The last days of Pesach are observed on Wednesday and Thursday. The Torah calls it a day of holy calling.
Three days after the Jews were freed from Egypt, Pharoh and his army chased after the Jews. When they caught up with the Jews, G-d protected the Jews by placing His cloud of glory between the Jews and the Egyptians, with the cloud absorbing all the projectiles shot by the Egyptians.
Still, the Jews had nowhere to turn, as they were caught between the Egyptians behind them and the Red Sea in front of them. A great fear enveloped the Jews. G-d instructed Moshe to tell the Jews to keep moving forward and to assure them that G-d would save them. The Jews listened and at daybreak on the seventh day after they left Egypt G-d miraculously caused the sea to split. The Jews traveled in the dry seabed with the Egyptians in hot pursuit.
When the Egyptian army entered into the seabed their chariots and horses got stuck in the mud. Once the Jews crossed onto the dry land, G-d instructed Moshe to raise his staff over the waters and the split waters came crashing down on the Egyptians. Each Egyptian warrior was punished commensurate to the way they treated the Jews. The brutal ones suffered longer, while the Egyptians who were easier on the Jews were met with a quicker death.
At this point Moshe led the Jews in the Az Yashir Song which marked the end of the Egyptian suppression.
The Medrash relates that before G-d split the Sea, the angel representing the Red Sea brought a grievance against G-d. The sea was created to follow its course and it claimed that the Jews were unworthy of changing this course.
The Medrash mentions a few merits that the Jews had which made them worthy of the waters splitting.
One of the merits mentioned is that the sea saw the precious loot which the Jews had collected from the Egyptians before they left. The obvious question is, why should carrying the Egyptians’ riches be something to make them deserving of the miracle?
The Chasam Sofer – Rabbi Moshe Sofer o.b.m. explains by taking us back to when G-d prophetically told our forefather Avraham that his descendants will be slaves in a strange land. And, as we recited in the Hagadah, G-d assured Avraham that at the end of the servitude, they would exit with great wealth.
So the moment has arrived.
The night before the Jews left Egypt they fulfilled the Mitzvos of eating the Pascal lamb with Matza and Morror. They had dashed the blood of the sacrifice on the two inner Mezzuzos / door posts and lintel. At exactly midnight, G-d slew all the first-born Egyptians causing a great uproar in Egypt, and G-d Pesach/skipped over the Jewish homes. Pharoh personally came to search for Moshe to release the Jews immediately. Moshe said they couldn’t because G-d instructed them to stay indoors the entire night.
The next day, before the Jews left at midday, G-d wanted to make good on His promise to Avraham that his descendants would leave their enslavement with great wealth. G-d instructed Moshe to please ask the Jews to ask their former Egyptian masters for their wealth – gold, silver and costly clothing.
The Jews listened and did what they were asked. Because of this, they merited the splitting of the sea. But the question begs, what is so difficult about the Jews asking for the Egyptian wealth that upon seeing what they did, the waters said, “Okay, now we will split for them”?
Says the Chasam Sofer, when we think about it, the Jews asking for the Egyptian’s wealth was indeed a challenge. For besides worrying that the Egyptians might have a change of heart and after allowing the Jews, their former slaves, to leave Egypt they might chase after them. If they asked and took their wealth it would be an additional reason for the Egyptians to have a change of heart and chase after the Jews, for they would want to retrieve their possessions.
G-d therefore asked Moshe to ‘please’ ask the Jews to ‘borrow’ the wealth from the Egyptians. Their decision to listen to this request, and thereby place themselves in a vulnerable position to be pursued by the Egyptians, caused a great stir in the Heavens.
When the sea saw the Egyptians’ great wealth the Jews were transporting, it saw the great devotion and trust the Jews had in the Almighty’s salvation. This clinched their salvation and brought about the colossal miracles that happened for them at the Red Sea.
During Pesach in particular, there are special customs and stringencies that families have opted to observe. I wonder if this has to do with the Jews going the extra mile before they left Egypt.
May all special exertion and attentiveness that we give to the Mitzvos and customs of Pesach, make us worthy of G-d’s benevolence, compassion and redemption!