Beshalach – A Deeper Level of Kindness

The manifestation of Hashem’s abundance of kindness and benevolence is clearly shown by the splitting of the sea in this week’s Torah portion of Beshalach.The whole world knew there was a miraculous event taking place, as Rashi (Shemos 14:21) says, “and the waters split: All the water in the world. — [from Mechilta & Shemos Rabbah 21:6].” The Yalkut Meam Loez (See Rav Baruch Chait’s Haggadah pages 113-115) enumerates the many miracles and kindnesses that took place for the Jewish people. “The water froze then split. The frozen water formed into twelve tunnels, one for each tribe. The paths in the sea formed a semi-circle. The Jews exited the sea the same side that they entered. The walls of the tunnel were hundreds of meters high. The waters of the sea on both sides of the tunnel rose up very high like the highest mountains and were visible from a great distance. As the Jews advanced, the sea split. In places where the seabed was deep the waters froze so that the solid floor that was formed was at the same height as the shoreline, thus the Jews did not have to climb down when entering or climb up when going out of the sea. The seabed then became solid like marble floor with a palatial, mosaic design. The tunnel walls were transparent like pure diamonds, so each tribe was able to see the other. The Pillar of Fire lit the tunnels like a room filled with many candles. The sides of the tunnel were lined with fruit trees for the people to eat. The air smelled of incense. The many flocks of animals ate the vegetation that grew from the floor. The frozen salty sea was drinkable like fresh, sweet, spring water. When people wanted to drink, the frozen water melted, then refroze like an icicle when they had finished.” Also, the Medrish Tehillim (136) says, ‘There were opening in the walls so they could communicate with one another and sing the praises of Hashem together.’

The Medrish Tanchuma (parshas Beshalach, paragraph 10, see Etz Yosef there) spells out and proves ten miracles that took place at the sea.

  1. The waters split.
  2. After they split, they formed a tunnel.
  3. The land was not muddy but rather it hardened, and they walked on dry land.
  4. The path for the Egyptians was muddy and their feet stuck in the muddy ground.
  5. The waters didn’t freeze like one big slab of a wall but formed into layers like bricks.
  6. The waters when frozen hardened like stone, so when they collapsed on the Egyptians’ heads they broke on top of them.
  7. The sea split into the exact number of paths needed for each tribe, so that each tribe had their own path.
  8. The waters were made into piles and stood vertically, like a wall.
  9. Sweet water came out of salty water.
  10. When the water froze it was transparent like glass so that the tribes were able to see each other from their own paths.

These are all wonderous miracles that made running to safety easy and comfortable for the Jews, without worries of any kind. However, the Anaf Yosef quotes the Alshich, one of the first Achronim who lived in the 1500s, who asked why the sea had to be split into 12 paths, one for each tribe? Why wouldn’t just one path for the all the Jews to pass through and the Egyptians drown in be enough? The Alshich answered, “Hashem did this as a kindness to the world, so that they will recognize the Divine Providence, and the world wouldn’t be lost (destroyed). If you look intently, Chaza”l says 12 paths were created and not 13, even though the tribe of Ephraim and the tribe of Menashe should have been separate. But He combined them in order so that Jews would not make a mistake and cause the world to be lost and go to waste. The problem was that the statue of micha (this was the statue later to be used when sculpting the golden calf, see Rashi on Shemos 32:4[DM1] ) crossed the sea with the tribe of Ephraim. If they all would have crossed through one path there would be room for the evil inclination (Satan) to cause a foolish and vulnerable person to think that G-D forbid the statue infused with (the idol) micha split the sea for them. Therefore, Hashem orchestrated that each tribe would have their own path and that the tribe of Ephraim would share a path with the tribe of Menashe to hint to the fact that The One Who split the path for each of the other tribes whom did not have a statue their, split the path for Menashe, and Ephraim just happens to be going along with them. Whereas if Ephraim would have had their own path [it could have been mistakenly attributed to the statue micha making it.] This means the reason for splitting the sea into so many paths were also a kindness to the world and the world would not be destroyed in their potential mistake if it would have split into one path for the entire Jewish people.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
As we saw above, there was so much detail put into the splitting of the sea to make it comfortable and as anxiety-free as possible for the Jews to cross safely. The whole world knew what was happening, either because every water in the world miraculously split at the same time or because they saw mountains of water streaming up from that area at the Sea of Reeds. Was this added kindness needed to impress upon the Jewish people the love and care of their Beloved Father In Heaven who cared so much for them? The answer must be yes, so that no foolish person will make a mistake and propagandize that this was not Hashem’s doing but rather the statue micha, who has the powers to perform such miracles. We all know how propaganda can be spread even by the most irrational of people!

However, one can ask that if people can be convinced that the statue micha had such powers as to perform the miracle of splitting the sea into one path, why couldn’t he do it into 12 paths? Hashem is All-Powerful and able to do anything; why wouldn’t a statue with superpowers be able to do the same thing?
We must say that this is another facet into the element of Hashem’s kindness, to ensure the continued existence of the world. That by definition no person, no matter how crazy and foolish a person is he or she would never give real Divine powers of infinity and perfection to any statue or god. No matter what they make up it will be finite to an extent and will not be able to function the same way as the Real and Only Creator functions. That is part of the point and make-up of an idol or multiple gods. And that is part of the frailty of the human mind, for if he would attribute perfection, infinity, and oneness to the idol he would just arrive at G-D’s existence and would not needs idols! Therefore there was no mistaken thought that the statue micha could have made 12 paths, one for each tribe.

Hashem’s kindness to His world is very profound and perfect.

Good Shabbos Shira,
Rabbi Dovid Shmuel Milder

Anchor[DM1]a molten calf -: As soon as they had cast it into the fire of the crucible, the sorcerers of the mixed multitude who had gone up with them from Egypt came and made it with sorcery. [See commentary on Exod. 12:38.] Others say that Micah was there, who had emerged from the layer of the building where he had been crushed in Egypt. (Sanh. 101b). In his hand was a plate upon which Moses had inscribed “Ascend, O ox; ascend, O ox,” to [miraculously] bring up Joseph’s coffin from the Nile. They cast it [the plate] into the crucible, and the calf emerged. -[from Midrash Tanchuma 19]