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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


Hashem said to Moshe: "Stretch out your hand over the sea, and the water will go back upon Egypt." (14:26)

Bnei Yisrael were saved from certain death when the waters of the Red Sea miraculously split before them. Hashem’s Divine decree altered the course of nature for His People. What happened afterwards when the people had passed safely through? The waters should have reverted to their original state. That is what should have happened. The Torah, however, records that Hashem commanded Moshe to "stretch out your hand over the sea, and the waters will go back upon Egypt." Why did they not simply fall back to their original position? Once the purpose of the miracle had been fulfilled and its effect confirmed, we expect that the waters would have "returned" on their own!

Horav Mordechai Gifter, Shlita, derives a remarkable insight from this pasuk. We have become so accustomed to believing in the concept of "nature" that we fail to realize that teva, nature, is actually neis, miracle. The natural order of Creation, and the functioning of the world, has license to exist only as a result of the will of Hashem. When Hashem expressed His desire that the waters separate, that reality immediately became the new order of "nature." Life does not simply return to "business as usual" after the miracle has ended. In order for the sea to have reverted to its original state--its pre-miracle standard--another miracle was needed. Indeed, it is our goal to be able to perceive the constant miracles in what we consider to be "routine" nature.

The Bnei Yisrael went on dry land in the midst of the sea.

The Mechilta describes the scenario and the dialogue that took place among the tribes prior to the splitting of the Sea. Bnei Yisrael were standing by the shores of the Red Sea; the Egyptian army was literally breathing down their necks. Suddenly, they began to argue about who should go into the water first. Each tribe vied for the opportunity to enter the Red Sea first. During the negotiations, Nachshon ben Aminadav of the tribe of Yehudah jumped into the threatening waters. The tribe of Yehudah was indeed lauded for this singular act of devotion, as it is stated in Tehillim 114, "Yehudah became His Sanctuary, Yisrael His dominion." Indeed, for his decisiveness and alacrity in taking the first plunge, Yehudah was crowned as king over Bnei Yisrael. Why should Yehudah receive all of the acclaim? His unique act notwithstanding, the members of each of the tribes were also willing to jump into the water!

We may suggest the following: Meetings are essential, and a consensus of opinion is necessary. When Klal Yisrael was trapped between the forbidding waters of the Red Sea and the approaching Egyptian Army, it was not the time to make speeches and convene meetings. It was time for action and commitment, not rhetoric and hyperbole. All too often, when action on behalf of a Torah cause is mandated, be it in response to organizational, communal or individual needs, we become constrained by meetings, speeches, and votes. The problem at hand festers and, in most cases, grows out of proportion. We must recognize that Hashem determined that the Bais Hamikdash was to be built in Yehudah’s portion of the land as a result of his commitment to constructive action. Similarly, Klal Yisrael will grow vibrantly only if we put our faith and commitment into active participation.

Hashem said to Moshe: "why do you cry out to Me? Speak unto Bnei Yisrael that they go forward." (14:15)

Rashi explains Hashem’s response to Moshe as he stood in supplication before Him. Hashem told Moshe, "Now, when Bnei Yisrael are in distress is not the appropriate time to prolong prayer. Let them go forward. The merit of their forefathers and their own emunah, faith, which they have exhibited, are sufficient reason for the Sea to split before them." This interpretation is enigmatic. Moshe was praying to Hashem during a time of severe crisis. Hashem told Moshe that now, when Bnei Yisrael were teetering on the brink of disaster, was not a time for prayer. There is no more propitious time to entreat Hashem than when there is danger. How else should Moshe have confronted the problem, if not by praying to Hashem?

Horav David Shneur, Shlita, infers a profound lesson from this "dialogue." People often declare that if Hashem would only remove all of the obstacles which prevent them from seeing Him properly, they would commit themselves totally to His service. This is not the sequence of events necessary to serve Hashem with devotion. Man must make the first move, take the first step toward spiritual commitment; Hashem will complete the process. This was Hashem’s imperative to Moshe: "Why are you standing here praying for Bnei Yisrael? Let them go forward and do something! Bnei Yisrael have sufficient merit to justify the splitting of the Red Sea for them." It was essential for Bnei Yisrael to take that proverbial "first step"; the rest would become history. Prayer must serve as a positive form of communication with Hashem, not as an excuse for deferring our acceptance of responsibility. We must pray, and we must do. Hashem will respond to our actions.

And the people revered Hashem, and they believed in Hashem and in Moshe His servant. (14:31)

A Jew should strive to attain such a sublime level of emunah in Hashem that he truly believes with a clarity of vision. Let us explain. People accept the notion that "seeing is believing." This means that in order to really believe, one must actually see the phenomenon. Hence, belief in a given concept is a step lower than actually seeing it. This is not the Torah perspective. The Chidushei Ha’Rim asserts that as Bnei Yisrael stood at the shores of the Red Sea and experienced unprecedented miracles, they were privy to a revelation of Hashem which was unparalleled. The Torah states that first Bnei Yisrael "saw" miracles. Only afterwards did they "believe" in Hashem. Their visual perception was insufficient. Their consequent emunah was the epitome of conviction. Emunah is faith so strong that one actually senses its reality.

We see this phenomenon in practice. The most erudite secularist will concede that our "eyes" make mistakes. That which we perceive as reality is often a figment of our imagination. One example is the color of the ocean. A picture of the ocean appears to be blue. Standing at a distance, gazing at the ocean, one sees blue. We know, however, that water has no color. The blue is the reflection of the sun against the water. Hence, seeing is not believing! Believing, true emunah, however, should be an unshakable and unmistakable form of vision.

Sfas Emes expounds upon this idea, questioning the "need" for the word "vayaaminu" "they believed," after "vayiru," "they saw." What advantage does believing effect after one has already seen a spectacle and visually confirmed his belief? He responds that emunah is the acceptance of what one sees and believes into the heart and mind of the individual, so that it becomes a resolute part of the person’s ideological conviction. When one has emunah sheleimah, perfect faith, he is imbued with a perception that does not falter with the blandishments of the yetzer hora , evil inclination, or the vicissitudes of trial and travail. His belief constitutes his perception of reality! Seeing is not believing. Believing, however, takes what one sees and makes it "real."

This is the thing that Hashem has commanded, a full omer of it shall be a safekeeping for your generations, so that they will see the food that I fed you in the wilderness. (16:32)

Bnei Yisrael were privy to an unprecedented array of miracles, ranging from the Ten Plagues to the many miracles that occurred during the Exodus, to the splitting of the Red Sea. The Jews clearly saw that Hashem was with them during times of crisis. However, was this the most crucial lesson? Or is there another miracle, which, although less profound in nature, has a more significant message? Horav S.R. Hirsch, zl, observes that Bnei Yisrael were acutely aware that Hashem was close to them during the critical stages of their development. What about their recognition of Hashem’s role in their everyday life? This was the lesson of the miracle of the manna. Hashem takes into account the needs of every human being. One can--and should--rely upon Hashem for his sustenance.

All of the amazing supernatural phenomena that accompanied Bnei Yisrael’s exodus from Egypt, even Krias Yam Suf, all faded in significance when Bnei Yisrael confronted the stark reality of impending hunger menacing their families. Horav Hirsch declares that this concept is reflected in Chazal’s dictum, "It is as difficult to provide man’s sustenance as it is to split the Red Sea." The threat of hunger looms over man, undermining every principle and abrogating every resolution. Indeed, as long as the overwhelming anxiety of parnassah, earning a living to support one’s family, envelops a person, he cannot achieve his potential in Torah study.

How does one free himself from the tentacles of this tension? One must acknowledge that the concern for providing for man’s material needs does not ultimately rest on man. In fact, it does not depend upon him at all! Man must acknowledge the fact that he can do only his own part, but ultimately he must depend upon Hashem for success in his endeavors. It is his duty to attempt to provide sustenance for his family, but he must be convinced that the Almighty ultimately sustains every single human being.

The individual who does not "accept" Hashem as the sole Provider is bound to toil away his days, laboring to ensure himself and his dependents material support. He will do anything to achieve his goal. He will compete ruthlessly; he will cheat if necessary; he will fall prey to any scheme regardless of its shady nature, in order to earn sufficient money. The pursuit of money can become an obsession, a demanding, unrelenting and ruthless contrivance that has the power to destroy many lives.

Hashem sought to cure the young nation of this malady. He led the people into a stark, barren desert where they felt the anxiety, where the material requirements of the present were inaccessible, and where the prospects for the future were dubious. They saw for themselves that the obsession to earn a living can destroy an individual. Until now, they did not worry about the next day; they had been slaves for masters who provided them with their daily needs.

Now Hashem was establishing the rules for obtaining one’s sustenance. He would provide Bnei Yisrael with their daily bread. They were taught that whatever they needed would be provided, neither more nor less. They did not have to worry about the morrow, for Hashem would provide for tomorrow. They merely had to trust in Him.

And because of their test of Hashem, saying: "Is Hashem among us or not?" Amalek came and battled Yisrael in Rephidim. (17:7,8)

Klal Yisrael challenged Hashem to the point that a place is named for their contentious behavior. The name implies for all time that Hashem is always with us. Further, the name suggests that we should use prayer for expressing our needs, not complaint and challenge. Rashi explains the juxtaposition of the place that Klal Yisrael questioned Hashem’s presence among them upon the location of the battle with Amalek. When they asked, "Is Hashem among us?", Hashem sent Amalek as an indication that He was there watching every move, listening to every complaint, responding to every ingratitude. The Midrash analogizes this to a child who is carried around on his father’s shoulders, while the father fulfills the child’s every request. As they walk by a person, the child turns to the stranger and asks, "Have you seen my father?" This indignity annoys the father to the extent that he flings his son to the ground, where he is bitten by a dog. Now the son knows the father has been there the entire time. Likewise, after all the miracles and revelations which Klal Yisrael has experienced, they had the nerve to question Hashem’s presence! Such chutzpah is countered by Hashem casting them off, leaving them exposed to their enemies.

In analyzing this Midrash, Horav A. Henoch Leibowitz, Shlita, infers that Klal Yisrael had no basis for asking such an impudent question. Why then did they ask? It would seem that they really questioned the Almighty’s presence. But why? Horav Leibowitz suggests that the son had forgotten his father’s presence, because he became so accustomed to him. It became like second nature, as his father provided for his every need and desire. It became so natural that he no longer realized that his father was supplying him with everything. Klal Yisrael likewise became accustomed to being on the receiving end. The Almighty took care of everything for them. They slipped into the habit of expecting their needs to be met. In this way, Klal Yisrael was similarly susceptible to forgetting who their benefactor was.

Horav Leibowitz derives two significant lessons from this Midrash: First, it is conceivable for a person to sin, although he has no reason or desire to do so. Klal Yisrael challenged Hashem without cause. Nothing motivated their insolence and manner. Second, we see that a person can become so accustomed to experiencing miracles that he forgets their source. Klal Yisrael was surrounded by miracles. Their very existence was clearly a miracle. Yet, they had to be reminded that their lifestyle should be attributed to Divine grace and that gratitude should be extended to the Almighty. These are powerful lessons whose application is relevant to us.


1. Did all of the Jews who were enslaved in Egypt leave during Yetzias Mitzrayim?

2. Moshe took Yosef’s remains with him as Klal Yisrael left Egypt. What happened to the remains of the other Shevatim?

3. To what name was the city of Pisom changed?

4. How did the entire world find out about Krias Yam Suf?

5. Did the manna descend on Yom Tov?

6. A. How was Chur related to Aharon? B. Who was his father?


1. No. Only one fifth left. The other four fifths of the Jewish population died in Egypt during the three days of darkness because they refused to leave Egypt.

2. They were also taken out.

3. Pi Ha'chiros.

4. When the Red Sea split, so did all of the bodies of water in the entire world.

5. No.

6. A. Nephew - He was Miriam’s son. B. Calev ben Yefuneh.


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