“And Hashem turned back the sea by a strong east-wind all the night” (14:21). The wind was entirely unnecessary, for it was naturally unable to split the sea open and create a pathway, as the verse concludes “And it made the sea into dry land and the waters were split apart.” This was entirely a miracle, which resulted when “Moshe stretched out his arm over the sea” (14:16) as Hashem had commanded him.
But two factors were involved in this arrangement:
1: The Egyptians were misled into believing the splitting of the sea could be attributed to the strong east wind, and therefore they did not hesitate to enter between the two halves of the sea in pursuit of Israel. Had they seen the sea open without some form of natural explanation, the Egyptians would not have ventured into the sea – because if it could be split miraculously, it could also come together miraculously to drown them.
2: Hashem utilizes His laws of nature as much as possible, for they were created by Him. Even though the wind would actually be ineffective, the impression would be gained that the wind participated in splitting the sea. Even this, though not actually effective, was the miraculous result of the forgoing action: “And Moshe stretched out his arm…”
There were other great disturbances of nature at this time or not long afterward. “When Israel came forth from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language.… The sea saw and fled, the Jordan turned backward. The mountains leaped like rams, the hills like young sheep” (Tehillim 114:1-4).
All of Nature was in turmoil, for a reason. “What ails you, O Sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn backward? You mountains, that you leap like rams; you hills, like young sheep?” (Tehillim 114:5-6). But there was a great reason for these phenomena: “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of Hashem; at the presence of the G-d of Jacob” (ibid. 114:7).
It was because the presence of Hashem went forth together with His beloved people, to make known that His presence rests upon the children of the Fathers, that all of Nature erupted into violent action to demonstrate the approach of the Creator. These verses in Tehillim declare that mountains sank, and other mountains were created by violent disturbances of the earth’s crust. Sea floors became lofty hills, and mountaintops were submerged.
The ancient Egyptian Ipuwer Papyrus records: “The towns are destroyed. Upper Egypt is a wasteland. All is ruin.” The Torah is sparing of words, but the upheavals and the devastation were actually far worse than described. “And the waters were for them a wall on their right and on their left” (14:22).
“A wall” means the waters protected them from the arrows of the enemy. The sons of Israel had feared the waters no less than they had feared the enemy, but now they saw that Hashem had caused the waters to become their protector.
This is an important part of Hashem’s plan, whereby He demonstrates that He alone controls men’s fate by causing the salvation to come from what seemed to be the peril. The daughter of the oppressor Pharaoh was the one who rescued Moshe who defeated the oppressor. The feared vice-regent of Egypt who cast terror upon the sons of Jacob turned out to be none other than Joseph who was the savior of his family afterward.
Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com. For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.