יד:כב…וְהַמַּיִם לָהֶם חוֹמָה…
and the waters were a wall unto them
יד:כט…וְהַמַּיִם לָהֶם חֹמָה…
and the waters were a wall unto them
יד:כז…וַיָּשָׁב הַיָּם לִפְנוֹת בֹּקֶר לְאֵיתָנוֹ
…and the sea returned to its strength…
Chazal (Shemos Raba 21:6) tell us by using the word ״לְאֵיתָנוֹ“ there is an allusion to the word “tanai”, which means “condition”. This refers to the arrangement that was made when the World was created: The entire Creation would be subservient to the needs of the Torah – and by extension the Jews. Hashem invoked this condition, reminding the Sea of Reeds that it is obligated to do what is necessary at this time.
The Apter Rav questions why this obligation is mentioned with regards to the water returning to its natural position. It should have been necessary to enforce this obligation when the sea was first forced to leave its natural state and split. Similarly, many are familiar with the idea that the Torah, when describing the tunnel that the Jews passed through as “chomah” – a wall – and it was written the second time without the letter “vav” (spelling the word “chama” which means “angered”), in order to allude to the fact that the Jews were also worthy of death, for they too worshipped idols in Egypt. Thus, the sea was hesitant to perform the task asked of it. Why was the sea only hesitant now and not when it originally split for the Jews?
Many times throughout history the gemora tells us about waters which split and the gemora does not seem to make it into such a “big deal”. Why at “keriyas yam suf” was it considered such a remarkable miracle, to the point that the verse (14:31) says “From this miracle, the Jews came to believe in Hashem, and Moshe his servant.”?
He answers this question that there are many times when a person can change his emotional state from one second to the other. In fact, the Torah can demand of us to have contradictory emotions simultaneously. For instance, the halacha states that if one hears that his father died and left him a large inheritance, he must say two brochos. First, “dayan hoemes” on the bad news and immediately followed by a “shehechiyanu” on his new acquisition. If the Torah demanded this of us, it is obviously in our power. There is, however, in the situation of the splitting of the sea, a greater disparity in the way Hashem looked at the world. Klal Yisrael and the Egyptians both served idols, and according to the medrash, the sea was shaped like a horseshoe. Both the Jews and Egyptians were in the sea at the same time, and at the exact same time that Hashem was saving the Jews, he was drowning the Egyptians. This accentuates the greatness of Hashem, demanding of the sea to do two contradictory actions at the same time, for people who seemed equal. Yet, that is what it was obligated to do. This is why the ‘tenai’ refers to the sea returning to its regular state, because it was at that point that the sea had to do something that seemed paradoxical.
As we mentioned last week, we can have a situation which because of pre-existing dispositions different creations will internalize the happenings in a different sphere. This week we see that it can be demanded of a creation as well, to respond to the same act differently, based on its purpose of creation, which is to serve the Jews.
Upon seeing this idea I realized that this was only a struggle for the sea. To me, it seems obvious that if a father sees his child and his child’s friend (whom the father never saw before and will never see again) do something wrong, the emotional response to his child will be with a greater level of mercy compared to the child’s friend. In our singing out “Az Yashir”, we should remember that we are singing the praises of Hashem who looks at the “bni bechori Yisrael” differently than he looks at the “nachri” (gentile), which literally means outsider, as we stand apart from all the other nations.