More often than not, the many Pesach messages that appear on our communal websites and in our newspapers focus on what is coming next on the calendar – the first days of yom tov and the beautiful lessons of the Seder. While the themes of the ten plagues – emancipation from slavery and our nation’s glorious exit from Mitzrayim – are all extremely uplifting, my thoughts this year are turning to an element of Pesach that is often overlooked in pre-yom tov writings since it takes place on the penultimate day of the holiday – the miraculous splitting of the Yam Suf.
During the Seder, the Hagada delves deeply into out years of misery and torment in Egypt and describes the ten makos brought onto the Egyptians in vivid detail. But other than a brief mention of kriyas Yam Suf and a Talmudic discourse on how many plagues were visited upon our former captors when the sea split, the Hagada doesn’t tell us much about this epic event in our national history. Instead, it directs us to imagine ourselves gathering up our families, our possessions and our unrisen dough as we leave Mitzrayim in a rush and then pivots to Hallel, the second cup of wine and the edible elements of the Seder.
In the same way that we gain so much by putting ourselves in our ancestor’s sandals as we relive our years of slavery and our glorious exit from Mitzrayim during the Seder, a deeper dive into the story of kriyas Yam Suf has much to offer. Can you imagine standing at the edge of the Red Sea, knowing that the feared Egyptian army is closing in with the single purpose of dragging you back into slavery? Can you picture the terror of hearing horse-drawn chariots pounding the desert sands and realizing that there was nowhere to go and nowhere to hide? Surely there were plenty of angry shouts and desperate wails from the newly freed Bnei Yisroel and yet, amid the chaos, Nachshon ben Aminadav did the unthinkable – jumping into the sea fully confident that Hakadosh Baruch Hu would be on his side and, baruch Hashem, his prayers were answered.
I have no idea what thoughts were swirling around in Nachshon’s head as the situation unfolded and whether or not he debated the wisdom of stepping into the water. But faced with a desperate situation, he took a leap of faith, one that ultimately saved our entire nation from terrible danger. It is one that we would do well to emulate in our own lives as we face the challenges of our own generation.
When Amudim first opened its doors eight years ago, we knew that there were many within our own communities who were struggling, but even we have been blown away by the volume of calls that have come into our offices. Time and time again we have been wowed by the bravery we have seen as people have stepped forward and asked for help, and are grateful to be living in a world where those in crisis no longer feel stigmatized and are getting the treatment and the support they need.
We have all been in positions in our lives when we have been faced with daunting circumstances of varying degrees and I urge you to channel your inner Nachshon and leap into those waters, even though they may seem intimidating at first. If you are struggling with mental illness or have been the victim of abuse or addiction, while I know it seems like an impossible situation, I urge you to take the plunge and call Amudim. Much like our ancestors found that the jumping into the Red Sea ultimately led them to safety and growth, reaching out for help is the first step on the road to healing and a better life. And if you see someone within your own daled amos who is having a tough time, I promise you that you have no idea how much your random text or an invite to share a cup of coffee or even a Shabbos meal will mean to them, so jump in and be there for them in any way you can.
The importance of being proactive was clear to all as the sea split thousands of years ago and is equally applicable right now as we get ready to enjoy the kind of Pesach we could only dream about two years ago. Yes, we are finally getting to have a “normal” yom tov, but having more people around can pose increased safety risks, making it essential to be on the alert for red flags and to keep a watchful eye on our children in order to protect them from harm. Similarly, we need to be careful to remember those individuals in our community who don’t have family and may be facing multiple meals and even Sedarim on their own. Having experienced a solitary Pesach when the pandemic hit in 2020, we all got a crash course in the pain of isolation, and need to make sure that everyone has a place to be.
As we celebrate Pesach, a yom tov of redemption from terrible times, I ask you to take the lessons of kriyas Yam Suf to heart. Instead of deliberating, procrastinating or just looking away from problems, whether they are yours or someone else’s, let’s all borrow Nike’s famous catch phrase and just do it. Let’s all be like Nachshon and jump headfirst into the water, knowing that by taking the initiative and looking out for the wellbeing of others, we have the ability to not only prevent problems before they start, but to transform seemingly impossible situations into miraculous opportunities for growth and healing.
If you or someone you know is struggling, contact us anytime.
You are not alone.
Each week, Amudim fields calls covering a wide range of crises and addressing various human concerns, including addiction, depression, abuse, health and domestic emergencies and many others. We track the calls and breakdown of issues for many reasons, foremost of which is to consistently improve and strengthen our knowledge and ability to address community’s needs.