FAITH AND VALUES CONQUER FEAR IN FEARFUL TIMES
QUESTION: Why did I photoshop these two living creatures wearing protective masks? The answer is found in the story of Passover.
Above, top no . . . he’s not Moses parting the sea. He’s a Biblical first responder, Nachshon ben Aminadav, first mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in Numbers 1:17 and via commentary, inserted into the Red Sea scene in Exodus 14.
Above, bottom no . . . it’s not Flipper, but an unnamed front line dolphin alluded to in Hebrew Scriptures in Exodus 26:14, and via commentary also inserted into the Red Sea scene in Exodus 14.
Exodus 14: Then Moses held out his arm over the sea and God drove back the sea and turned the sea into dry ground. The waters were split and the Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, (after Nachshon tested the depth of the water) the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left (as the dolphins watched from behind the walls of water). The Egyptians came in pursuit after them.
NACHSHON: Upon arriving at the Red Sea, eager to cross over to freedom and escape, the pursuing Egyptian chariots bent on returning the Israelites to slavery and a certain death in Egypt, Moses realizes that as the leader, he cannot enter the waters first but must find someone who will “volunteer” to test the depth of the water. The ancient story continues with Moses asking: “Who will enter the water to make sure it is safe to cross?”
No one responds. He calls, in desperation again. And again, no response. Finally one person steps forward and while trembling with fear, declares “I shall go!”
It was Nachshon ben Aminadav whose name, which hints at a personality of volunteerism (“nadav”), appears only once in Hebrew Scriptures as an assistant leader of the tribe of Judah. He steps into the sea and begins to walk towards the shore of freedom. The waters rise slowly over his body but, thankfully, cease rising at his neck. It was safe to go. The escape to freedom and life was ultimately due to the act of our first responder, Nachshon.
DOLPHIN: While observing the Israelites running on dry ground from the pursuing Egyptians, the dolphin noticed that the young speedy Israelites had no difficulty reaching the shore of freedom. But the ill, fragile elderly, and very young were much slower and in jeopardy…they wouldn’t make it to the other side without help. The dolphin (along with the other dolphins) selflessly jumped out of the wall of water and onto dry ground knowing they were risking their lives to save others. They quickly surrounded those needing help and carried them safely to freedom. But they were out of the water too long and expired on the shore. In their honor God later commands that part of the traveling Sanctuary be made from dolphin skins, in gratitude for their frontline lifesaving sacrifice.
Today’s Nachshon: Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), a lifesaving
fire-fighter, a police officer, a hospital administrator, a doctor, a nurse, a caregiver.
Today’s Dolphins: Physician’s Asst., respiratory therapists, CNA’s, custodial staff, maintenance staff, delivery drivers, truck operators, market employees (from shelf stockers to cashiers, to managers), teachers continuing their schooling online, pharmacy employees, food pantry volunteers, food providers, research scientists, scientists, Coronavirus test analyzers, journalists, therapists & clergy saving our emotional, psychological/spiritual selves, mortuary and cemetery staff, and anyone who reaches out to call, send a card, Skype to reassure isolated family and friends.
The effort of one, saving hundreds . . . of thousands saving millions. Each with a faith his/her ability and skill will be of service to others and a belief in the supreme value of saving life.
Indeed, this is a fearful time for us all. May our respective faiths not only guide us, but fortify us against an immobilizing fear preventing a healing response.
“Stay safe” we each say to each other. But we are indebted to those first responders and front line workers who are the ones who make us safer each day.
When this is all over, let us not forget what they do for us every day.
Rabbi Jim Kaufman, Temple Beth Hillel
Board Member, ISN