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A Beautiful Passover Lesson in Courage

An often-overlooked moment in the Exodus story teaches us the power of taking the first step.

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Imagine this: you have lived your whole life in bondage when suddenly the dreamed-of liberation day comes. You hurriedly gather what little you can carry before joining your family on a dusty rush out of town. Following your leader, Moses, you move in a throng, at once anxious and jubilant. Could freedom actually be here?

Moses has promised your safety and deliverance, having been promised the same by God. Soon, though, the unthinkable happens. Your captors have changed their minds. They are pursuing you with angry speed. And as the hoofbeats draw nearer, you come to the edge of a vast sea. Everything stops.

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Now is the time to find out the value of those promises. “Move forward,” Moses commands. No one moves. Some wail that all is lost. Others are shocked into silence. But one person among the thousands takes decisive action—he steps into the roiling waters of the sea.

According to the Midrash, an ancient Jewish commentary on the Hebrew Bible, it is only when this man, whose name was Nachshon, steps forward that God parts the waters of the Red Sea and the Israelites are delivered to freedom from Pharaoh. 

No matter your relationship to the Exodus story, this moment can serve as a powerful reminder of the courage life often asks us to summon. Nachshon had been a slave, and he refused to go backwards into that nightmarish place. He had faith that moving forward was the right choice—and he and all of his people were rewarded for that brave decision.

The writer Stacey Zisook Robinson said it beautifully in a reflection on the story of Nachshon:

“I pray to have faith enough to walk into my own sea—of  doubt and fear and darkness. I want to walk and feel the waters part, to be released from the tangled web of thought that holds me immobile and disconnected. I have learned, again and again, without fail: When I take that step, when I find the faith to put one foot in front of the other and to trust, as Nachshon did, I am carried forward. I am freed from my self-imposed bondage. I am enough, and I can walk again on dry land to freedom.”

Where in your life can you find the courage to take the first step forward?

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