Springsteen, The River and The Red Sea

This past Monday night I was at the Barclays Center at a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert. Monday Night was the second night of Chol Hamoed (the Intermediate Days of Pesach, Passover), tonight will be Shvii Shel Pesach (the Seventh Day of Pesach). This was a special a show for me. This is the first time I have seen the Boss in Brooklyn, the land of my birth. How fantastic, during Chol Hamoed Pesach in such a Jewish area, Bruce took us on a musical journey, as we have been journeying out of Egypt. However, there is much more. Once again, Bruce gave us the incredible gift of a perfect album show of the “River,” but this “River” show was different from all other “River” shows.

I believe there is a connection between the Torah reading for the Seventh day of Pesach, the story of the Parting of the Red Sea, (Shemot/Exodus 13:17-15:26) and “The River” album. In order to explain this, first, I would like to analyze the narrative of the Red Sea. In the Torah reading for the Seventh day of Pesach, Pharaoh finally agrees to let Bnai Yisrael (Israelites) go. Almost as soon as they leave, Pharaoh changes his mind and chases Bnai Yisrael and his army, and eventually corners them at the Red Sea (Shemot Chapter 14:1- 9). The Israelites cannot go back because of Pharaoh’s army, and they cannot go forward because of the water, and they panic, crying out to Moshe (Moses) and to God (Shemot 14:10-12). Moshe then tells the people Shemot 14:13 “…Do not fear! Stand fast and see the salvation of God that The One will perform for you today; …” God Responds in Shemot 14:15 by saying, “…Why do you cry out to me? Speak to Bnai Yisrael and let them journey forth!”

Interestingly, the people cry to Moshe and to God.  Moshe says not to worry; God will take care of everything. However, God does not seem to be happy with this, and essentially says to the people—and to Moshe—do not cry to me, do something. God’s position seems to be that God has been doing everything for the people up until this point, and now it is time for them to take some responsibility. Then God instructs Moshe to lift up his staff and the sea will part; and sure enough, this happens (Shemot 14:16-22).

This is the story in the Torah itself. However, the Midrash, Shemot Rabbah 21:9 adds an interesting dimension to the story (a Midrash is a story from the rabbinic period that adds to the narrative of the Torah). According to this Midrash, the sea did not split right away when Moshe lifted up his staff; it was not until a leader of the tribe of Yehudah (Judah), Nachshon Ben Aminadav, jumped into the water and the water came up to his nose, that the sea actually parted.

If this story is read in the context of the actual narrative in the Torah, clearly the message is that to make miracles happen–or, in other words, to achieve what seems unachievable–we ourselves have to take the first step. We do not simply sit back and wait; we have to join in an active partnership with God as Nachshon did. We should all make miracles happen, in our homes, at work and everywhere else in our lives. When we work out complicated dynamics in our relationships with our friends and family that is a miracle. When we help our children to achieve a challenging goal that is a miracle. When we accomplish a seemingly insurmountable task at work, and we do it while treating everyone we work with (especially the people we supervise) with dignity and respect that is a miracle. When we volunteer our time to a social justice cause when we think we have no time to spare, that is a miracle.

In the story of the Parting of the Red Sea, Moshe lifted his staff and the Red Sea parted. God performed a miracle through Moshe. At the Barclays Center on Monday night Bruce lifted his guitar and parted the “River.” Perhaps, just perhaps, God made a miracle happen through Bruce Springsteen. From my perspective, every time I go to a Springsteen concert I witness a miracle.

Nachshon Ben Aminadav dived into the Red Sea. Bruce sings in the song the “River,” “and into the River we’d dive.” Sometimes a person just needs to dive into the Rivers or the Red Seas in one’s own life. I want to bless you all that we join in partnership with God and we dive into the Rivers and Red Seas of our lives and join with God to make miracles happen in this world.

“The River” is the fifth studio album and the first double album by Bruce Springsteen. It was released on October 17, 1980.


Questions For Further Discussion:


Have a conversation with friends and family about this week’s teaching.


Here are some questions to guide you in your conversation.


  1. What do you think was going on in Nachshon’s mind before he jumped in?


  1. Do you think he was scared?


  1. Do you think he hesitated?


  1. Has there ever been a time in your life where you knew that there was a right thing to do but you were scared to do it? What did you do?


  1. How did you arrive at your decision?


  1. How do we inspire people to take the first step in difficult situations?


  1. Are you a “Nachshon” in your life?