Trust in God but Tie Your Camel (B'shalach)

Here is the translation of the first two verses that I chanted from this week's Torah portion, Bshalach.

And God said to Moses, 'Why do you cry out to me? Speak to the children of Israel that they should move! And you, lift your staff and reach your hand out over the sea - and split it!

And here is a famous Arab proverb: Trust in God, but tie your camel.


After appearing to Moses in a burning bush, after performing 10 miracles and wonders in Egypt to get the Israelites attention, showcasing God's power, here we find the Israelites on the precipice of freedom. They are so close. There is but one more obstacle. The huge expanse of the Red Sea in front of them. They can hear the echoes of the Pharoah's best chariot riders getting louder and louder. After everything that has happened, it looks like the Israelites are going to be enslaved yet again.

In the previous verse, Moses tries to calm the people: Don't be afraid. Stand still and see God's salvation that God will do for you today.


We're taught that God performed the plagues, God appeared in the burning bush and that God split the Red Sea. But even the text of the Torah suggests that God wants the Israelites to do something. God wants us to act: Speak to the children of Israel that they should move!

Praying to God is necessary but not sufficient. We must act in order to actualize our prayers.


Midrash suggests that while the Israelites were waiting around, hoping for a miracle, a man named Nachson took matters into his own hands. He started singing Mi Chamocha and walked slowly into the waters of the Red Sea. All around him, his brothers and sisters, family and friends were beseeching God for a miracle, but Nachson continued to sing. Mi Chamocha Baelim Adonai - Who is Like You O God?

He was knee deep into the water, a good bit from the shoreline. As he sang the second verse, he sunk down into the sea and water entered his mouth. This is why we sing Mi Chamocha for the first verse and Mi Kamocha for the second.

He did not stop. He hummed while he walked underwater. After 30 seconds or so, he needed to come up for breath. It was at that point that God split the waters of the Red Sea.


Looking at our Torah portion with the added perspective of this midrash, we see that yes, God did perform a great miracle. But it was predicated first on the Israelites showing courage, action, faith, and hope.


In a few portions, we will recount the giving of the Ten Commandments as the Israelites stood under Mount Sinai. The first commandment hearkens back to the song of the sea and to our jubilant cries of freedom and joy: I am the God that freed you from Egypt.

God helps those that help themselves. It reminds me of the joke in which an old man is upset that he never once has won the lottery, despite never once buying a lottery ticket. Nachson did not just pray. He did not throw his hands up and wait for God to do something. Nachson took action, which led to the Israelite's prayer being answered. So yes, we can trust in God, praying and beseeching Adonai in prayer and supplication. But I think that God also expects to trust in us - to take action ... to sing songs of miracles so that we can experience the reality of miracles.

Shabbat Shalom.


The Best Gift you can Give (T'rumah)

The Miracle(s) of the Plagues (Bo)