The miraculous splitting of the Sea of Reeds was one of the pinnacles of Israel’s closeness to Hashem. It raises a question, though: Why? Hashem typically hides His presence somewhat, conducting the world in a discrete way and never revealing His presence so openly. As Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains, this spectacle on the Sea of Reeds was performed with two great purposes in mind.
“And the people feared Hashem, and they believed in Hashem and in Moshe his servant” (14:31). This means they put this lesson into their hearts, and they utilized it properly to cause themselves to be stirred by the miraculous spectacle of the splitting of the Sea and the destruction of Egypt, until they attained a very great measure of Fear of Hashem.
Before, the verse said “Israel saw”; now it says “the people feared.” “Israel” denotes that generation, “all of whom were full of deah (true knowledge)” who witnessed the Hand of Hashem.
“The people feared Hashem” refers also to the continuum of the nation in all ages. Because the nation of Israel saw and gained a clear awareness, the fear of Hashem became deeply rooted in their posterity forever; and also forever the people should endeavor to put the lesson of the sea to their hearts in order to regain and re-experience the enthusiastic awareness of Hashem (fear of Hashem) their ancestors gained on the shore of the sea.
Emunah (belief) fundamentally means “steadfastness”: to remain in one place and not to move away. “His hands were steadfast (emunah) until sunset” (17:12). “He does not remain still (lo yaamin) at the sound of the shofar” (Iyov 39:24). They remained forever steadfast in loyalty to Him, in their trust in Him and in their service to Him, and they never forsook this loyalty (i.e. there always will be a nation of loyal Jews). “And they believed in (were loyal to) Hashem” forever.
The belief in Moshe was the cause of loyalty to the Torah, called Toras Moshe throughout the Holy Scriptures, because the people heard the Torah of Hashem from the mouth of Moshe. This is the pathway of righteousness: from belief (loyalty) in Hashem one progresses to the Torah of Moshe.
However, we see “the people believed” (4:31) already when they had witnessed the signs which Moshe and Aharon had performed. After seeing such convincing miracles, would any doubt have been possible? We see, therefore, that emunah is not mere conviction but rather a state of perfection of the mind which has unlimited potential development. Every additional degree of this quality, which we shall call awareness, is a very great gift from Hashem.
The episode of the Sea of Suf was a grand opportunity whereby Israel gained a higher degree of emunah, and for this superlative gift they sang their song of thanks to Hashem. But even this degree of awareness they now received was a preface to a still higher degree of emunah that was yet to come (the revelation at Sinai).
This grand spectacle of the Sea of Suf was thus intended by Hashem for two purposes: 1) that the people of Israel should forever believe in Hashem, and 2) that they should forever believe in the greatness of Moshe His servant (which means: to believe in Moshe as the chief servant of Hashem).
The belief in the excellence of Moshe is the foundation of belief in “this Torah which Moshe put before the sons of Israel” (Devarim 4:44), so that subsequently no man could claim he was privileged with greater prophecy than Moshe possessed and attempt to abrogate the Torah of Moshe or propose substitutes.
The entire episode could have been rendered unnecessary had Hashem caused Pharaoh and his generals to become ill before they set out to pursue Israel. But this spectacle was performed so that the nation would witness how Hashem “split the sea before Moshe” (“Stretch your hand over the sea and split it” – 14:16), in order that they believe in Moshe His servant.
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.Rabbi Avigdor Miller