Expecting the Unexpected
With great excitement, coupled with much trepidation, the Children of Israel hastily depart from servitude and journey to a new world and the birth of their nation.
Trapped at the mouth of the Sea of Reeds, their captors fast approaching and apparent death almost inevitable, Nachshon steps forward into the sea with a full heart and faith in his creator, knowing that this was all the will of Hashem. But we see that not everyone was in line with his thinking; in fact most would not have dared venture into the unknown like he did.
We can appreciate that the splitting of the sea was one of the Torah’s greatest miracles and, to that extent, it features in our daily prayers. It was the climax of the Exodus, and just in case anyone until that point was not convinced of an almighty being, doubts were now few and far between.
It is interesting that a couple of places in the Talmud compare the greatness of the splitting of the sea to other matters. One is related to marriage; we are told that as God plans who will marry who in Heaven, it is for him as difficult as splitting the sea. The same comparison is made to a person seeking a livelihood, but what is the similarity between God splitting the sea and a person’s livelihood?
One answer really does it for me!
When the Jewish People found themselves trapped between a rock and a hard place, when they felt that the deck was stacked against them with nowhere to turn or hide, they threw their hands towards Heaven and prayed. They pleaded with Hashem for a further salvation. They had already witnessed his great wonders in Egypt, surely he could make this situation fall in their favour once again. None of them dreamed of what was to follow. No one could have possibly imagined the sea splitting with such awe inspiring glory – what a response! They were saved in the most unexpected way.
The same can be true of our parnasah. We try our best, make the efforts we believe to be correct and appropriate, which is of course what he demands of us, but the answers can come ‘out of left field.’ Just because we choose a particular path in life does not mean that will be the source of our income.
So too, in all areas of our life. We are obligated to plan, try our best, putting our full efforts in all we do. We simply have to realise that life can be unexpected, and our salvation can come from anywhere.
May we always merit to be blessed with health and happiness and may we always be able to see the hand of God in our lives, whichever direction it comes from.
The Jewish People finally leave Egypt. After over 200 years in slavery and oppression, Moshe leads them on a mass exodus into the desert, and the unknown.
In a very dramatic build up, Egypt was close to being torn apart by the famous plagues and a very stubborn Pharaoh. The Egyptians were punished for their actions, and the Children of Israel saw the door to their freedom open in front of them but at the last moment Pharaoh had another change of heart. He realised the importance of his slave army and how integral they were to the growth of his empire. Additionally, Hashem hardened his heart further and Pharaoh was forced to viciously pursue the fleeing slaves.
The Jewish Nation was in a perilous situation. Trapped between the sea and their Egyptian oppressors they were forced to confront their impending doom.
The people respond in two different ways. One approach was to turn to Moshe and aggressively argue to return, stating that it would be better to serve their task masters back in Egypt, rather than to die in the desert. The other, was to cry out to Hashem. The verse tells us that when they were most scared by the thunderous approach of the pursing army, they lifted their eyes to the heavens and cried out.This teaches us why it was so important for Pharaoh and his army to chase after the Jewish people. Hashem was teaching the former slaves a lesson.
Until now, the Egyptians have been punished and watched their world fall apart at the hand of God, whilst the Jewish People were protected from harm. So now, just at those final moments of salvation, just as they could taste freedom and see it across the sea, God pushes them into a dilemma, forces them to act to earn their freedom. They can either return to slavery and blame God, or cry out to Hashem and ask him for help. It was a test of their faith and commitment. Hashem by creating this scenario demanded that they put their own efforts into ensuring their redemption. It was not good enough for them to simply just walk out of Egypt under Moshe’s guidance; Hashem wanted them to feel like they were taking part. For this – they had to want it; they had to ask Hashem for it.
When we find ourselves in this position with our ‘backs against the wall’ we have two choices; we can give up and feel we are alone, or we can show Hashem we want to be partners with him just like the Children of Israel in the desert.
We don’t always have a sea parting before us to answer our prayers, but we must see the everyday miracles from Hashem, weaving through our lives with a loving arm round our shoulders – we just have to want it!