You are living in the Biblical times. You’re escaping from a country that, to Jews, like yourself, is the ancient equivalent of Nazi Germany. You get to the sea.
Two minutes later, you hear a soft rumbling behind you. Turning your head, you can make out what looks like a horde of Egyptian chariots in the distance.
You’re trapped. Doomed.
What would you have done?
If you are reading this, the chances are you would know Who to turn to. Even if you were an atheist, I bet that you would plead with the G-D you ‘didn’t believe in’ to save you. As they say, there are no atheists in foxholes. It’s instinctive for Jews to pray when pushed into a corner.
Yet, when the Jews found themselves in that situation, they were told off by Hashem for doing just that.
“Why are they crying to me?” Hashem asked Moshe “Go forward!”
It’s as if Hashem was surprised and upset with them for doing what anyone with faith would have done!
Perhaps Hashem was telling them was that faith wasn’t just about praying.
Yes, there are times when it is appropriate to ask for Hashem’s intervention.
But sometimes, having faith means taking action. Believing that Hashem is behind you whatever you do.
That is why the Torah speaks about Nachshon Ben Aminodov with such respect. He was the first one to literally jump into the ocean. He took a step, knowing that Hashem ‘had his back’.
On the wall behind my desk hangs a quote: ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take’. Next to it hangs a picture of Rabbi Nosson Zvi Finkel OBM, somebody whom I see as a role model. I wasn’t consciously thinking about the connection when I hung the two pictures next to each other. But today, I can’t help thinking about how he Rav Nosson Zvi embodied that quote. As the head of a Yeshivah with 5,000 students, he would constantly travel to collect funds, even whilst fighting a 20 year-long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
As I well remember from my stint at the Mir Yeshivah, his lectures weren’t a pretty sight. The man was in such pain it was difficult to watch him get a word out.
Not quite the image of a professional fundraiser.
He could have been content to pray for Yeshiva’s financial salvation (which was often precarious, to put it mildly) from the comfort of his bed.
He would have been forgiven for ‘accepting his limitations’ and doubting his own fundraising abilities.
But Rav Nosson Zvi didn’t consider any of this for a moment. He just acted.
So when you’re stuck, don’t just pray.
(Parshah thought originally heard from Rabbi Shlomo Farhi. Watch the original lecture here)