With the Egyptians hot on their trail, the Jewish people run up against a body of water with nowhere to go. They despair.
“Moshe, were there no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the desert?” It’s black, there’s no hope, the whole Exodus was pointless!
Four verses later, Moshe is praying desperately when God says, “Enough, Moshe. All they have to do is jump in.” According to the Medrash, God was saying, “You don’t need to pray, Moshe. These Jews are big believers. They trust in Me, they left Egypt to follow Me. In the merit of their trust, the sea will split.”
Huh? Literally a few moments beforehand, they’re sunk in despair, regretting their whole relationship with God. Now God testifies, “Ah! My children – such believers, worthy of miracles!” Are they believers or not? Is their temper tantrum really nothing?
Yes, says the Talmud. “Ain adam nitfas b’shaas tzaaro” – “a person isn’t defined by his times of personal emergency.” Normal people fall into temporary bouts of crisis-thinking and insanity. God knows we aren’t our emergency thinking.
The more a person understands this – that we have emergency thinking but we aren’t defined by it – the less sticky it is, the more it cycles through. Our personal thought quiets down. By not overreacting to our crisis state we cling to it less and our natural, default connection to G-d remains more accessible.
Perhaps this is what King Solomon meant when he said, “God made people straight; they sought calculations.”
And perhaps this is what we refer to when high level athletes, performers, and business people are “in the zone.” It’s an understanding that allows them to encounter breakdowns without becoming derailed. Rather than panic, they persist with humility and trusting resolve, knowing their connection to God’s wisdom will lead to a righting of the ship.
I don’t know how to turn my emergency thinking off like a switch, but I have seen there is an understanding that helps me to be more permeable to wisdom. God’s advice would seem to run something like this: See your tendency to lose perspective not as something personal but as part of the human experience. I provide everyone with both constricted and expansive thoughts at times. When worry and fearful thoughts buffet you, don’t run after them; stay put. In moments of calm, stay grateful. Whatever it looks like, stay in this moment, the only place connection to Me ever happens.