A PASSOVER STORY
NAH’SHON BEN AMINADAV
Silent hero of the Exodus
Leo Michel Abrami
The moon was shining in the sky over the province of Goshen. The waters of
the Nile river were flowing slowly on their way to the sea. All was peaceful and
quiet. The Children of Israel were asleep in their huts, when a loud voice was heard
in all their compounds:
“Hear ye, Children of Israel, the Pharaoh has just ordered us to leave Egypt at
“But, it’s the middle of the night; must we go in the dark?” asked one of the
“Yes,” said the voice, “we must take the members of our family and some of our
belongings and we must start walking together toward the East.”
They gathered their kin, took their animals and some provisions for the
journey and they set out to walk toward the Promised Land. As they were
approaching the Sea of Reeds in early morning, the Children of Israel suddenly
heard the heavy noise of Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, rapidly advancing toward
them. They were terrified as they realized that they were trapped, with the Sea of
Reeds in front of them and the Egyptian army in their back. They cried bitterly to
Moses and said:
“You see what you have done. We are now locked in the wilderness and there is no
escape from this place: we will all be killed here. Oh Moses, why did you do that
to us? Were there too few graves in Egypt, that you brought us here to die?”
Moses did not know what to do. He prostrated himself to the ground and he
prayed for deliverance.
“O Lord of the Universe, I am like a shepherd desperately trying to protect my
sheep from falling over the edge of the precipice and I am afraid I may fail. What
must I do to save my people from destruction?”
No sooner had he begun his supplication, however, that God interrupted him and
“My children are in great peril, they are crying for help and guidance and you are
on your knees, praying. Stand up, Moses, and tell the Children of Israel to go
forward. Lift up your rod and hold out your arm over the Sea and you will witness
the power of My Salvation.”
Moses stood up, lifted his rod and held his arm over the Sea, but nothing
happened. He tried again, carefully rehearsing God’s command, but there was no
sign of a divine intervention. He repeated the motions again and again without
success. Beads of perspiration rose on his forehead and he was about to cry out of
despair, but the sea did not move. The Children of Israel were terrified and Moses
felt powerless, incapable of providing the help that was urgently needed.
The Children of Israel are divided in four groups. Some are willing to
surrender to the Egyptians; “we shall be your slaves for ever, but please, do not
murder us” they say. Some others are resigned to die right there; “there is no hope
to survive this ordeal and we should rather die than face the misery which will
befall us after we are captured by the Egyptians” they mutter to themselves. Others
are determined to fight the enemy with whatever strength they have and others are
ready to follow Moses and walk into the Sea.
As they are still debating, a tall and strong man comes forward. He is a
prince of the tribe of Judah. He proceeds toward the sea and he jumps into the
“Have you lost your mind, Nah’shon?” shout the members of his family.
“You will never be able to cross to the other side.” they yell to him.
But Nah’shon ben Aminadav is not deterred. He is fully conscious of the gravity of
the situation. He knows why the Sea would not split. Till this very moment, God
has acted on behalf of the Children of Israel. He sent Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh.
He inflicted the plagues upon the Egyptians and shattered Pharaoh’s arrogance.
Nah’shon also knows, that the time has come for the Israelites to take their destiny
into their own hands, and to put their lives on the line, in order to wrest freedom
for themselves. They now have to act in order to ensure their liberation from the
house of bondage.
The elders of the tribe of Judah are still trying to convince Nah’shon to
return and they shout to him:
“There is nothing you can do, Nah’shon, to stop the waters of the Sea and the
chariots of Pharaoh, come back, we beg of you, before it’s too late.”
The prince pays no heed to their words; he is not afraid of the mighty waves
of the Sea. He continues to paddle in the water until it reaches his nostrils. Many
others are now following his example; they are prepared to listen to the voice of
the Most High relayed by Moses. They are ready to brave the elements, to do
whatever they can do in order to escape the fury of their enemies. The Egyptians
are bewildered. As they come nearer, they must think:
“The Hebrews don’t know what they are doing. They will surely die in the Sea.
And we shall capture the others and bring them back to Egypt to be our slaves.
At that very moment, when everything looked doomed, a most astonishing
feat happened. The waters slowly receded and the Children of Israel were able to
walk through the Sea of Reeds and reach to the other shore.