Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.” — Exodus 14:15–16
The Torah portion for this week is Beshalach, which means “when he sent them away,” from Exodus 13:17–17:16, and the Haftorah is from Judges 4:4–5:31.
Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, is probably one of the most respected biblical characters who you may never have heard about! In fact, even today in Israel you will the term nahshoni, which means “to be like Nahshon.” So who was this Nahshon and why should we be like him?
The Jewish sages give us a behind-the-scenes glimpse into one of the most famous moments in history. We’ve all seen the movie: Moses (as portrayed by Charlton Heston) standing on a cliff with the anxious Israelites behind him as he majestically speaks of God’s greatness and then parts the sea. The children of Israel walk through on dry land, and then the sea collapses upon the Egyptians who pursue them.
But here is how it really happened according to Jewish tradition. The children of Israel were panicking — the Egyptians were behind them and the sea was before them. Where would they go? Moses stood in prayer. Meanwhile, while everyone else was deciding what to do, a man named Nahshon walked straight into the sea. He stepped out in faith, completely confident that God would take care of him.
Tradition teaches that Nahshon kept walking until the sea was up to his nostrils. At that point God said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?” The time for prayer had passed and the time for action was at hand! God said to Moses, “Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.” And so he did.
The sages teach that the sea didn’t part so that the children of Israel could walk through; first, a child of Israel (Nahshon) walked through, and therefore, the seas parted.
What an incredible lesson in faith. So many times we sit and talk and deliberate and pray about a decision or an action that we have to take. Will we be successful? Will the money be there to support me? What should I do? Where should I go? It’s like we are waiting around for the seas to part so that we can easily walk through!
We can sit around and wait forever while life continues on. Or, we can step out in faith – we can leap forward as Nahshon did with full trust that God will guide us. Remember, friends, God parted the sea for Nahshon! What can He do for you?
Be a nahshoni, be like Nahshon – take that step, make that leap, and trust in God. Follow Him in faith, and He will faithfully lead you through.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President