[Note: The book is formatted as an interview.]
Q: You were about to explain about miracles.
A: I think everyone knows the story of the parting of the Red Sea in the Book of Exodus wherein the Israelites,
having left Egypt, were up against the sea with Pharoah's army beginning their attack against them. The Red
Sea then opened providing passage for the Israelites. Then, after the Israelites were safely across, the sea
closed again, drowning Pharoah's army. In the Torah, just as Pharoah's army began their attack, the Israelites
cried out to God for help. God said to Moses, "Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go
forward." Well, taking up from this point is a wonderful story from the Midrash.
Q: Can you explain what Midrash is?
A: Midrash is a form of Rabbinic literature which aids in the interpretation of biblical stories by expanding upon
the narrative of the actual text. It has been said, however, that whatever a respected scholar introduces in his
time was already revealed to Moses when he received the Torah on Mount Sinai. Turning once again to
Rabbi Eugene Borowitz and Naomi Patz in Explaining Reform Judaism, they opine that perhaps the chief
purpose of Midrash is to teach biblical ideas in ways that help people with their own lives.
Q: Thanks you. Please proceed.
A: Well, the Midrash states that the Red Sea did not part until one of the Israelites, Nachshon, Aaron's
brother-in-law, decided to take action by walking into the sea. He had walked in up to his head and only then
did the waters begin to part. It is further stated in Midrash that Nachshon could not swim and that Moses
had stuck out his rod in order to steady him. It appears that when God said to Moses, "Tell the people of
Israel to go forward," Nachshon was the only person who had the courage to do just that even while risking
an almost certain death. A miracle did take place, but it was not in the parting of the Red Sea. The miracle
was the courage of Nachshon. It was the strength that he found from his trust in God, and in himself, that
made him go forward. Once again, this is poetic narrative meant to teach an underlying truth.
Q: But ...
A: No, it is not a "supernatural" miracle, but one even more important. It is the kind of miracle that humankind
can accomplish everyday if we just muster the courage to take the right kind of action. Rabbi and
philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel said that miracles don't change nature, miracles change human nature.