!לְגֹזֵר יַם־סוּף לִגְזָרִים כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ׃
[Praise] the One who parted the Sea of Reeds into many partings — God’s steadfast love is eternal!
It’s Passover and so we gather to retell the story of our liberation from Egyptian bondage. The story has been told and retold many times, not just in literature but in art and film as well. One of the earliest retellings is actually found in the Bible itself. In Psalm 136 we praise God for our many blessings and for each one we give thanks for God’s eternal kindness. We give thanks for creation itself, for the precious gift of life. And then, more personally and particularly as Jews, we give thanks to God for our redemption at the shores of the Red Sea, saying: “For the one who parted the Red Sea into many partings!”
The Hebrew seems, at first, odd. We thank God for splitting the sea into many partings — the plural form is used.
One commentator, my cousin in fact, Rabbi Eliezer Davidovits (1878-1942), understands it this way: when we stood at the shores of the sea, it did not split apart in one fell swoop so that all of us could cross over together. Instead, for each individual Israelite, for each and every one of us, an opening was made.
We were all delivered on that day but each one of us had to step forward on our own.
It makes the experience of our liberation deeply personal, each one of us crosses over in her own way. And, even better perhaps, the miracle should not be seen as part of our distant past. On the contrary, in the Psalm we address God in the present tense. God is the one who parts the sea into many partings. It didn’t just happen one time, thousands of years ago. It can happen today, right now, if we can only muster up the courage to step into the waters.
Each of us must make this journey. Each of us in different ways and to different degrees experiences bondage, prisoners of our worries, our anxieties, our insecurities, our prejudices, and our pettiness. Everyday — right now even — we can take a step in the process of liberation. Each of us in our own way and in our own time can make this journey. God — the One Who who makes infinite partings, enough for every creature, wants us to be free. God wants us to be redeemed. God wants us to cross over to the Promised Land.
Go ahead — step in.