Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Arc in the Sea

God’s incredible miracle splitting the Red Sea and saving the Israelite people from the oncoming Egyptian army, was one of the greatest miracles and moments the world has ever experienced. As depicted in Parashat B’shalach, this week’s Torah portion, the act saved the Jews from imprisonment or death, provided yet another reason for the former Israelite slaves to have unbridled faith in God, and at its conclusion, enabled the Israelites to see their former taskmasters dead before them on the beaches. The Song of the Sea followed as an ode of gratitude to the Almighty for saving the Hebrews and removing the concern of future enslavement from their minds.

“Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. And Israel saw the great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians; and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses” (Exodus 14:30-31).

While many assume that the splitting of the sea served as a bridge to enable the Israelites to arrive to the other side of a body of water, several Biblical commentaries reject that assumption. The Tosafists (Erechin 15a) point out that the most direct path toward the land of Canaan did not include crossing the sea. They claim that the Israelite journey in the sea was merely a semi-circular “arc” route that began at one point of the bank of the sea and ended at another point on the same bank of the sea. Nowhere does the text indicate that they actually crossed the sea. The Tosafist commentary even includes an illustration. Chizkuni, (Rabbi Chizkiya the son of Manoach, 13th century France), another Biblical commentary, suggests that the whole purpose of entering the sea was to bait the Egyptian forces into the water so God could drown them in front of the eyes of the Israelites. He claims that Eitam is both the name of the location where the Jews entered the water (Exodus 13:20) and exited (Numbers 33:8) the sea.

The main takeaway from the awesome splitting of the Red Sea was to imbue the Israelites with a sense of faith in God, and God’s commitment to protect the Children of Israel.

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