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D'var Torah:
Weekly Torah Portion Commentary

B'shallach - 1/26/24

In the narrative about the parting of the Red Sea in B’shallach, the Israelites panic at the shore of the sea, knowing that Pharaoh’s army is fast approaching.  They blame Moses for leading them to their perceived demise and suggest that they were better off being enslaved in Egypt.  Moses’ response is: “Have no fear!  Stand By, and witness the deliverance which the Eternal One will work for you today ;...” (Ex 14:13) The Torah’s version of these events implies that neither Moses nor the people could do anything to influence the outcome of this pivotal moment. It was all up to God, and they just stood back to let God’s plan unfold, as Moses commanded.  God made a miracle for the people and caused the sea to part. 

But, in the midrash, the rabbis imagined a role for the people. According to the midrash, God waited for the people to show faith before causing the sea to part.  This assurance comes in the person of Nachshon ben Amminadav, who, according to the midrash, walked into the sea, and only when God witnessed his faith, did God split the waters of the sea. (Midrash Mekhilta) The two accounts cause us to ask ourselves:  What is faith?  Is it passively waiting for Divine intervention in our lives or does it involve taking matters into our own hands?  Or possibly some of both?

 -Rabbi Dena A. Feingold


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