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Where is our miracle?   D’var Torah for the Seventh Day of Pesach

04/10/2023 11:23:14 AM


Rabbi Rudin


On the Seventh Day of Pesach which begins Tuesday night, we celebrate the Parting of the Sea of Reeds. 

The story goes like this: Pharaoh and Egypt have finally released Israel.  We head out, mustering at Ramses and then spending our first night outside of Egypt at an encampment called Sukkot (just like the holiday) and then going northeast to Eitam, at the edge of the desert.

But then, guided by G-d, they turn southwest to the Sea of Reeds and encamp on the shore.

That is where the Egyptians find us.  Driven by hate and regretful of liberating Israel, Pharaoh’s army of infantry and six hundred chariots bore down upon the panicked Israelites. 

And that is when it happened. 

Moses lifted his hand and a strong east wind blew through the night, parting the waters.  The Israelite people passed through the Sea; the waters became a wall to their right and to their left… but the Egyptians pursued them into the Sea….Moses raised his hand over the sea and the waters returned to their place.  Pharaoh’s army and chariots were overwhelmed and covered by the sea.  Not one remained.

That moment was unique.  Throughout our history there have been no other mass open miracles of redemption anywhere close to that scale.  Some say that the rebirth of Israel in our time, our emergence from the unimaginable crime of the Holocaust, the Six Day War and restoration of Jerusalem as our capital are all miraculous and I cannot disagree.  But all of these acts have been clothed in the disguise of the ordinary world.  It seems that one Parting of the Sea was all that there is.  Why?  Is our world today less in need of a miracle?  Are we so much less worthy of a miracle than the generation of the Exodus? 

Unless the Parting of the Sea wasn’t only an act of rescue but an act of transformation. Transformation from a people who saw themselves as buffeted about by forces beyond our control and grasp to a people who realized that there is a moral order and a force for justice embedded somehow in reality itself.

Only when the oppressors who had murdered their children were destroyed and the possibility of being enslaved again was gone forever did we truly believe.  That moment that we memorialize twice each day when we sing again the words of wonder: Mi Chamocha… is the moment when we realized and became a people of faith forever. 

Individuals among us may protest and dispute that claim, but it is impossible to experience our history without becoming a believer in some way: even if that way is to rebel against the idea of G-d with moral outrage.  In the words of Rav Kook, the very fact of moral outrage, the sense that things should be other than they are, is an act of faith.

From the very moment of our Creation back in Genesis, the essence of being human is being free to choose. The possibility of redemptive miracles are still there- but now they are within us rather than in the reversal of the natural world around us. 

These days, when we retell the saga of the Parting of the Sea we almost always include the Midrash about Nachshon ben Aminadav from the tribe of Judah, who alone obeyed G-d’s Voice and marched forward into the stormy sea followed by his tribe.  Only as the waters covered their mouths did the miracle come to pass.  Only when we acted did G-d act.

Only a human act of radical faith it seems can liberate the indescribable energies of the Divine. 

To me at least, when I relive this ancient story, I hear a voice saying: as armies charge and tides of despair rise, it can all change in an instant.  Go forward, go together, go in faith.  And you will see miracles that are no less miraculous because you yourselves helped bring them about.

Chag Sameach!

Mon, July 15 2024 9 Tammuz 5784