Passover 7th Day, April 12, 2004 Rabbi Moshe P. Weisblum
Today we read the famous Biblical chapter dealing with the splitting of the Red Sea and the song of the sea. The idea of having faith in God is the foundation of our Passover Festival. At the end of the Passover Hagaddah there is a well-known song, which begins "One is God, the Almighty on Heaven and Earth." I would like to share with you a story of Nathan.
Seven years ago I met a fellow that looked very lonely. He was always sitting by himself and always looked sad. We invited him to our home for the Seder, and he hardly said a word. Any other time we invited him for any occasion, we hardly got anything out of him. The only thing we knew was that he was by himself, in Springfield NJ, never married and in his 80’s, but nothing more. It happened that one time he finally said something that was very short time but it gave us an insight into his life. It happened this way:
It was on the 7th Day of Passover, and we chanted again and again, "One is God, the Almighty on Heaven and on Earth," he sang, with tears in his eyes. He told me, "Rabbi, when I was a very young boy, and we lived in Newark, NJ. In those days, Newark was a very vibrant and active Jewish community. My parents sent me to the religious school, where I learned, the beginning of the Hebrew letters at the age of 4. My teacher, an elderly man with a white beard, old fashioned, used to sing to us the song with the melody, ‘One is the Almighty, Lord of Heaven and Earth.’ Every year, he would sing this melody with us. I only remember this teacher’s first name, Alfred. Then I went to public school and high school and I was drafted into the Army. The army sent me to the Pacific. The war was really bad--I lost many friends-- my parents died when I was young. My only brother was also serving in the military but he was on the other side of the globe. I remember vividly when I was on the boat and I saw so many tragedies. I thought, often, of the meaning of life, and why we went through all this. In my heart and in my head, I would hear the voice of my teacher and the melody of this song. In the Army, I received commendations and got many awards, but my brother was not so lucky, he died in the war. When I came home, there was no home, my parents and brother were gone. I went to Law School, but I was very lonely. Every weekend I would go to the Jersey Shore and look into the sea. I was so depressed, I didn’t want to live anymore. But every time, I would hear that voice and melody in my head and remember God’s faithfulness. Now, I am close to 80, but when I hear this song, its message is something that I cannot get over. It always touches my heart---all those years I needed encouragement and strength that song reliably got me through--and I believe it can help all of us."
Let me share with you a poem that also describes of God’s faithfulness to all his children, it is called, "Footprints in the Sand." By Martha Stevens:
One night, a man had a dream.
He dreamt he was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene, he notices two sets of footprints in the sand one belonging to him and the other to the Lord.
When the last scenes of his life flashed before him,
He looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the very
lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it:
"Almighty Lord, you said that once I decided to follow
you, you’d walk with me all the way.
But, I have noticed that during the mosttroublesome times in my life,
There is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when
I needed you most, you would leave me."
The Lord replied, "My son, my precious child,
I love you and I will never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."
Today, we remember the miracles of deliverance and the splitting of the sea. The key word to remember during this time is--faith--people need to have faith in God, and our ancestors did, and that is why they survived. The idea of having this festival of freedom stems from the tide of faith, because we were able to survive all those hardships in Egypt and everywhere else in the world since that time because of our faith in G-d. Therefore, take heart of the message of "G-d is one, L-d of heaven and earth"--this is quite applicable to our time. G-d is always here--he is with us constantly. As it is written in the book of psalms "the Lord of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps." Amen.