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Today is January 18, 2018 -

Torah Portion Beshallach

Which Came First, the Miracle or the Faith?

This week we read about read of the splitting of the Reed (sometimes erroneously called the Red) Sea. How did the Israelites react after seeing the miraculous power of God?  Nehama Leibowitz, a modern Israeli Biblical scholar, points out that there was, “…no change in Israelite behavior even after the Almighty divided the sea for them. Their pettiness and grumblings persisted. They still hankered after creature comforts instead of appreciating the loving kindness of the Creator who had borne them aloft on eagles’ wings.  Some of them were more concerned with the mud on their shoes. Miracles do not, necessarily change human nature and cannot by themselves make man fear and love God.” She then asks if that is so, why miracles occur. She continues, “God performed His miracles for the sake of the meritorious few, for those like Nashshon who took the plunge.  [According to the Midrash, the waters of the Sea did not split until one brave soul, Nachshon, walked into the Sea and the waters engulfed him up to his nostrils] Such individuals exist in every generation.  By their unselfish behavior and their willingness to go forward in time of emergency rather than place the burden on others do they merit the ‘dividing of the waters.'” This is an astonishing explanation. Miracles do not convince those without faith tobelieve in God. Faith comes first and then God’s power is made manifest. We often ask which came first the chicken or the egg. (According to most scientists it was the egg.) If we ask which comes first, faith or the miraculous, clearly according to Leibowitz faith is primary. The miracle at the sea may have been grand as visualized by Cecil B. DeMille in the movie The Ten Commandments or perhaps it was just a matter of timing. Winds were blowing all night and that combined with strong tides allowed our ancestors to cross the Sea, as the Bible itself suggests. Either way if we have the courage and the faith to believe first and then to act on our belief that is when we can experience the miraculous.