Residing In Exile

Shevat 12, 5782
January 14, 2022
Candlelighting Time 4:41 PM

The splitting of the Red Sea was a very nerve-wracking experience for the nation. We were trapped, the sea on one side and the Egyptian Imperial Army coming up from behind. The angel traveling in front of our camp moved to separate us from the Egyptians that were about to attack us. Rashi cites the Midrash that even at this late point in the drama, Hashem was still ‘undecided’ as to whether or not we deserved to be saved? This is very puzzling since if our exodus from Egypt was not warranted, then why did Hashem send all the plague upon the Egyptians since anyhow we weren’t being saved?  

S’fas Emes makes a fascinating point which projects an entirely different picture of what was transpiring! He explains that there were two aspects to our exile in Egypt. We were physically in bondage and forced to work as slaves for our Egyptian taskmasters. Also, and perhaps predominantly, our souls were oppressed as well! Not only were we not free to serve Hashem appropriately, but more than that, our relationship with Hashem was severed. Although Hashem never forsakes us even in the most dreadful of times, we did not have that connection due to the repressive nature of our enslavement.

When we left Egypt after the first born were killed, we merited a physical release from our predicament there. However, on a spiritual level we were not yet at a peak of realization of Hashem which would have reunited us with Hashem at a level reminiscent of that of the earlier generations.    

At this juncture, as they were surrounded without an escape route, Moshe davened to Hashem to save the nation. The response was very intriguing. Now is not a time for prayer, rather let the people wade into the Red Sea and cross over. Certainly, after such a demonstration of power and control as was exerted in Egypt, it would not have been so difficult to affect a splitting of the Red Sea without the participation of the people. And after all, if when the nation is in dire straits it is not a good time to daven, so when is?

Perhaps the answer is as stated above by S’fas Emes. We needed to exhibit allegiance to Hashem and make the first move. Davening is certainly always necessary; however, it comes with conditions. It can enhance one’s perspective and augment a person’s connection with Hashem. However, to create a relationship with Hashem when it has deteriorated, then we must act to reestablish our affiliation especially in this case where our spiritual decline was so tremendous that the angels at the time of the splitting of the Red Sea were unable to detect our merit to survive that ordeal! The distance between the people and Hashem was sufficient to require our input and in doing so we reached a new level of closeness to Hashem as we exited from our spiritual bondage and entered into a covenant with Hashem which was to last for thousands of years up until this very time. The Midrash compares the splitting of the Sea to Shabbos. We were physically freed when we left Egypt and attained a level of spiritual manumission when we crossed over the Sea. And this is our ongoing mission in life to negate the adverse influences that we have accumulated in life and access higher plateaus of recognition of Hashem.


When we were in Egypt, the entire nation convened and accepted, amongst other things, to tend to the needs of others, performing acts of chesed.   CHOFETZ CHAIM