This Weeks Haftorah
Rabbi Levi Langer

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"For we have heard how Hashem dried up the waters of the Red Sea before you when you left Egypt ... We heard and our hearts melted, and no man's courage remained within him." (Joshua 2:10-11)

Thus spoke Rahab to the two spies whom Joshua had sent before him into the land of Israel.

The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 13:13) recounts that Alexander of Macedonia (Alexander the Great) envisioned the earth as a globe surrounded by a "bowl" of water. So he had a great statue erected, depicting himself with a globe in his hand--symbolic of his dominion over the entirety of the earth's land mass. Asks the Midrash: and why did he not also place a bowl in the statue's hand, to portray his dominion over the seas? The Midrash answers, because he recognized that in fact he did not truly dominate the seas. Only Hashem holds dominion over both land and sea.

Chida writes that this Midrash explains why the people of Canaan were particularly awestruck by the splitting of the Red Sea, as Rahab told the spies. They recognized that in demonstrating His authority over the sea, Hashem showed that His power far surpassed that of any human authority.

For the Canaanites recognized their own limits, even as did the mighty Alexander.

Let us consider this: even Alexander the Great saw that there was an area which was out of his bounds, and thereby he found some measure of humility. "And why did he not place a bowl in the statue's hand?" --Because he realized that only Hashem can dominate even the seas.

If we want to introduce Hashem into our own lives, then we would do well to be honest with ourselves and to come to grips with our own limitations. True, modernity and science and technology are wonderful achievements. But we must not allow all these to cause us to become arrogant. The scope of man's achievements will always be circumscribed, and it is through recognizing our limitations that we may find Hashem's sure hand guiding His universe.

Copyright (c) 1997 by Rabbi Levi Langer

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