by Jo Radner
They knew, those old rabbis,
that the rod of Moses did not part the sea.
No magic wand could wrench generations
from the narrow places,
hauling Egyptian rocks,
tilling Egyptian soil,
pounding Egyptian laundry by the river.
Never mind the straggling, befuddled exiles,
never mind the hurtling chariots –
That brimming sea required one man’s move,
Nachshon’s singular, improbable trust,
alone, finding for himself
the blessed, crucial step into the sea.
At this season of new birth
I know Nachshon in my bones,
as I too, step after step,
will pass through water,
pressed by sharp, clear longing
to live freely as a Jew.
During her studies toward conversion, Jo wrote several poems; she read “Stepping into the Water” before her immersion at Mayyim Hayyim in April 2017.
Storyteller, oral historian, and folklorist, Jo Radner was Professor of Literature at American University before moving to her current freelance career in Lovell, Maine, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Jo is a member of Congregation Dorshei Tzedek.