Left and Right

And the water was for them as a wall, from their right and their left.

Exodus-Shemot 14:29

On these latter days of Pesach, tradition tells us that the Children of Israel approached the Reed Sea, pursued by the might of the Egyptian Empire. Of course, the miracle of the splitting of the sea is explained, and the destruction of our pursuers described.

It seems to me that there are a few lessons for us in looking at this text and this story. This was one of the first times the Jewish people acted as one, united. Yet the foremost medieval scholar of his time, Maimonides/Rambam, suggests that the twelve tribes each passed through their own corridor through the sea. To me, this is as much a recognition of the challenges associated with Jewish unity - even in the midst of a miracle our cohesion was in question - as anything else. But I choose to understand that the Jewish people reached the far side of the sea - together. They fought Amalek, together. They crossed the desert to Sinai, together. They wandered and finally came to the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, together.

And that passage quoted at the beginning of this message? My brother and I were speaking before Pesach about interesting insights we might share at the seder. He and his family at their home in Caesarea, and me with mine in Teaneck. One thing struck a chord with me and the work of bringing the Jewish people together. Water miraculously parted could still have sought the lowest point. Instead it reared up and formed walls. As the passage says, from their right and their left.

All of the Jewish people were contained, united, defended, within those walls of water. In Jewish tradition as with many others, water is associated with life.

And the message? To live, as one people, we must protect Jewish life FROM THE LEFT TO THE RIGHT. Understanding the nature of our spectrum of belief, ritual, practice, politics, peoplehood, Zionism - we protect ourselves best when we journey through the sea, together. When we come out the other side of the sea, together as one.

We will pass through this moment in history. Jewish life will grow and thrive. Our enemies will encounter the depths, the same fate of all those who came before them, lost in the bottomless abyss of history. So let’s find our way through the sea, protected by our way of life, hand in hand, together.

Be sure to join us as we march together at the Celebrate Israel Parade in New York City, June 2nd. For details and to register, click HERE.