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.

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