Leap of Faith
By Yonit Rothchild
A few years back, around this time of year, I had a big decision to make. Behind door A was a wonderful new opportunity. But it would involve a considerable amount of risk-taking and the consequences of things not working out were scary. Behind door B was security. I could choose to step away from door A and stick with the way things already were. Sure, I might be walking away from my dreams, but I would be safe from any nightmare that might follow.
When decision time came, I could not sleep. So I did what any other mature woman would do – I called my mother! I told her all about the decision I had to make and how difficult I was finding it to make a choice. I so wanted to pick door A but felt obligated to play it safe and choose door B. After listening to me speak, this is what my mother said: “Do what you feel is right in your heart even if means taking a risk. You have to be like that guy from the Exodus story who jumped in to the sea!”
My mother was referring to one of the greatest unsung heroes of the bible: Nahshon Ben Amminadab, Nahshon, the son of Amminadab.
Who was Nahshon?
The Bible doesn’t tell us much, only that he was the brother-in-law of Aaron (Exodus 6:23) and a leader of the tribe of Judah (Numbers 2:3). But the Sages give us greater insight into who this man was with a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the moments just before the splitting of the Red Sea.
We all know the story of the Exodus. Perhaps you’ve even seen the movie. After the children of Israel are freed from Egypt, Pharaoh has a sudden change of heart. He and his massive Egyptian army pursue the Israelites until they corner them at the Red Sea. Moses stretches his arms and calls out to God. The sea splits and the Israelites are able to cross through on dry land!
But the Sages teach that it didn’t go as smoothly as that. Jewish tradition teaches us a very powerful story about what occurred in the moments that the sea parted.
Just before the sea split, the Children of Israel were panicked. Behind them were the Egyptians coming to forcibly take them back to Egypt. In front of them was the sea, the only thing that stood between them and their freedom. Egypt was warm and familiar. The sea was cold and unknown. It was decision time.
Nahshon watched everyone around him as they stood paralyzed with fear, not knowing what to do. Should they go back to Egypt or should they trust in God and follow Him into the sea?
Nahshon, alone, takes the plunge. Literally.
He steps into the sea with full faith that God will help him through. He takes one step, but nothing happens.
Undeterred, Nahshon continues until the seas is up to his ankles and then his knees. Still, the sea does not split.
Nahshon continues onward. Now the sea is up to his chest and approaching his mouth. The sea remains the same.
Finally, when the sea reaches Nahshon’s nostrils, at the last second, it splits!
The children of Israel witness the great miracle and follow after Nahshon just in the nick of time. According to this version of the story, the sea didn’t split so that the Israelites could walk through; first one Israelite walked through the sea, and because of his great faith, the sea then opened up for him and his people.
Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, teaches us that we need to follow our hearts and trust in God, even when we aren’t sure how things will turn out. There are times in our lives when we have to choose between something new and unknown and something old and familiar. The new opportunity seems like the better choice, yet there are absolutely no guarantees that it will work out. The familiar option is clearly less than ideal, but we know exactly what to expect. Do we take the plunge, or stay dry and safe on land? Nahshon inspires us to jump in.
I once heard it put this way: “Sometimes your only mode of transportation is a leap of faith.” Sure, it’s difficult to take that leap, but there is something even worse than taking a step into the unknown; it’s staying with a known that isn’t good for us. Nahshon teaches us to step out in faith. Everything else will follow.
So what did I do on that restless night a few years ago? I took my mother’s advice! I trusted in God and took that opportunity. I didn’t know at the time that it would be the right decision and would indeed lead me on a path towards much greater happiness and satisfaction. But I did get a hint that things would be alright the very next day. My husband had a meeting and was having trouble finding the building where it was. ‘Could I please look at a map to help him?” he asked. “Sure,” I said. “What’s the name of the street?” He replied: “Nahshon Ben Amminadab.”