“And you should teach it to your children…” Chazal tell us that it is a mitzvah to teach our children the stories relating to the holidays, again and again, until they know them by heart. We repeat these holy stories as they are narrated in the Talmud and the Midrash.
Bnei Yisrael Crosses The Yam Suf
“And Hashem told Moshe, lift up your rod over the sea and divide it”… And Moshe ordered the sea to divide.
But the sea refused. “Why should I obey you,” said the sea, “You are but a man born of woman and besides, I am three days older than you, I was established on the third day of creation, and you were created on the sixth day.”
Moshe repeated this conversation to Hashem and began to pray for help. “Now is not the time for prayer,” said the Almighty, “Lift up your rod…”
Immediately Moshe picked up his staff, which he had found in Yitro’s garden, and held it over the sea.
The sea, however, remained very obstinate. Moshe pleaded with Hashem that He command the sea to divide. But Hashem refused.
And Nachshon ben Aminadav began to walk into the water. And still the water did not split. He walked deeper and deeper until the water reached his mouth, and then the sea began to split by Hashem’s command. At the same time, a miracle occurred throughout the world: all the waters in wells, caves, rivers and even in glasses also divided and remained so until Bnei Yisrael passed through the sea.
The Ten Miracles In The Sea
Ten miracles occurred at this time. The waters of the sea formed a canopy over the heads of Bnei Yisrael. Twelve separate lanes opened up, one for each of the shevatim. The water between the shevatim became transparent as glass and they could see each other. The ground beneath was dry and warm, but it soon changed to a mire of mud when the Mitzrim stepped into it. The walls of the sea changed to jagged stone when the Mitzrim entered and they were bruised terribly. A stream of sweet drinking water flowed alongside Bnei Yisrael to quench their thirst. Different types of fruit, apples, oranges, plums, etc., extended from the walls of the sea and Bnei Yisrael feasted as they walked through the sea. The reflection of these miracles was portrayed upon the clouds, which mirrored them to all the nations of the world who were awed by the stupendous might of Hashem.
“And the Lord went down to do battle…” The malachim all marched forward to help the Hashem against the Mitzrim. But Hashem stopped them saying, “I need your help?”
When Pharaoh shot forward arrows Hashem returned the blow with fiery darts. When the army drew forth gleaming swords Hashem sent forth His lightning. Pharaoh shot forth missiles and Hashem discharged hailstones and coals against them. The Mitzrim charged with trumpets and horns and the Hashem thundered in the heavens. To lure them into the waters Hashem placed fiery steeds out in the sea and the horses of the Mitzrim followed them, each carrying a rider upon his back.
And the Mitzrim were smitten with the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. The pillar of cloud made the soil miry and the mire was heated to the boiling point so that the hoofs of the horses fell off and they could not budge from the spot. The torture of the Mitzrim in the Red Sea was far worse than the pain they suffered through the plagues in Egypt. They were tossed and shaken as peas in a pot. The rider and his horse were tossed high into the sky and then the two together were hurled to the bottom of the sea.
The Mitzrim were great magicians – there was a saying that of the 10 measures of magic given to the world, the Mitzrim took nine for themselves. Through magic they flew out of the water. But the sea became frightened. “Can I violate a pledge entrusted to me by Hashem?” So the water rushed out after them and dragged every man back.
And so all of the Mitzrim were drowned, except one, Pharaoh. When he heard Bnei Yisrael raise their voices in song, he pointed his finger heavenward and called out, “I believe in You, Hashem. You are righteous and I am wicked and I now acknowledge that there is no Hashem in the world beside You.” Immediately the Malach Gavriel descended and, placing an iron chain on his neck, raised him from the depths of the water.
“Villain,” he said. “Yesterday you boasted, ‘Who is the Lord?’ and now you say, ‘The Lord is righteous.’” Whereupon he dropped him into the depths of the sea and kept him there for 50 days, showing him the ways of Hashem. Later he installed him as king of the great city of Nineveh, for Pharaoh feared to return to Mitzrayim.
After many years, when Yonah came to Nineveh and prophesied the destruction of the city because of its inhabitants’ evil, it was Pharaoh who, seized by fear and terror, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. Having learned his lesson Pharaoh issued the decree throughout Nineveh. “Let no one eat or drink, for I know that there is no Hashem in all the world save Him. All His words are truth and all His judgments are true and faithful” (Sotah 36, 37; Megillah 10; Pesachim 118; Midrash Shemos, Mechilta).