In the juxtaposition of Passover and pandemic, it is easy to see ourselves in the the midst of plague. But another, more optimistic perspective, is that in many ways, we have already suffered through plagues of our time. Rather, now we find ourselves racing towards our better future, yet confronted with a vast ocean of difficulty that seems insurmountable and unforgiving.
What lies ahead of us, the red sea of this Coronavirus Pandemic, with its high waves of fear, tears and blood, is not impassable. Yes, it reaches as far as our eyes can see – engulfing our vision of our world and dividing us into islands unto ourselves. But there is no question as to whether we can cross. We can.
The harder question is: how?
First, for a moment, lets look backwards at how we arrived at this moment. Our collective journey as humankind reaches far beyond the historic and the logical. The arc of humanity has overcome the total sum of all hardship laid before it to get to this very moment. Not only have we lived through the challenges of our natural environments, but of our own human natures as well. We have lived through famines and fires, through conflicts and crisis. We have lived through wars of the world, and increasingly (although sometimes too slowly) embraced the inherent rights of the many. In the unrelenting pursuit of a more perfect world, we have harnessed the technological potential of modernity, even as we endlessly manifest the creative essence of our common humanity.
We have stumbled too. We have created imperfect institutions and we have left far too many people to be unequal and insecure. Far too often we have sacrificed our humility for our hunger – of more power, more control, and more wealth. We have made decisions that have traded our protection of our planet for our pursuit of prosperity. And most of all we have turned our eyes away from one another… often failing to see that same common humanity in the faces and the lives of others.
Yet, in this season of Passover, we are escaping from the place of our enslavement, from all of those hardships inflicted upon us and by us, to a greater future. To a more promised land. Those mistakes of ours? They are chasing behind us, in chariots that we, ourselves, have made.
And in front of us is this moment, a vast sea of challenge and uncertainty fomented not only by the power of nature, but of our own shortcomings of preparedness as well. We are standing between a past we can’t return to and a raging sea we fear we may not cross.
So why should we believe this sea too shall split?
Perhaps we can take note of the story of Nachson Ben Amindav. During the Exodus from Egypt, when the Israelites stood in between the fierce pursuit of the Egyptian army and the raging Red Sea, it is written that it was Nachshon, whose belief and bravery steeled him, jumped in the sea when the other leaders of Israel hesitated. At that moment, with the confluence of his action, Moses prayer, and God’s miraculousness, and as the rest of the Israelites followed Nachshon into the water, and the sea was split. The Israelites were delivered to the other side. Not only was Nachshon the man of the moment, but it is said that among his descendants was David, one of the greatest heroes of Jewish history. Nachshon’s seemingly small action – stepping into the water, helped save a people. And seed a future kingdom.
Now, we too face a choice. We stand at the edge of a great sea of challenge. But we aren’t powerless. We too can step forward into the water, perhaps not physically, but through the power of our spirit and the actions of our heart. Even in our fear, we can give to those who have less than us. We can refrain from taking more than we need. We can lift others up in prayer; we can lay down the swords of past battles.
Nothing can erase the enslavement of our past, whether by others or ourselves. And nothing can deliver us to a safer, more promised place without steadfastness and sacrifice. But perhaps if we find it within our hearts and very humanity to come together and step into this sea together locked arm in arm with one another, we will not only demonstrate how we have learned the lessons of our past, but we will embrace the opportunity of our collective future.
This sea too shall split. But for it to do so, we must believe it can.
And it will.