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Forward Motion

The splitting of the Sea of Reeds was one of the most significant miracles described in the Torah. The Jewish people were trapped, with the Egyptian armies at their backs and the sea in front of them. Some were ready to turn back and return to Egyptian enslavement. Others were ready to jump into the sea and drown themselves.

However, there was one man who kept clearly in mind the purpose of their journey. They had not just escaped from Egypt; they were also going towards something. The culmination of the Exodus was to stand at the foot of Mount Sinai and receive the Torah. This man’s name was Nachshon, the son of Aminadav.

What Nachshon did was jump into the sea. Not because he was a fatalist, or he had given up hope of salvation. Quite the opposite. He was on his way to receive the Torah, and would not allow any obstacle to stand in his way. The Jews watched, and then followed in his wake. The result, as we know, was that Moses lifted his staff, parted the waters, and the Jews walked through dry land.

When Nachshon jumped into the sea, he did not make calculations, whether others would agree or whether they would follow him. He knew what had to be done. Only he showed the leadership and self-sacrifice necessary to go forward to Mount Sinai, no matter what.

That act at the Sea of Reeds serves as a lesson for all time. In recent history, in Communist Russia, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe would not allow any barriers to stand in his way. Rabbi Joseph I. Schneerson knew that his mission in this world was to teach Torah and encourage his fellow Jews to keep the Torah and mitzvot. Nothing would stop him, not even the full force of the Communist regime.

The Previous Rebbe himself was imprisoned and interrogated, under harsh conditions. The abuse he suffered under the Communists affected him for the rest of his life. But his mission continued. The Rebbe spearheaded a movement to keep Judaism alive underground. At grave risk, he sent his students to Jewish settlements to serve as rabbis, teachers, shochtim (ritual slaughterers) and mohelim (ritual circumcisers). He displayed complete readiness to risk his own life, and demanded the same of his students.

The Previous Rebbe was not seeking an opportunity to show self-sacrifice. He merely did what was required of him in the circumstances. What he did seek was the opportunity to teach Torah and encourage mitzvah observance. If that goal required self-sacrifice, then so be it. He also did not vacillate or enter into debate, whether or not self-sacrifice was really required under those circumstances. He had only one thought in mind: We need to receive the Torah! If there is a sea in the way, or other obstacle—that is G-d’s concern, and He will surely show us the way out.

A similar challenge awaits us in our generation. As the current Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, prophesized, we are living in the time of Redemption, and we merely need to open our eyes to see how the world is ready. With joy and true commitment we will overcome all barriers, and merit to see the final revelation of Moshiach.

(Based on an address of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Likutei Sichot vol. 1, p. 134)


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