Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pesach 5632 Seventh Day, Third Ma'amar

On the seventh day after leaving Egypt we found ourselves at the shores of the Red Sea with the entire Egyptian army in hot pursuit.  We were fearful and cried out to God.  We complained to Moshe Rabbeinu, "המבלי אין קברים במצרים לקחתנו למות במדבר מה זאת עשית לנו להוציאנו ממצרים/Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the desert?  What have you done to us by taking us out of Egypt?" (Shmos 14:11)  And yet, a few pesukim later we sing, "זה א-לי ואנוהו/This is my God and I will extol Him." (Shmos 15:2) Chazal[1] understand that this pasuk is referring to a level of prophecy.  Even a maidservant at the sea saw more than the prophet Yechezkel!

What happened that caused us to advance from fear and complaining to an incredibly high level of faith and prophecy in such a short time?  The answer to this question is dependant on a better understanding of the salvation and the miracle at the Red Sea. 

Between our complaining and the splitting of the sea Moshe Rabbeinu delivered a crucial instruction.  He said to us, "אל תיראו התיצבו וראו את ישועת ה' ... ה' ילחם לכם ואתם תחרישון/Do not fear.  Stand firm and witness God's salvation … God will fight for you and you must remain silent." (Shmos 14:13,14)  Then we were told to move forward towards the sea!  Chazal[2] teach us that the sea did not split until the water was up to our necks.

The Torah is telling us that the true salvation happened inside us before the sea split.  The true salvation was when we stopped complaining and stopped trying to figure out what to do.  The salvation came when we were silent and gave our fate over to God.  When we walked into the sea at God's behest the pasuk tells us, "הים ראה וינס/The sea saw and fled." (Tehillim 114:3)  When the sea saw that we were ready to deliver ourselves completely to God disregarding any physical obstacle, the sea delivered itself to God as well and split.

Chazal allude to this idea in two Midrashim.  The first Midrash[3] relates that the sea did not want split.  The sea claimed that it was more important that man having been created earlier – on the third day of creation – whereas man was created later – on the sixth day of creation.  The second Midrash[4] as the Sfas Emes explains it says that if man relates only to his physical being and the physical world around him, he was indeed created last and is less important that every other creation.  However, if he negates the physical in favor of the spiritual, he was spiritually first.  When the nation walked into the sea, we negated the physical.  The waters had no choice but to split.

The splitting of the sea then served to strengthen our awe of God and our faith even more as we find, "וייראו העם את ה' ויאמינו בה' ובמשה עבדו/The nation feared God and had faith in God and in Moshe His servant." (Shmos 14:31)

Pesach is called זמן חירותנו/the time of our freedom.  We repeat this every year in our prayers to declare that the events of the Exodus influence us today at this time of year even though they occurred so long ago.  The Sfas Emes explains that the freedom we celebrate is not just the physical freedom from Egyptian bondage.  The main freedom that we celebrate is the freedom from the physical that we experienced at the splitting of the sea.  We can aspire to this freedom even now particularly at this time of year.

The Sfas Emes teaches that anytime we find ourselves in dire straits as we did at the shore of the Red Sea, the best thing we can do is to clarify and accept the will of God with all our heart.  We should desire and look forward to God saving us for the sake of His Name so that His greatness is revealed.  One who can do this is truly free.  His perspective is one of equanimity.

This is exactly what happened at the Red Sea.  We sang Shiras HaYam/The Song of the Sea praising God not so much for splitting the sea.  Rather, we sang the song because He saved us and we experienced Him.  It was the high level of faith and awe that caused us to sing as the pesukim directly preceding the song indicate, "ויושע ה'  ... את ישראל ... וייראו ... את ה' ויאמינו ... אז ישיר .../God saved Israel … and they feared God and believed … Then they sang ..." (Shmos 14:30,31)

[1] Mechilta BeShalach, Shira 3
[2] Midrash Shocher Tov 114
[3] Shmos R. 21:6
[4] Breishis R. 8:1

No comments: