Arriving at the commercial complex where he works, Sam sees that there is simply not a parking space to be found. He drives around for five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes, and no luck. He is very late for work; his boss is going to be upset. Finally he says: “God, I will give $100 to charity if you will just give me a place to park so that I can get to work already! I can’t risk being late again! I might lose my job!” Just as he finished his heartfelt plea, he sees someone pulling out of a parking spot right near the door of the building, and then says “God, never mind, I just found a spot myself!”
This week’s Torah portion is “Beshalach” (Exodus 13:17 – 17:16), meaning “to be sent off,” referring to Pharaoh’s speedy expulsion of the Jewish people from Egypt. After the tenth and final plague, the death of the firstborn, Pharaoh finally had enough and wanted the Jews out.
The plagues weren’t the only miraculous events leading up to the Exodus. In this week’s reading we also have the splitting of the Red Sea. With Pharaoh having second thoughts about having released the Jews, he scrambles his entire army and runs after the Jews, catching up to them as they were encamped by the sea. They were also *trapped* by the sea. There was nowhere to go. Pharaoh’s chariots and arrows were behind them, while the sea was in front of them. Keep in mind that swimming lessons were not a part of the slavery program in Egypt!
Have no fear. Yet another miracle unfolds. Following God’s instructions, Moses raises his staff over the sea and the sea splits into two (or, according to some Midrashic sources, into twelve!). The Jewish people cross through the sea on dry land, while a pillar of smoke is preventing Pharaoh’s militia from chasing after them.
The miracle of the splitting of the sea was certainly a miracle that no one could deny. The entire nation witnessed it. Unfortunately, with regards to the 10 plagues in Egypt, there were naysayers who doubted the authenticity of the plagues. For example, some would say that the water in Egypt turned to blood due to some kind of freak pollution, the “plague” of lice was due to bad hygiene, and the death of the first born was due to some kind of pandemic, and the like. It seems that the pessimists will always find excuses.
God is well aware of human nature, and He made sure not to allow the Exodus to “Passover” without at least one miracle that no one could deny. And that was the splitting of the sea. Our sages teach us that even the simple folk who witnessed the splitting of the Red Sea, witnessed an event even greater than the prophecies of Ezekiel!
Today, God rarely performs open miracles, and there are a number of philosophical theories for it, all of which are beyond the scope of this week’s column. However, we must not take the small, quiet, or otherwise unrecognizable miracles for granted. Keep in mind that the entire Book of Esther, one of the books of the Bible, is an entire string of non-obvious miracles that seem to be void of supernatural influence. The result, however, is that the Jewish people were saved with the help of Mordechai and Esther. God’s name is not mentioned in the Book of Esther, but I ask you to find a single paragraph where God’s influence, protection, and action is not felt.
Unfortunately, most people only recognize the open and obvious miracles. Indeed, even while everyone continues to be in awe of the miracle of the splitting of the sea (we all saw the movie) how many people even recall the concurrent miracle– that the Jewish people walked on dry land! That detail seems to be virtually ignored!
This is our problem. Our problem is that we don’t recognize the “everyday” miracles as anything special. The small stuff doesn’t seem to matter. Shame on us! God does so much for us on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Nature is one great miracle! The great sale, the convenient parking spot (see joke above!), the lifesaving medication – these are all miracles. God didn’t “rate” the miracles He performed for us when we left Egypt, and we shouldn’t “rate” the miracles he does for us today. Our attitude must be that every wonderful thing that we experience in life is just another “splitting of the sea.”
Once we recognize this, we will be capable of experiencing the miracles that the Almighty has planned for the future redemption of the Jewish people- miracles which, as the Talmud says, will overshadow all of the miracles that were experienced in Egypt!
Shabbat Shalom from Israel!
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel