February 7,2019 SHEVAT 12, 5780
Candlelighting Time 5:09 PM
THE ULTIMATE LEAP
It seemed that after the Egyptians suffered through the Ten Plagues that they were eliminated. However, they did pursue the people in an attempt to reel them back again. Of course we know that they failed and were totally annihilated. The Torah mentions that at this juncture, when the nation saw the dead Egyptians on the sea shore, they feared Hashem and then believed in him as well. Malbim and Ohr HaChaim explain that the level of fear of Heaven that they acquired at this occurrence was fear in the highest degree. They were not only fearful of Hashem because of His ability to punish for our misdeeds, rather, they transcended that level and were awestruck by Hashem’s magnificence. What they had witnessed created a sense of fear that is not what one senses because of possible retribution, but one can be so swept away by the greatness of Hashem that to act in a way counter to His will is inconceivable.
The question confronting us is what triggered this response at this point? They had witnessed tremendous miraculous events in Egypt and the virtual destruction of the Egyptian empire, yet those events did not espouse this type of reaction. Certainly the splitting of the sea was an incredible scene to view, yet that did not arouse them sufficiently either. Rather it was only upon seeing the dead Egyptians that they became now so fearful.
Nachmonides explains that when we are in exile our perception of our nobility is greatly dimmed. Not only in the eyes of the world, but, truthfully, even within our own ranks we are somewhat severed from Hashem. And that breach in our connection to Hashem exists as long as the counter-force that has wedged itself in to a position of interference is eliminated. The Egyptians oppressed us and created such an occlusion between us and Hashem. Even though their empire had been ravaged and totally destroyed, however, they still existed and until they were finally removed from their ability to confront us and corrupt us, their impurity still encroached upon our capacity for complete purity. Therefore, when Hashem displayed the dead bodies of the Egyptian forces it not only actualized the extent of their defeat, but, more importantly it represented the final demise of a destructive force that had so jeopardized our connection to Hashem.
Therefore, this led to the next step which was consummate belief in Hashem, fully without any reservation. Ramchal clearly explains in Da’as Tevunos that the ultimate allegiance to Hashem is predicated upon the realization that the entire creation is subservient to Hashem’s will and there isn’t a counter-force that has independent power to confront and battle Hashem. And that was borne out with the ensuant absolute destruction of the Egyptian armed forces and simultaneous devastation of the Egyptian populace that did not engage us at the Sea but remained at home. Nonetheless, they were also terminated and that was apparently clear to the nation as they crossed the Sea. This entire scene of utter ruination of what was the most powerful nation and supreme culture was a terrific source of inspiration for the people after having suffered under their domination for so many generations. And this should serve as a sign of how divine guidance is always present in our personal lives and on the community level as well! Although these events transpired well over three thousand years ago, the lessons that we can glean from them is always there.
A BYTE FOR SHABBOS
Although the nation witnessed the miraculous Ten Plagues which took place in Egypt, they were still under the domination of the Egyptians. However, once they became totally free of their Egyptian masters, then they were able to retroactively realize the immensity of the miracles that they witnessed beforehand. S’FAS EMES