Republished from 5780
Servitude had begun. Our Egyptian hosts turned into our oppressors. Bondage and slavery had replaced civility and coexistence. Pharaoh decreed, “Kol ha’beyn ha’yilod ha’yiorah tashlichu’hu (Cast every baby boy into the river).” Yocheved hid her infant son for as long as she could. After three months, she could hide him no longer, and on that fateful day, she fashioned a basket and set him afloat in the Nile, saying goodbye to her son forever. Then something amazing occurred.
“Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe, to the Nile, and her maidens were walking along the Nile, and she saw the basket in the midst of the marsh, and she sent her maidservant, and she took it.” (Exodus 2:5)
Rashi explains the phrase “she sent her maidservant” can also be interpreted to mean “she outstretched her arm.” The Talmud explains that the daughter of Pharaoh extended her arm to grab the basket, a miracle occurred, and her arm extended beyond its normal reach.
The great Chassidic master, Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (1787-1859) is perplexed by this Talmudic passage. Why would Pharaoh’s daughter stretch out her arm to grab something which was clearly out of reach? A person can easily gauge what is within their reach and it appears that the basket was a significant distance away (as evidenced by the fact that a miracle was needed). Why even try to grab it? The answer is quite profound. Sometimes in life you just have to try. You just have to extend your hand and attempt to grab your goals, dreams and aspirations. There are many things in life which look “too far away.” There are many initiatives, ideas, and finish lines which look out of reach. This is where our relationship with God comes in. God whispers in our ear, “Stretch out your hand, put in the effort, push yourself as hard as you can, and just when you think your reach has ended, I will extend your grasp a bit more. Where your human limitations begin is where I will partner with you and extend your reach.” The daughter of Pharaoh did not know how she would reach the basket, but she knew she had to try.
Too many times in life we look at an aspiration or goal and tell ourselves, “it’s too far, it’s out of my reach, no way I can accomplish this feat, it simply looks impossible.” The truth is, anything that is comfortably within reach is usually not worth having. The very things you have to stretch and exert for are the things which infuse meaning into life. Our life’s mandate and mission is to dream beautiful dreams and stretch as far as we can to bring them to fruition. If the dream is truly holy and important then God will extend our reach and help us actualize our aspirations.