Taking the First Step

Yael Eckstein  |  January 11, 2022

Black and white drawing of people crossing the Red Sea.
Crossing the Red Sea. © 2021 IFCJ

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.” – Exodus 14:15

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Beshalach, which means “when he sent them away,” from Exodus 13:17–17:16.

There’s an old parable about misplaced faith that goes something like this. A man was out on the water when his boat was struck by a storm and went down. He managed to hang on to a floating plank of wood and began to pray to God to save him.

Just then, a boat of fishermen came by. They offered to help him. “No thank you. God will save me.” A few minutes later, a helicopter hovered overhead, calling him to climb a rope ladder to safety. “God will save me!” the man called back to the helicopter driver. Eventually, when he could hold on no longer, the man drowned.

When his soul ascended to judgment in heaven, he complained to God. “Heavenly father! I trusted in you! I put all my faith in you to save me and you ignored my prayers. Why? Why did you let me down?” “I let you down?” God replied. “I sent a boat and then a helicopter. It’s you who let me down!”

Taking the First Step

I thought about this story as I read this week’s Torah portion. When the children of Israel were being pursued by Pharaoh and his army, they cried out to God to save them. Moses even told them that they needn’t lift a finger for their own salvation, telling them, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).

But God did not want them to sit back and wait to be saved from danger. He would certainly save them, but the children of Israel would need to do their part. The very next verse teaches a lesson in faith, not only to the children of Israel who were being chased by the Egyptian army, but also to each of us whenever we face a crisis in our lives: “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.’” (v.15)

Of course, God did save them by performing the most wondrous of all miracles of the Exodus, the splitting of the
Red Sea. But He made it clear that the children of Israel needed to do their part first but taking the first step.

We must always remember that faith and trust in God does not mean that we can be passive. God wants us to move forward in the face of danger, taking that first step. Then He will be there, too, performing miracles for our salvation.

Your Turn:

Is there something pressing in your life that you are afraid to confront? God will be with you if you take the first step.

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