Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: The Last Days of Pesach

As Pesach draws to a close, we learn that Moshe’s plea for divine assistance in the face of ostensibly insurmountable danger is not met with the response he expects. We cannot simply rely on God, teaches the Chief Rabbi.  The transcript appears below.

When did God tell someone to stop praying? We will read about it on the 7th day of Pesach. During the Exodus, the Israelites were caught literally between the Egyptian devil and the deep blue sea. Moshe characteristically prostrated himself upon the earth, cried out to God for mercy. He could never have imagined the response that he got from the Almighty. ‘Ma Titzak Eli? Why are you crying to me?’ said God. ‘Daber el b’nai Yisrael v’yisahu – Speak to the Israelites, let them travel, do something.’

Moshe shared these thoughts with the Israelites. Nachshon, the son of Aminadav, said to everyone: ‘Acharei, I’ve got a plan, follow me’. He took that original leap of faith, he jumped into the waters and they dried up beneath his feet, and once those waters had parted, the Israelites followed him and the rest as they say, was all history.

‘He could have prayed a longer prayer, one with greater fervour’

Moshe remembered that lesson at a later time; his sister Miriam was so leprous that it was feared that she might die. And it is there, in that account in the book of Bamidbar, that we find Moshe offering the shortest prayer on record. He said: ‘Kayul na, refah na la’. God please, heal her please. Surely Moshe, at this time of his sister’s great distress, in this urgent situation, he of all people had an open line to the Almighty. He could have prayed a longer prayer, one with greater fervour.

Rashi explains that, at that moment, he recalled the events of the sea. He realised that of course we should pray to God, but at that moment his presence was needed at his sister’s bedside, to look for outstanding medical attention, to give her encouragement, to try to do something to assist her, to become a partner of God’s. And that’s exactly what happened; Miriam recovered.

‘we need to have a strategy, a plan; we need to be doing something’

From here we learn a very powerful and relevant lesson for ourselves and our times. Our Rabbis sum it up in our Talmud with the words ‘Ein somchim al haneis – You should never rely on miracles’. When it comes for example, to guaranteeing our future, wellbeing and welfare, all the protection for ourselves, for our families and for our society, or for earning a living, we shouldn’t just leave it up to the Almighty, we need to have a strategy, a plan; we need to be doing something.

God calls out to us and he says ‘Don’t leave it all up to me, I will help those who help themselves’.

Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom.

 

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