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Lech Lecha: Taking the Plunge

Bereishit 12:1

On a fine fall day in a small Jersey shore town, a girl named Mirriam Margolis decided to become Avraham Avinu, if only for a few moments.

It wasn’t her first attempt at Biblical simulation, so to speak. Her burning bush project had been a big hit, involving all her classmates, her chemistry teacher and the Stone Harbor Fire Department. Her 10 plagues project won the science fair and gave the vice principal a very unusual rash, requiring two visits to the dermatologist. Her Joshua and the walls of Jericho project had not worked out so well, and her Daniel and the lion’s den nearly got her ejected from the Cape May Zoo. Still, all in all, her Torah recreations had received rave reviews.

The only way Mirriam could truly understand a Bible story was to experience it personally. And here it was, the weekly portion of Parshat Lech Lecha, and she had her work cut out for her. How could she feel what it was like to be Avraham Avinu, to be our forefather Abraham?

It was in Lech Lecha that Hashem told Abraham, Lech lecha me’artzecha umimoladetecha umibeit avicha el ha’aretz asher areka. God said, “Go for yourself, from your land, from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.” So Mirriam wondered how she could personally experience such a giant leap of faith like Avraham did. What could she do that would give her that feeling of stepping into the great unknown?

In arranging all her previous Torah recreations, she had met with her Biblical Planning Board, consisting of Sophie Stern and Zahava Goldreich. They were her best friends, and usually they convened over lunch in the school cafeteria to brainstorm.

The three girls discussed what would best represent what Avraham had done in Lech Lecha. They agreed that in this case, a feat of derring-do would be in order. As Mirriam was not planning to move away from her family or experience a sudden religious epiphany, she would have to attempt an act of physical courage.

“So, how do I take a big leap?” asked Mirriam. “It has to be bold. It has to be daring. Even death defying.”

“How about sky diving?” Zahava asked. “Jumping out of an airplane with a parachute is certainly a big leap.”

“No,” said Mirriam. “At our age you have to be strapped to an instructor to jump. Avraham had no help at all. He kind of jumped without a safety net. Besides, it’s $250, and my mother already said no.”

“How about parasailing?” asked Sophie.

“Too wimpy,” Mirriam said.

The three sat quietly for a few moments, eating their lunches, until a smile began to appear on Sophie’s face.


Sophie said just one word: “Wildwood.”

All the girls smiled in agreement. Wildwood was a local beach town with a 2-mile-long boardwalk with three amusement piers packed with some of the most spine-tingling, nausea-inducing, disorienting, vomitatious rides God has ever put on the face of this planet. On the piers of Wildwood they were sure to find a vehicle for Mirriam’s Biblical leap.

On the Sunday before Lech Lecha, on an unseasonably warm day, the girls went to Wildwood. It was quieter there in October than in the mad summer months, but it still felt like a marvelous Jersey honky tonk. The smell of cotton candy and salt water taffy still lingered in the air. Mirriam, Zahava and Sophie hopped onto the Wildwood tram car, and they were on their way.

First they checked out the truly scary, vertigo-inducing roller coasters like the Great White and Sea Serpent, but Mirriam rejected them because although they were scary, when it was all over, you ended up back in the same place. That was not like Abraham at all. (Still, they went on Sea Serpent twice for field research.)

They considered Springshot, the bungy jump that drops you, free falling, over one hundred feet toward the ground, but Mirriam didn’t meet the height requirement, and besides, there are limits to what a 10-year-old will do, even in the name of religion.

In the end they did not find an appropriate leap at the amusement piers. The girls drove the bumper cars in defeat and decided to have one go-round on the giant ferris wheel before heading home.

At the apex of the ferris wheel’s circular course, the girls looked out at the beach far below them and noticed Raging Waters, the water park at the end of the pier. It was there that Mirriam saw the Sky Pond Journey, an enormous water slide with a tortuous course to the water at the bottom, and her quest was over. The ride was perfect. It twisted and turned, it briefly passed through a dark tunnel, and it dropped you into a pool of heated water at the end with almost no warning. Thanks to the unseasonably warm weather, the water park was open that day and, fortunately, Mirriam had brought her bathing suit. One never knows what can come up at a day in Wildwood.

The girls got off the ferris wheel and made their way to Raging Waters. Mirriam changed her clothes and made her way to the Sky Pond Journey. There was no line for the ride, as not too many people are crazy enough to step into a water slide in October. She climbed into the stream of water and took the plunge. She twisted and turned down the watery course, unable to see what would come next until, finally, she dropped into the pool at the end. The water in the pool was warm, it was cleansing and it was deep.

By Larry Stiefel


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