The scene is not hard to imagine. The Israelites have left Egypt and are heading towards freedom, but Pharaoh has realized what has happened and 600 elite chariots combined other chariots and officers are now giving chase. The Israelites arrive at the edge of the Red Sea. With the waters raging in front of them and the Egyptian army fast approaching from behind, the Israelites are trapped. There is nowhere to go. The situation is perilous indeed.
HaShem commands Moshe, "Why do you cry out to Me? Speak to the Israelites and let them go forward." Go forward? Where to? There is the sea in front of them and the Egyptian army behind them. Where are they to go?
The Talmud records the incident. People from different tribes began to argue. This tribe did not want to go first into the water, and that tribe also refused. Suddenly, one man bursts forth and walks into the sea. He continues to walk and when the waters are at his neck, Moshe holds up his staff and the sea splits and what had been an obstacle, literally a death trap, becomes a clear path.
Who was this person that stood up, took a chance and literally changed the fate of his people? His name was Nachshon ben Aminadav. He was from the tribe of Yehudah and he was the brother-in-law of Aaron. Later, Nachshon was given the privilege of bringing the first offering to the newly inaugurated Mishkan, the portable sanctuary the Israelites carried with them during their sojourn through the desert.
Many centuries later, Nachshon ben Aminadav is still remembered for that one act. With boldness and selflessness (and possibly some impulsivity as well) Nachshon forged ahead and demonstrated to the Israelites that the situation was not lost; his actions helped lead the people to freedom, to new opportunities, to new heights as they would soon receive the Torah.
Nachshon ben Aminadav teaches us that no matter what the circumstances are, our actions do make a difference. We can change the world. We can, indeed we do, make things better. We, too, bring our small portion of the Jewish people to greater heights, even when it feels like the water is up to our neck.
Shabbat shalom to all!