This week, the Jewish people are born. They have left Egypt as slaves and, chased by Pharaoh’s army, they pass through the Sea of Reeds emerging as a free people. We all know the story of the parting of the Sea of Reeds: “Then Moses held out his arm over the sea and the LORD drove back the sea with a strong east wind all that night, and turned the sea into dry ground. The waters were split,” (Exodus 14:21).
But our rabbis tell a different story. Moses raised his arms, but the sea did not part. The Israelites stood around paralized with fear until Nahshon ben Aminadav of the tribe of Judah took a leap of faith and stepped into the water. He began walking into the water as it rose around him. Despite the increasing depth, he kept walking. The tribe of Judah, inspired by his example, followed him into the water. When Nahshon was so deep that the water reached his nose, the sea miraculously split. (Talmud, Sota 37A).
God’s miracle was not sufficient to split the sea. The missing component, that Nahshon supplied, was human faith and action. Faith alone is not sufficient. Had it been true, then the sea would have split when Moses raised his arms. This week’s Torah portion teaches us that faith combined with action can work wonders and change the world, as it did for the Israelites when they left Egypt.