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Two Minutes of Torah: Beshallach - Stepping into the Unknown

In one of my favorite movies, The Lion King, there is a powerful moment when Simba  has to confront the past and decide to either run from it, or learn from it.  To Simba, it seems that the hardest step is that first step which he needs to take in order to return home and assume his rightful place as the King of his pride.  

We know that taking a first step can be difficult and sometimes very scary.  In this week’s Torah portion with the Israelites having left Egypt they stand in front of the sea with the Egyptian army behind them and find fear in their hearts.  It is understandable that having seen Pharaoh embark on his pursuit and with the army approaching they would be fearful of what lay behind them.  But stepping forward, stepping into the sea, also appeared to be causing them fear and a moment of pause.

God appears to be somewhat confused and perplexed as to why the Israelites are not moving forward with faith and says to Moses “why do you cry out to me, tell the Israelites to go forward, and you lift up your rod and hold out your arm over the sea and split it so that the Israelites may march into the sea on dry ground.”  It is understandable that the Israelites, seeing the sea before them, might not have known that a miracle awaited, but at the same time having seen all that God had done for them up to this point, surely they should have known that a miracle was coming. 

But we know that it is difficult to take a first step and that it needs faith to step into the unknown.  The Midrash suggests that Nachshon ben Aminadav had the faith and courage to step forward into the water before it had parted; eventually getting to the point where the water reached up to his neck before the seas parted in honor of him and Moses stretching out his rod.  After all that the Israelites had seen, after all that they had witnessed, taking this first step into the sea still caused them to have a moment of pause, and a moment of concern.  

And we know in our lives that stepping into the unknown can be difficult.  But we can learn from their experience.  The importance of having faith, courage, and just trusting that when we put one foot forward our next step will be that much easier and so on and so forth until eventually they reach to the other side and join together in song praising God for redeeming them and saving them.

In our daily liturgy as we sing the Mi Chamocha and remember the song that our ancestors sang when they crossed to the other side of the sea, we might also remember that to get to that point, they had to have the courage to put one foot in front of the other and take that first step into the unknown.

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