The Jewish Chronicle
Seventh Day Pesach
“The Egyptians were advancing... [the Children of Israel] were very frightened and [they] cried out to the Lord” Exodus 14:10
THE seventh day of Passover commemorates the day on which the Jewish people were miraculously saved at the sea. In mortal peril, the Jewish people’s new found faith is palpable. They immediately channel their fear into prayer. And yet in this instance, God indicates that prayer alone is insufficient to seal their fate: “Why do you cry out to Me? Speak to the children of Israel and let them travel” (14:15). Is prayer not our most powerful tool?
God required the Jewish people to actually “travel”, to start going into the sea. The Midrash brings the scene to life by contending that the water was almost covering their mouths when the miracle of its splitting occurred. Did it have to get to imminent danger of drowning before God performed the miracle?
My grandfather, Rabbi Maurice Lew, suggested that God’s response “teaches us a lesson more than amply corroborated by Israel’s history. A people that lacks the virtue of self-sacrifice cannot survive indefinitely.”
Writing in 1949, with Holocaust survivors struggling to rebuild their lives and a fledgling state of Israel, he noted that despite tremendous idealism about both Judaism and Israel, people were reticent to totally commit to them. “Judaism being not merely a system of thought but a practical code, demands not only our mental strength, but a consistent strength of will, powerful enough to overcome the obstacles.”
Unfortunately, since his writing, many have given their lives for the state of Israel. Many have committed financially, or struggled financially by deciding to move to Israel. We constantly have to recalibrate and make sacrifices in our worldly existence to maintain the strength of our Jewish identity.
The Vilna Gaon once commented that “every Jew would like to learn the whole of the Talmud, with all its commentaries, but he would like to learn it in one night, without losing sleep”. Yet we know that to really achieve, passion, dedication and persistence is required.
This commitment is our perpetuation of the partnership forged at the sea. The first imperative was for the Jewish people “to travel”: to commit, act and sacrifice for what they believed in, symbolised by the water reaching up to their mouths. May our efforts always be met with Divine salvation.