Sea Saw

(Torah Portion Beshalach) Sea Saw!

The Torah in this week’s Parsha describes the awesome phenomenon where the Red Sea split, clearing a dry and beautiful path for the Jewish nation to cross. At the same time the Egyptians who were pursuing them drowned in the raging waters.

In the first Psalms in the Hallel prayer which we recite on Rosh Chodesh, on holidays and at our Pesach Seder, King David writes, “The Sea saw and it fled” – the waters saw something and then split for the Jews.

The Medrash asks, what did the waters see that compelled them to split?

The Medrash provides a number of answers. The angel of the sea saw: 1) G-d’s Glory. 2) The sapphire staff of Moshe which had G-d’s holy name engraved on it. 3) That all the Jewish males were circumcised. 4) The coffin of Yosef which Moshe took out of Egypt as per Yosef’s wishes.

What was it about Yosef that compelled the waters to split? The Torah attests that Yosef remained holy and devout during the 22 years he was separated from his family. The Torah also describes that Yosef refused to succumb to the entreaties of his master’s wife and that he ran away when she tried to seduce him to sin.

The waters were not really interested in changing the laws of nature and splitting. However, when the waters saw the remains of Yosef, a person who went against his natural instincts and inclination to succumb to temptation by turning away and fleeing, the sea immediately went against its nature and split for the Jews in honor of Yosef.

The Medrash offers another reason why the sea split – the sea saw the gold, silver and precious bounty that the Jews had borrowed from the Egyptians and this caused the sea to split.

What was it about the borrowed gold and silver that the Jews had with them that convinced the sea to split? Was the sea impressed with the vanity and materialism?

The Shevet Sofer explains: When the Jews were about to leave Egypt they were instructed by Moshe through the word of G-d to borrow gold, silver and clothing from their Egyptian masters. Knowing the greedy nature of the Egyptians and how money hungry they were, common sense should have dictated that they ignore Moshe’s instruction, because taking the Egyptian’s precious bounty would certainty cause the Egyptians to pursue them to retrieve their wealth. However, the Jews ignored their own logic and chose to listen to G-d’s command and take the treasures with them even if it might cause them harm.

When the waters saw, through the gold and silver that was in their possession, the absolute commitment and belief of the Jews to listen to G-d’s command, it drew a parallel to listen to G-d’s instruction to split despite the fact that it would disturb the natural flow of their waters.

In the same manner we can explain why the sea split when it saw that the Jews were circumcised. The Jews were commanded to perform the Mitzvah of circumcision on the 14th day of Nissan, the day before they left Egypt. The Jews could have felt that it would be difficult to leave and travel from Egypt while they were in pain and recovering from the delicate surgical procedure and they could have pushed off the Mitzvah. However, they didn’t surrender to such feelings and they all participated in the Bris because it was G-d’s will. In fact, they were miraculously healed. The sea saw the courage of the Jews in performing the Bris and, in kind, changed its natural course and split for the Jews.

Our Sages teach us that through all the years of servitude, the righteous women had unrelenting belief in the redemption and encouraged and supported their worn out husbands, infusing them with the belief in G-d’s redemption. Thus, it was because of the women that the Jewish people merited leaving Egypt.

The Torah relates that Miriam the prophetess, Moshe’s sister, led the women in song when they were saved at the splitting of the Red sea. The Torah highlights that she played a drum to accompany her song. Our Sages tell us that when the Jews were preparing to leave Egypt, Miriam took her drum with her. Not that the drum had sentimental value, rather Miriam took her drum with her so she could use it to sing G-d’s praises with the other women – who also brought their instruments with them – when they would be saved and the Egyptians would be destroyed at the sea. The women had such a yearning to express their appreciation to G-d in song for their salvation!

Currently we live in a world filled with chaos and misdirection; the proven way to navigate through this is by focusing on the direction, guidance and pleasantness of G-d’s eternal and ageless Torah!

Wishing you a most enjoyable & uplifting Shabbos, Rabbi Dovid Saks