Have you ever stood outside of a moment? Have you ever experienced something so viscerally, with so many of your senses, that you found yourself turning it over and over again as if to study every facet of the experience?
That is the way I feel standing a short distance behind my youngest son, my baby, my Moses, as he looks out at the Red Sea. I am close enough to see that his arm is shaking as he lifts it. When I notice his trembling, I start forward, hoping to offer him my support, but my husband, Amram, stops me, asking me quietly to wait. Honoring his request, I look back at my son, and see that his wife, Zipporah, has also noticed Moses’ weakness and moves to him swiftly, laying a hand on his shoulder and whispering to him intently. I watch as my new daughter uses her arm to brace my son’s. I see Moses nod, acknowledging her words and her presence and then, with renewed faith, turn to face the sea.
Have you ever felt completely disconnected from a moment you inhabited? Have you ever been so surprised to find yourself in a place or within a group that every facet of the experience feels unreal?
That is exactly how I feel standing at the shore of the Red Sea. I was a princess of Egypt. The vast majority of my life has been lived within the walls of the palace, and yet, here I stand, no longer royalty. When my beloved son returned to our home demanding freedom for the Israelites, I knew right away that I would never again allow anything to separate me from my Moses. If he was taking his people out of Egypt, then I would be leaving with him. So here I am, just one member of the mixed multitude that follows him.
I watch as Moses raises his staff over the water. I smile as his Zipporah moves closer to him, offering him her support. Gazing back to the sea, I try to blink back the tears in my eyes. The baby that the river once brought to me is again dependent on women and water. I can only hope that in this moment, both treat him as kindly as we, his mothers, did all those years ago.
When the East Wind begins to blow and the water starts to tremble, a rush of energy vibrates along and through my son’s body. It is as if he is the conduit between the God above and the mysteries of the deep sea below. Zipporah wraps herself around him, trying to steady and strengthen him as power flows and churns around all of us.
My heart is full of fear for my son, and I turn to catch the eye of the woman who raised my Moses, the woman who protected him when I could not. Batyah, once a princess, and I, once a protector, have been walking together for the last day or so, taking turns sharing our memories of the boy we both loved and our dreams for the man our boy is becoming. Even before I look for her, I can sense her presence at my side. It feels right for us to stand together as we watch our son fulfill his destiny as God’s agent in our world.
I lock eyes with Yocheved, the first mother of my son, and we reach for one another. Like Zipporah and Moses, we stand engulfed in power, holding onto each other so tightly that it is as if we are one another’s only tether to this world.
And then, miraculously, in a rush, the waters part, and suddenly all of us are propelled toward freedom, reborn. All throughout the caravan, fear and frustration dissipate and are replaced, at least momentarily, with the giddy joy that comes after any birth. Moses has delivered us into a new world, into a new existence.
Yocheved’s daughter, Miriam, lets out a wild yell, and rushes into the space between the seas. She begins to sing and dance undaunted by the squish of the wet sand that lines our path through the waters. As if unfrozen by her celebration, the people follow her lead, flooding into the space Moses’ God has made.
Batyah and I continue to stand, locked together. We watch our son, worrying together. Moses is bent at the waist and breathing raggedly; he looks exhausted, depleted, as if he had run for many miles in the heat of the day. It seems as if Zipporah and her unyielding will are the only reasons he still stands upright. I can feel Batyah’s fear for our son’s life. I am feeling much the same thing.
For many moments, the two of us stand completely still, afraid for our boy.
Suddenly, a change comes over Moses. Yocheved and I simultaneously sigh in relief. When his breath begins to smooth, we lean forward- watching, fearful, hopeful. Then suddenly, Moses turns to face us. His smile glows so brightly that Yocheved and I stand bathed in light.
He throws his arms around Zipporah, and both of them laugh and cry tears of relief at having bested this latest challenge. In the face of their joy, I turn to my sister, the first mother of my son. Her face is filled with pride, and I know that mine is a perfect reflection of hers.
We embrace one another once again, offering silent gratitude for the strength that the other instilled within our son. Each of us understands exactly what it took for Moses to survive the day’s events. Without either of us, he would not have had enough within him to do the work of his God.
I follow Zipporah and her boys into the sea. I watch as Batyah, still unsure of her place in our people, moves slowly, staying behind me, offering me the higher position. I reach back, offering my hand, calling out to her, loudly and with great purpose, “Batyah, daughter of the sea, the second mother of Moses, join me as we together travel into our new life.” She hurries to my side and offers me a smile that speaks to our shared stories, our shared destinies.
We walk together through the waters.
When we reach the other side, Moses stands on the shore, arms open wide, waiting for us.
He smiles at Zipporah and chuckles when his sons use their arms to demonstrate the size of the fish they had seen.
And then our son turns to the two of us. He offers us his hands, draws us from the water, and brings us into our new lives. He says, “Imahot Sheli, walk before me. I am honored to follow in the footsteps of my mothers.”
Click here to read more about Yocehved and Batyah.
Click here to read more about Zipporah.