Compiled by Dina Fraenkel
When the Jewish people fled from Egyptian bondage, the Egyptian army chased them until they reached the Reed Sea. Once they reached the sea, B’nei Yisroel were trapped between the water and the Egyptian army, seemingly with no way to escape. Hashem saved the Jewish people on the seventh day of the Exodus by performing a great miracle and splitting the sea to allow the Jews to cross. Not only that, but Hashem drowned the Egyptian pursuers in the sea after the Jews crossed to safety.
According to our Chachamim, before Hashem split the sea, B’nei Yisroel divided into four groups with differing opinions on how to deal with the plight of being trapped between the sea and the Egyptian army.1 The first group felt they should drown themselves in the sea, rather than being captured and brought back to Egypt. The second group felt they should just go back to Egypt and endure more slavery. The third group wanted to fight the oncoming Egyptians. Finally, the fourth group proposed that they pray to Hashem and ask Him to save them from their situation.
Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu that none of the four groups had the right idea. Moshe then told them, “Do not fear, stand by and see the deliverance of Hashem which He will bring for you today; indeed, the Egyptians whom you see today you will never see them again. Hashem will do battle for you, and you shall keep silent.”2
Moshe’s statement, though only one sentence, spoke to each of the four groups. To the first group, who wanted to drown themselves, Moshe said, “Stand by and see the deliverance of Hashem”; to those who wanted to return to slavery, Moshe responded, “the Egyptians whom you see today you will never see them again”; to those who wanted to fight, Moshe said, “Hashem will do battle for you”; and, to those who wanted to pray for Hashem’s help, Moshe responded, “you shall keep quiet.”
If none of the four groups got it right, then what was the correct response? Hashem gave B’nei Yisroel the clear answer: “Go forward!”3 Go onward to reach Har Sinai. Go onward to receive the Torah. Go onward to fulfill the purpose of leaving Egypt. And Hashem split the sea for the Jews so that we could fulfill our mission and complete the Exodus.
As with every part of Torah, the Exodus from Egypt has a spiritual occurrence in every generation and in our daily Divine service. 4 The word “Mitzrayim” (Egypt) has the same root as the word “meitzorim” (limits). The liberation of the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage symbolizes our daily battle to be free of the limits and constraints of our animal soul and evil inclination. Despite the apparent darkness of the physical world, a Jew is put on this earth to serve Hashem and nothing else. Hashem is our master, not Pharaoh (the animal soul and evil inclination). Every time a Jew chooses to serve Hashem in exclusion to all others, it is a reenactment of the original Exodus from Egypt.
Without the final step, the spiritual splitting of the sea, our spiritual Exodus is incomplete. The first part of the Exodus is to accept the yoke of Heaven, but this still leaves the evil inclination intact. In order to fully succeed and split the spiritual sea, to eradicate the evil inclination, we must uncover the G-dliness that was previously concealed. Just as the sea reveled dry land when the water split, we must serve G-d with fervor, with love, in order to reveal the Divinity in every facet of creation. We must bring G-dliness into every corner of the earth. Only then do we split the spiritual sea and remove all of the limits to our Divine service.
Hashem exhorts us to “Go forward!” Do not hide from the world, do not give up and serve by rote, do not fight the world, and do not leave everything to Hashem alone. Serve G-d wholeheartedly, bringing ourselves and the world around us closer to Hashem and His Torah. Only when we “split the sea” and reveal G-dliness with no limits will we merit to bring Moshiach and complete our Exodus from Egyptian bondage. May we experience the ultimate Geulah and rise above all limits speedily in our days.