July 18, 2024
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The Israelites caught sight of the Egyptians advancing upon them. Terrified, the Israelites cried out to God, and they said to Moshe, “Was it for want of graves in Egypt that you brought us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, saying: Let us be, and we will serve the Egyptians, for it is better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness?”

But Moshe said to the people, “Have no fear! Stand by and witness the deliverance which God will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today, you will never see again. God will battle for you; you hold your peace!”

Then God said to Moshe, “Why do you cry out to Me? Speak to the children of Israel that they should travel! And as for you, raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and split it, and the Israelites shall come into the sea on dry land.”

***

Today’s daf discusses Hashem’s response to Moshe’s prayer on the banks of the Red Sea and the heroism of Nachshon who led the way.

אָמַר לוֹ רַבִּי יְהוּדָה זֶה אוֹמֵר אֵין אֲנִי יוֹרֵד תְּחִילָּה לַיָּם וְזֶה אוֹמֵר אֵין אֲנִי יוֹרֵד תְּחִילָּה לַיָּם קָפַץ נַחְשׁוֹן בֶּן עַמִּינָדָב וְיָרַד לַיָּם תְּחִילָּה בְּאוֹתָהּ שָׁעָה הָיָה מֹשֶׁה מַאֲרִיךְ בִּתְפִלָּה אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא יְדִידַיי טוֹבְעִים בַּיָּם וְאַתָּה מַאֲרִיךְ בִּתְפִלָּה לְפָנַי אָמַר לְפָנָיו רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם וּמָה בְּיָדִי לַעֲשׂוֹת אָמַר לוֹ דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִסָּעוּ וְאַתָּה הָרֵם אֶת מַטְּךָ וּנְטֵה אֶת יָדְךָ וְגוֹ׳

“Rabbi Yehuda taught: This tribe said, ‘I am not going into the sea first,’ and that tribe said, ‘I am not going into the sea first.’ In jumped Nachshon ben Aminadav and descended into the sea first. When Israel was standing at the edge of the Red Sea, Moshe was praying at length. The Holy One blessed be He said to him, ‘My loved ones are drowning in the sea, and you are praying at length before Me?’ Moshe replied, ‘Master of the universe, what have I the power to do?’ Hashem responded, ‘Speak to the Children of Israel that they should travel! And as for you, raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea … ’”

What was the order of events at the Red Sea? What happened first? Did Nachshon jump into the water, followed by Moshe’s prayer and Hashem’s instruction to Moshe to tell the Israelites to proceed? Or, did Nachshon only jump in after Hashem’s command?

Eitz Yosef explains the meaning of the tribes’ refusal to enter the Red Sea, as follows: Their debate was based on differing interpretations of Hashem’s command. God instructed Moshe: “Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and split it, and the Israelites shall come into the sea on dry land.” The tribes understood that Moshe should first split the sea, and only then should they enter it. Nachshon, however, interpreted the command that when Moshe would raise his staff, the sea would turn into dry land. But if they would wait until that moment, they would fail to fulfill the directive, “the Israelites shall come into the sea.” Because by then, it would no longer be sea, it would be dry already! And so, in he jumped.

But if Moshe’s prayer and Hashem’s response took place prior to Nachshon’s descent into the sea, why then does Hashem tell Moshe that His loved ones are drowning? They weren’t even in the sea, they were on the seashore, trying to figure out what to do next! And even according to those who learn the Gemara’s description as implying that Nachshon entered the waters prior to Moshe’s prayer, God’s words are still difficult to understand. Nachshon was deep in the water, but he wasn’t drowning! What’s the meaning of this exchange in the Gemara between Hashem and Moshe?

Perhaps, Chazal are suggesting that the problem with Moshe’s prayer for salvation was that in his own mind the fate was already sealed. It was a foregone conclusion. All he could picture at that terrifying moment was the nation of Israel drowning in the Red Sea, as the Egyptian armies grew ever nearer. As he is davening, “communicating” with Hashem, all he “hears” is that they are already drowning. The little voice inside says: “There’s no hope. There’s no point praying. We’re doomed.”

And then God bellows: “Stop thinking the worst. I’ve told you I will redeem them from Egypt. And I shall keep My promise. Now, your job is to forge ahead.” Lo and behold, Moshe stops praying, and the Israelites are still standing there. Not drowning. As alive as ever. And ready to move. The problem wasn’t the Israelites. The problem wasn’t God. The problem was Moshe’s state of despair. He saw no way out and it was that attitude that he was communicating to God.

When you daven to Hashem, don’t assume the worst outcome. Assume the best outcome. The Almighty can do anything. He can turn things around. He has the power to heal. He has the power to provide abundant parnassa. He has the power to restore relationships. He has the power to reignite your kids’ hearts to return to the right path.

If, when you pray, all you picture is the worst, you render your prayers impotent. You have to believe that Hashem will answer. And then, indeed, He will answer. Your faith in Heaven is the key to unlocking the blessing. So long as you fail to believe that your prayers will be answered, they, probably, won’t be answered. Once you turn around your beliefs to trust in Hashem that you will pass through the sea on dry land—as impossible as that sounds—He can begin to bring miracles into your life.

Our patriarch, Yitzchak, and matriarch, Rivka, were barren for many years. Finally, they both davened for a child and were blessed with the twins, Yaakov and Eisav. Our Sages explain that Yitzchak’s prayers were answered because “the prayers of a righteous person, whose parents were also righteous are more powerful than the prayers of one who is righteous but has wicked parents,” as was the case with Rivka.

Why would that be? Wouldn’t you think that Rivka, who had overcome the paganism of her parents, should be better placed before God? The difference between the two of them, however, was that Yitzchak grew up in a house of miracles. When his parents prayed, Heaven answered. And so, Yitzchak went to pray with the attitude that his prayers would be answered. Rivka, who grew up surrounded by wickedness, was not used to seeing miracles in her life. She didn’t go into her prayer session with the expectation that Heaven would most certainly answer her.

Pray big prayers with the expectation that your Father-in-Heaven will respond. Hashem is all-powerful and able to turn everything around in an instant. Pray with positive energy, expecting miracles in your life.

May you picture only the best possible outcomes and may your prayers be answered immediately!


Rabbi Dr. Daniel Friedman is the author of The Transformative Daf series and the founder of the Center for Torah Values. www.transformativedaf.com 

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