All In…

Imagine two of your friends who don’t know one another are on vacation…in the same week, the same city, and the same resort, but come back with entirely different experiences. One had the time of his life enjoying every moment while the other couldn’t wait to leave. How could it be?

The highlight of this week’s Parshat, Beshalach, is the great Song of the Sea.  Moshe sang with the Israelites after they successfully crossed the Reed Sea while their persecutors, the Egyptians, drowned when chasing after them. There are two reports of this great crossing only eight verses apart that are markedly different . Let’s take a look:

Verse 22 reads:

וַיָּבֹ֧אוּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל בְּת֥וֹךְ הַיָּ֖ם בַּיַּבָּשָׁ֑ה וְהַמַּ֤יִם לָהֶם֙ חוֹמָ֔ה מִֽימִינָ֖ם וּמִשְּׂמֹאלָֽם׃

and the Israelites went into the sea which then became dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

Verse 29 reads:

וּבְנֵ֧י יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל הָלְכ֥וּ בַיַּבָּשָׁ֖ה בְּת֣וֹךְ הַיָּ֑ם וְהַמַּ֤יִם לָהֶם֙ חֹמָ֔ה מִֽימִינָ֖ם וּמִשְּׂמֹאלָֽם׃

But the Israelites had marched through the sea on dry ground amidst the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

So, which is it? Did they enter the sea and only then it miraculously dried up, or did they enter only after it became dry ground?

The Chatam Sofer - Moses Schreiber (1762–1839), of Slovakia explains that the two verses refer to different factions of the Israelites. Those that were infused with great faith and belief, led by Nachshon Ben Aminadav, entered the roaring sea with confidence that it would miraculously split, and it did. Others who were more hesitant waited to see that indeed the sea had turned to dry land; and only then did they start to march forward. 

Those that entered the sea with an attitude of great faith were rewarded accordingly, as opposed to those that did not.

What was at the root of the difference of their behaviors?   

The answer: Appreciation, faith and trust. Even though all the Israelites experienced the Ten Plagues and the Exodus together, some appreciated it and absorbed stronger faith and trust than the others. That is why the different groups entered the sea differently. This is also how two people on the same vacation can experience it so differently and come back with such different experiences.

There are so many blessings we enjoy in our lives and in our community. Let’s aim to appreciate them and step forward to support them together this coming Sunday February 5, on Super Sunday & Community Mizvah Day. It’s not too late to get involved, so learn more here.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Epstein
Community Scholar in Residence