09 February 2017

Standing at Yam Suf

Standing at Yam Suf
By Roy S. Neuberger

The events in these parshios are literally earth-shaking. “Kol Hashem al hamayim … the voice of Hashem is upon the waters, the G-d of Glory thunders; Hashem is upon vast waters….” (Tehillim 29) We should have the events of Yetzias Mitzraim constantly in mind because they are echoed in today’s world.

In the third bracha of Shemoneh Esreh we say, “You are holy and Your Name is holy, and holy ones praise You every day, forever….” If they praise Hashem every day, why did Chazal add the word “forever?” It must be that, not only do “holy ones” praise Hashem “every day,” but they praise Him all day, at every moment.

It should be clear that our obligation to recognize the Hand of Hashem in history is constant. On Shabbos we daven for “offspring who will neither interrupt nor cease from the words of the Torah….” (Y’kum purkan) We are davening for children who will never interrupt their recognition and praise of Hashem.

My friend, Reb Eli Goldbaum, pointed out a Ramban on last week’s parsha, which states the reasons for wearing tefillin. The Ramban says, “You shall write [verses concerning] Yetzias Mitzraim [and put them] on your arm and … between your eyes and you will [thereby] remember [Yetzias Mitzraim] always ….” (Ramban on Shemos 13:9)

I remember that, years ago, Rabbi Moshe Shapira zt”l said something to this effect: “It makes no sense that people are constantly projecting what will happen a year from now, five years from now, ten years and so on.” Rabbi Shapira was relating this to current world events. Such cataclysmic changes are now occurring that it is folly for any thinking person to assume that the pattern of events we have been used to will continue indefinitely as it has in the past.

Imagine a businessman in Mitzrayim at the time of the makkos projecting his quarterly earnings for the next ten years. This businessman is not going to have a business at all in a few days and may in fact wind up at the bottom of Yam Suf.

“Through [recalling and acknowledging] the great, manifest miracles [of the Exodus] a person acknowledges the hidden miracles [of everyday life], which are the foundation of the entire Torah.” (Ramban on Shemos 13:16) To Nachshon ben Aminadav, the Reality of Hashem’s control of all life was so palpable that it was consistent for him to jump into the sea, and, by so doing, he saved his Nation and opened the way to Har Sinai.

What caused Am Yisroel to be subjected to this great test at the Yam Suf? At that moment “the people of Israel were on trial for their lives,” for the angels argued [on behalf of Mitzraim] that the Jews also worshipped idols. 


“[In order to counteract this accusation against the people of Israel, Hashem said to Moshe] let them travel into the sea [even] before it splits, relying [only] on their trust that I [Hashem] will perform a miracle for them … for this act of trust and faith is so great that it will tip the scales in [Israel’s] favor. [And] the first righteous person [to leap into the Sea] was Nachshon ben Aminadav, who entered up to his throat … as it says (Tehillim 69:2), ‘Save me, Hashem, for the waters have reached until the soul.’” (Ohr Hachaim on Shemos 14:15)

In general, we are not allowed to rely on a miracle. As it says, “lo samchinan anisa” (Pesachim 64b), but I would like to suggest that Nachshon ben Amminadav was not relying on a miracle. When one’s life is in danger and there is literally no place to go, one has no choice other than to rely completely on Hashem to save him, because no alternative option exists. This is not relying on a miracle; this is simply doing what you have to do to survive.

I remember my own “Yam Suf,” on January 10, 1966, when my life seemed to be collapsing. I had tried every lifestyle I could think of and there was literally nothing left except to admit that G-d must exist! There was nowhere else to go! So I started to believe that Hashem is Real! At that moment the “sea split” and I saw a way where no way had seemed to exist a moment before. That is not relying on a miracle. That is saving yourself in the only way you can.


My dear friends, at this time in history we have to know that we are in the position of our ancestors who stood between the Egyptian army and the Yam Suf. Whether we are within or outside the Land of Israel, we are surrounded by enemies and faced with seemingly impossible obstacles wherever we turn. “Kol goyim s’vavuni … all the nations surround me.” (Tehillim 118)

We cannot run from reality. If we don’t see it today, then we will see it tomorrow, but it seems that soon we will come to a moment at which we will all recognize that we have no choice concerning placing our complete trust in the salvation of Hashem. World events indicate that we are very near the end of our Golus, close to the moment when we will hear “for a second time in the presence of all the living… ‘to be a G-d to you. I am Hashem, your G-d.’” (Shabbos Mussaf)

We have to think. We have to believe. We have to know that everything in these parshios is totally relevant to our times. We have to try to be realistic like Nachshon ben Amminadav. Then we will suddenly see the Salvation of Hashem and the world will be renewed forever.


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Roy Neuberger, author and public speaker, can be reached at roy@2020vision.co.il.

© Copyright 2017 by Roy S. Neuberger

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