I read a beautiful quote of the late Dr. Maya Angelou’s this morning:
We must replace fear and chauvinism, hate, timidity and apathy, which flow in our national spinal column, with courage, sensitivity, perseverance, and, I even dare say, love. And by love I mean that condition in the human spirit so profound it encourages us to develop courage. Courage is the most important of the virtues – without it you can’t practice any of the others consistently.
I love this definition of love: that which leads us to courage. And then, of course, we have a definition of courage as well: that which love creates when we need to take a stand for love.
Reading this, I thought of the image of the Israelites at the bank of the Sea of Reeds, the advancing Egyptian army behind them and the water before them. The Torah portion that relays this image across the historical arc is beshallach, which we read this Shabbat. We celebrate the crossing of the Sea of Reeds together by hearing chanted the beautiful and incomparable Song of the Sea. We celebrate crossings we have completed, and crossings yet to come. But perhaps more so, we mark that moment beforehand, before we knew what would happen, that hopeless place where courage would be born.
In the Christian tradition, some people talk about these moments as “Way Opening.” A clergy friend of mine once said, “I’ve never seen way open before me, but I’ve often experienced it close behind me.” As if to say, sometimes we get to see a pathway open before us where previously there was none. But often it happens quicker than we can process it, and it is only later, when we look back – when way closes behind us – that we can feel grateful for having been brought through.