to change that. We are in good hands and everything will be OK. If we can just jump—proceeding with joy and confidence, filled with faith that G-d will carry us through—we too will unlock the key to our miraculous salvation today as well.
The order to march forward at the splitting of the sea instilled in our consciousness the awareness that we are always in G-d’s hands. Disappointments are just G-d’s way of saying “I’ve got something better for you!” Fear arises when we imagine that everything depends on us. Worrying doesn’t change anything but trust in G-d does.
And as we recently celebrated the Festival of the Trees, Tu B’shvat, we realize that as the beautiful and mighty tree can only grow after first going through the humility of rotting under the earth, we too can only thrive when we have the courage to let go and let G-d. Let us meditate upon the message of the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. How empowering it is to know that not all storms come to disrupt your life; some come to clear your path.
It’s time for us to be like Nachshon—If we’re serious about securing a miracle of biblical proportions, it’s time for us to jump out of our airplane. Jump with joy, because when G-d pushes you to the edge, one of two things will happen—either He’ll catch you or He’ll give you wings and teach you how to fly!
Rabbi Dovid Vigler
Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens
6100 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418
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