StorahSteps at the 14th Street Y
by Shawn Shafner
Many know the story of the Israelites standing at the Sea of Reeds, dead in their tracks with the Egyptian army close behind. Moses puts his hand out across the water, the sea splits, and the Israelites cross on dry land. Fewer have heard the tale of Nachshon ben Aminadav…
This past Sat, Jan. 23, dozens of families gathered at the 14th Street Y to watch the waters part, cross the sea, and sing the ‘Sea Song.’ As we began, children beautifully illustrated three moments from the Exodus, which became the pages of our Torah scroll. As the littlest ones left for StorahSteps with educators from the Y, Nachshon’s story unfolded for families in the theater. The Mavens for this particular event were Moses’ sister Miriam, played by the always colorful Shira Kline, and Nachshon himself, as played by a colorful, blue puppet. And behind every great puppet is a great puppeteer—with one tired arm.
I was that puppeteer. It doesn’t look hard and he’s not a heavy guy, but holding Nachshon up for the length of an entire show is no small feat. I took him home with me for a week, and used him like a barbell. I set an alarm and held him aloft for 10, 15, 20 min, trying to build up the muscle and stamina. The show draws nearer and I wonder: will I be ready in time?
In addition to being an actor for the company, I also coordinate the events at the Y. The pieces that make up a show are disparate to begin with. My job is to bring them, one by one, into a cohesive whole. A phone call here, an email there, copy, fax, repeat. You hope that it will come together, bit by bit by bit.
Nachshon stands at the edge of the water, afraid to move forward, afraid to go backward. The magnitude of the situation is overwhelming. Confronting the fear head on, he takes a step, choosing to believe that everything will be okay, and finds he’s on dry land; the water’s run away. He took one small step, and the path revealed itself.
The puppeteer looks past his arm, past Nachshon, at the children all around him. He is one in a group, dancing across dry land towards freedom. One by one by one—all of us together—reaching, striving, journeying—step by step by step.