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The Sea of Faith

The Sea of Faith

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“I’ve never felt like this before. I just want to feel like I felt before. I just want to be the woman that I was before ... ”

I hear these words from nearly every client that NITZA, a nonprofit organization for giving support to women with postpartum depression, sends me for reflexology and massage treatments. Nearly each woman confides inI just want to feel like I felt before me about their worries, their fears, their anxiety and sorrow. They cry: “I just want to feel like I felt before.”

I look at them and I answer, “You’re not going to be like before. With G‑d’s help, you will be so much better.” I truly mean this and I see it. G‑d sends a person a nisayon, a test, to make them grow. You walk out of a difficulty going forward and you are stronger, more connected, more sympathetic. A million things transpire and you are not the same woman; you have the potential to be so much greater. In life, we can only go forward. We can’t, nor should we want, to go back.

How do I know this?

The Jewish nation arrived at the Red Sea. They looked behind them and saw the Egyptian soldiers coming after them. They were surrounded, with nowhere to run. The Torah describes how the Jews were frightened. They complained, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us to die in the desert? What is this that you have done to us to take us out of Egypt.” (Exodus 14:11) In other words, “We just want it to be like it was before. Take us back to how we were before.” Mind you, they were slaves before and were willing to return back to their slavery, so great was their fear and anxiety. Through Moses, G‑d told the Jews that He would split the sea open for them, and that they would walk safely through. He would destroy their oppressors, their enemies.

The Jews had no choice but to leap into the “sea of faith,” and as they did, G‑d performed a miracle, a nes, for them. He split the waters open, and they walked through dry land. The Egyptians continued to pursue them into the split sea, and as Israel reached the other side, the waters crashed back together, drowning all the Egyptian soldiers into the sea Not even one survived.

Can you imagine? Not only did they escape from Egypt, but now, after passing such a difficult test of faith by going forward, they witnessed a miracle. They would never have to worry ever again that the Egyptians might come after them. They saw with their own eyes that now they were truly free—physically free and emotionally free from their oppressors.

The sages also describe how the Egyptians decorated their horses with expensive jewelry. When the waters came back together, an enormous amount of wealth (in the form of gold, silver and precious stones) came floating up onto the shore from these horses, enabling Israel to acquire great wealth. We went through such a difficult nisayon. There was fear, anxiety, stress. G‑d raised us up from this hardship, and in the end, what happened? Did we stay the same as before? Did we return to Egypt and slavery? No, we were not the same as before. Emotionally, spiritually and monetarily, we were so much better off.

In Hebrew, the word for a “test” or “challenge,” nisayon, has the same root as the word for “miracle” and to “raise” (as in a flag). When G‑d sends us a test, a nisayon, we have to understand that it is up to us to rise to the occasion, to become better people.

My eldest child, Avraham, was born on the last night of Passover (in Israel), the night of the Splitting of the Sea. We waited four-and-a-half years for him; we prayed that long for him. His birth was truly a splitting of seas, a nes, a miracle. I think to myself, “What would I have been like if I had become pregnant at the beginning of our marriage? What kind of mother would I have been if I hadn’t waited or did many fertility treatments? What kind of wife would I have been if my husband and I didn’t have that test to bring us closer together and to work on ourselves?”

I don’t know for sure, but I can tell you that yes, I doI do feel like a better person feel like I’m a better person. I have more patience. I appreciate him and each one of my children in a way that I’m not sure I would have if I hadn’t had that waiting and wanting.

The other night a woman cried to me, “Elana, it will take the splitting of the Red Sea for me to get through this [depression].” “Well, then we know it can, with G‑d’s help, happen.” I tell her. “He already did; He can do it again.”

The seventh night of Passover, this is the night to tap into it all: the challenges, tests, miracles, being raised and lifted up. This is night G‑d told us to jump into the sea of faith, the night where He revealed His love and readiness to perform miracles. The night where He tells us: “You won’t ever be in the same as before. Trust in Me, and you’ll be so much better, so much greater.”

Originally from northern California and a Stanford University graduate, Elana Mizrahi now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children. She is a doula, massage therapist, writer, and author of Dancing Through Life, a book for Jewish women. She also teaches Jewish marriage classes for brides.
Artwork by Ahuva Klein.
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