The Reed Sea split - for what?

Why did Hashem need to split the sea so dramatically after the Ten Plagues? Wasn't there another way?

Torah MiTzion ,

Rabbi Meir Katz
Rabbi Meir Katz
Torah Mizion
Dedicated in memory of Yaakov Aharonov z"l

Every year, when we get to read again about Kriat Yam Suf, the splitting of the Reed Sea, I find myself asking the same question – for what did Hashem need to do such a big miracle after performing the miracles of the ten "Makot" (plagues)? What additional part did it add to our faith in Hashem? Even the simple explanation that it was done in order to save Israel because the Egyptians were behind them and the sea was in front of them, is very hard to accept:

Hashem caused Pharaoh to chase after Bnei Yisrael in the first place, as written explicitely in the Torah (Shemot 14, 17), thus the entire situation wa obviously orchastrated for a reason. Chaza'l[1] have already taught us that as a general rule, Hashem doesn't break the rules of creation, of "Bereshit".

So why did Hashem choose such a brazen change in the laws of nature to punish the Egyptians? Some commentators[2] say that Bnei Yisrael came out at the same side of the sea that they came in from. This fact only increases the question - what need was there in the crossing of the sea in the first place?

In this short paragraph we will try to suggest a possible answer, and may we take an important insight from it.

The Affection of Hashem

Through all the plagues, Moshe Rabbeinu said that they are performed in order that "you should that I am the God"[3], "That I am the God in the land"[4] etc. The main purpose is to prove that there is a God, and to show his strength.

But on the sea, we come across the words "fight", "war", "Hashem will fight for you"[5], "Hashem ish Milchama"[6]. The Torah is telling us that here, on the sea, Hashem mainly wants to show, not his strength, but raver his love and affection to Bnei Yisrael, by protecting and fighting their battle. "As an eagle which protects its fledglings".7]

Chazal mention that ten miracles occurred on the sea[8], and the commentators[9] on the Mishna specify what they were. One of these miracles was that Hashem made a canopy of frozen water above Bnei Yisrael's heads. The Tosfot Yom Tov[10] asks – what need was there in this miracle? After all, to protect them from sun and rain they had the clouds of glory. His answer (in quote) "this miracle certainly was done only for the pride and owner of Yisrael". The Egyptians felt this too, and so they said "let us flee from before Yisrael because God is fighting Egypt for them"[11].

Maybe this can explain how come till the miracles of the sea Bnei Yisrael did not praise Hashem. Till then, they were not sure and did not know if the miracles done in Egypt are to prove Hashem's love to them. But once they saw the miracles on the sea, they had no doubt in the love and affection of Hashem to them, and their love burst out into the great "Shirat Ha'yam".

"כמים הפנים אל הפנים"- (As water reflects one's face)

The Holy Zohar[12] teach us that every appearance of the love from above comes only after we make the first step - "דאתערותא דלעילא לאו איהו אלא כד אתער לתתא"

This points out on another difference between the situation in "Mitzraim" and that on the sea:
During the ten Makot there was no expectation from Bnei Yisrael for deeds on there behalf. leading up to the exodus, they did not have to do anything in order to be worthy deliverance. But at the sea they had to prove faith and "Mesirut Nefesh" (self-sacrifice) by entering the sea before it split[13]. This brought upon Hashem to reveal his great love to us, as we read in "Shir Ha'shirim" (The Song of Songs) on Pesach – [14] "אני לדודי ודודי לי".'I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine'.

From here we can take a 'prescription' how to reveal and revive the love between us and Hashem, that we so yearn for.

Sources:

[1] Masechet Shabbat page 53b

[2] For example Eben Ezra

[3] Shemot 7,17

[4] Shemot 8,18

[5] Shemot 14,14

[6] Shemot 15,13

[7] Devorim 32,11 according to Rashi's commentary there

[8] Avot 5.4

[9] Bartnura on the Mishna

[10] A comntator on the Mishna there

[11] Shemot 14,25

[12] Parshat Lech Lecha

[13] Masecet Suta Page 37 side A

[14] 6,3


comments: smadark3@gmail.com


Rav Meir Katz is a former shaliach (Melbourne 1999-2000) and for many years Ra"M in Yeshivat Nachalat Yisrael of Migdal Haemek

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