Shabbat Message January 29, 2021
I’m excited about February 19th. I’m anxious about February 19th. February 19th cannot get here soon enough.
In this week’s Torah portion, Beshalach, we find our ancestors are caught between the waters of the Sea of Reeds on one side and the approaching Egyptian army on the other. They were, at that moment, faced with an impossible choice.
If they remained where they were the Egyptian army would force them back into slavery. Even worse, the Israelites would now be dealing with a Pharaoh who had been humiliated and would likely be crueler than ever.
If they continued forward it was more than a bit likely that many of them would drown.
The situation presented them with quite the dilemma. But while it is true that, after a few weeks in the Sinai wilderness, the Israelites would become filled with nostalgia and long for their lives in Egypt, at that moment, standing at the shore of the sea, it was clear what the Israelites needed to do. They needed to push forward. They needed to pursue the freedom they longed to find. They needed to step into the unknown. And that is why they did.
And it was only when they made the decision to take the calculated risk of stepping into the water that, according to the text of the Torah, the sea parted.
As I read this week’s portion the other day it is that moment of decision that captured my attention. And it was only this morning that I realized why.
Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place
As our ancestors were standing at the shore of the Sea of Reeds they were indeed stuck between two bad choices. But those choices were fundamentally different in nature.
The cruelty of the approaching Egyptian forces was long known to our ancestors. If captured, our ancestors knew exactly what would happen to them.
The consequences of inaction were already clear. Stepping into the sea, which had thus far given no indication it was prepared to split in two, was dangerous. But, at that moment, the uncertainty of what would happen if they pushed forward was LESS of a threat than what they knew was coming if they did nothing.
In addition, God had promised our ancestors they would be free and then sent a series of plagues upon to Egyptians as a first step toward fulfilling that promise. Thus, the decision to continue forward was as much a reflection of the people’s trust in God as it was anything else.
This brings me to February 19th. That is the day I am scheduled to receive the first dose of the Moderna vaccine. I’m excited. But I am also a bit anxious. I wish there had been more time to test the vaccine in more people over a longer period of time. I wish we knew if there were any long-term negative issues with the vaccine. I wish we knew how long it lasted. I wish we knew if it was as effective with the new strains of the virus. There is so much we DON’T know about the vaccine and I would be lying if I said it doesn’t make me a bit anxious.
But I know, we all do, the nature of the Egyptian army that is currently pursuing us. We know that it has kept us apart for almost a year. We know it is mutating. And we know that it preys especially hard on the ill and the elderly. After ten months WE KNOW what the cost of inaction will be.
So while there are some unknowns with regard to the vaccine, it is currently our only path forward. So, like our ancestors, I’m going to step into the waters on February 19th. I’m going to trust the scientists who have been working tirelessly for months to find a solution. And, when your opportunity to get the vaccine arrives, I hope you will do the same. Because, at this moment, it is our only path across the Sea of Reeds and we can only get there together.