Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron's sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. - Exodus 15:20
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.
A well-known story is told about two couples who visited the same rabbi on the same day for the exact same reason. Both couples had been married for years, but neither had been blessed with children. Both asked the rabbi for his blessing. Within a year, one couple was holding their newborn; however, the other couple remained childless. They asked the rabbi, "Why were they given a child and we weren't?" The rabbi answered, "After you received your blessing, you went back to life as usual. After they received their blessing, they bought a baby carriage."
Such is the power of radical acts of faith. The Jewish sages encourage us to take actions that express our faith in God.
This is what Miriam did in this week's Torah portion. Scripture tells us that after Moses led the nation in song, Miriam led the women in song and dance: "Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron's sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing." But wait a second! Where did Miriam and the women find musical instruments in the desert?
The sages teach that while in Egypt, when the Israelites were still slaves, Miriam would speak words of faith to the Israelite women. She told them that one day soon, God would free them - so they had better get ready. The women made those instruments in Egypt so that they would be ready when God took them out of Egypt. This is why Jewish tradition holds that "Our fathers were redeemed from Egypt because of the merit of the righteous women." The Israelite women had greater faith in God and they showed it, and thus, it was because of them that redemption came about.
In this week's reading, we witness another act of radical faith. Jewish tradition teaches that just before the sea parted and everyone was debating what to do, a man named Nahshon jumped in. The sea didn't part right away, but Nahshon just kept walking in faith. The sages teach that once the water was up to his nose, the sea parted. It was because of his faith that the sea split.
This week, try doing a radical act of faith. For each individual, this will be a different act. But do one thing that shows that you have faith that God will give you that baby, that spouse, that home, that clean bill of health. Now God doesn't have to do what we ask for - He isn't a genie in a bottle. But when we express our faith in Him we become more worthy of His blessings and make them all the more likely to manifest in our lives.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President