Taking the First Step

January 14, 2022

This week’s Beshalach Torah portion tells the story of the Hebrews arriving at the Sea of Reeds, where the great “splitting of the seas” miracle takes place. Centuries of elaborations have attempted to fill in the details to this story, because the entirety of this “master story” is covered in only six biblical verses (Exodus 14:26-31). Yet, we read in the Talmud and Midrash, of Nachshon, a prince from the tribe of Judah, who’s complete devotion to Gd’s word, Moses’ leadership, and belief in the vision for freedom in the Promised Land, led him to act when all others passively waited.

There is a story of a man who every night prays to Gd, “Please Gd, let me win the lottery tomorrow.” Years go by and the man continues to pray, getting more disappointed, disillusioned, and even questioning his faith because he has not yet won. One-night Gd finally responds to his prayer. Following the man’s daily ritual, “Please Gd, let me win the lottery tomorrow.” Gd replies, “Will you please buy a lottery ticket!”

Such is the story of Nachshon. It is a story of not only courage, but of knowing that for Gd to help us, for the world to respond to our hopes and dreams, we must be willing to take the first step towards whatever it is we seek.

While the Hebrews waited at the waters’ shores for Gd to perform another miracle, it was Nachshon who walked into the waters, knowing that if something was going to happen, it would be because the people took action. Our sages explained that the waters began to recede showing a path of dry land for where the Hebrews could cross only once the waters had reached Nachshon’s mouth. It required Nachshon showing a willingness to confront an impossible obstacle for Gd to then act and enable Nachshon to pursue his destiny.

There are many reasons why we don’t always face the challenge in our midst: fear, laziness, lack of information, lack of understanding, lack of resources, immaturity, social pressure, or a multitude of other causes.  Covid, and our global pandemic could have been an easy excuse for the Jewish Federation of San Antonio’s board of directors to “freeze” and delay a needed strategic planning process. However, knowing that our community needed the Jewish Federation to look into the horizon and see what the short and long-term needs of this community where projecting to be, the Federation board took those necessary first steps in order to come out of this process identifying multiple opportunities for future action.

Over the coming months the Jewish Federation will be sharing and rolling out many of these new initiatives. Like this year’s Stronger Together collaborative between the Jewish Federation and our local synagogues, we are very excited to continue to build on these partnerships and work with the other Jewish organizations and agencies to enhance Jewish life in San Antonio.

For us to build the vibrant, engaging, and dynamic Jewish community we all envision, we will only achieve it after we each take that first step. Finding, being part of, connecting with your Jewish agency and/or synagogue of choice is is that first step in being…


Shabbat shalom,