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The Splitting of the Sea

by Rabbi Jacob Isaacs

Our People, Volume 1

  

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The shortest route for the children of Israel to the Promised Land, would have been straight across the land of the Philistines. However, G-d wanted to give the newly-born Jewish nation the opportunity to throw off the remnants of Egyptian influence, and to educate them in the new ways of a holy life, through the Divine Torah which was to be given to them on Mount Sinai. Furthermore, the shortest way to the Holy Land would have involved the people in a war with the Philistines, and it was doubtful whether the children of Israel, who had just left centuries of continuous slavery behind, would be strong enough to fight like free men; they might decide to return to Egypt rather than face a bloody war. Therefore, G-d led the Jewish people in a round-about way. Instead of following the coast of the Mediterranean Sea all the way to the Promised Land, they were led southwards through the desert.

After three days, Pharaoh received word of the progress of the children of Israel. The unexpected direction of their march made him think that they had gotten lost in the desert. Pharaoh now regretted that he had permitted them to leave. He immediately mobilized his army and personally took the lead of his choicest cavalry and war-chariots in hot pursuit of his former slaves. He reached them near the banks of the Red Sea, and pressed them close to the water, in an effort to cut off their escape.

Fear gripped the children of Israel as they saw the pursuing hosts of their enslavers. Some groups among them were ready to fight the Egyptians; others preferred to drown in the floods of the sea than risk defeat and return to slavery. A third group of frightened and feeble people began to complain against Moses, fearing that he had lured them out of the safety of Egypt to die in the desert. "Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us to die in the desert?," they exclaimed (Exodus 14:11), "Is it not this the thing [about] which we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, Leave us alone, and we will serve the Egyptians, because we would rather serve the Egyptians than die in the desert." But Moses, calm and firm in one of the most trying moments of his life, said: "Don't be afraid! Stand firm and see the L-rd's salvation that He will wreak for you today, for the way you have seen the Egyptians is [only] today, [but] you shall no longer continue to see them for eternity."


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Torah » The Bible » Five Books of Moses
Torah » The Bible

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Exodus
1. The miraculous departure of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1312 BCE. 2. The second of the Five Books of Moses. This book describes the aforementioned Exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the erection of the Tabernacle.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.