The splitting of the sea was a pivotal moment in the redemption of the Jewish people, but this mighty event effects all peoples to this day.
We tend to think of the redemption from Egypt in limited terms, as though the sea was split just to allow us to escape the Egyptians and eventually enter Israel, the promised land.
But the truth is that the moment that the sea split planted seeds for a revolution that would overturn the course of human history. The verse describes that “it was on that very day that all the legions of Hashem left the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:41). As we transformed from slaves into a holy nation, we received a new name and a new vocation: the legions of Hashem.
We have spent history fulfilling this mission. The Jewish People serve as the axis of a spiritual war battling for the concept of redemption for the entire world.
There is no way to describe the extent of the revolution that began during those days long ago after the Jews left Egypt. At that time, Egyptian society had been the crown jewel of culture and development the world over. Yet the Torah’s attitude towards Egyptian culture and society is outlined in plain black and white: “Do not perform the practice of the land of Egypt in which you dwelled...” (Leviticus 18:3)
In other words, the laws and ideologies of the Torah are designed to express the exact opposite of the Egyptian worldview. Egypt’s fall was a slap in the face to nations worldwide. The Jews began their national history with a shocking revolt against everything that the ruling international power stood for and the universal status-quo.
The legions of Hashem: this, in essence, describes the fundamental Jewish purpose. As long the entire world has not been won over to the ideals of Torah, the battle rages on. We are called legions, a people who struggle and fight for the truth and the right despite all opposition.
History has witnessed our blood spilling like water on the battlefields of our conviction. Jewish thought, speech, and behaviour have been loath to “Egypts” throughout history, yet our revolution drives forward. The more cruelly they try to destroy us, the more steely becomes our commitment and our self-sacrifice.
At this very moment, a battle is upon us. The face of the enemy changes from generation to generation. The spiritual essence, the ideology, of Egypt flits like a sour spirit from culture to culture throughout time, enslaving the vulnerable from Babylon to the Roman Empire, from countries throughout Europe to countries the world over.
The prophets defined this ideology in plain terms: “Mine is the river and I have made it.” The arrogance of Egypt was projected on to the Nile River and all the fertile riches it brought in it’s wake. The ideology of the new-born Jewish nation crept under the skin of Egypt, a riveting fly in their self-absorbed ointment: “To God is the earth”. It does not belong to us, and it certainly wasn’t made by us. Joyful, grateful Jewish humility and trust glared in Egyptian eyes like sunlight after a long, dark night.
The greatest confirmation of Jewish humility and trust in God came with the splitting of the sea. The drama unfolded as it was destined to unfold time and again throughout history. “The enemy declared, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide plunder; I will satisfy my lust with them. I will unsheathe my sword, my hand will impoverish them” (Exodus 15:9).
The hunted nation was outnumbered and helpless, but reached the other side of the sea to watch waves tumble mightily upon their pursuers, sinking like lead in the watery turmoil. “Who is like You among the...powers, Hashem! Who is like You, mighty in holiness, too awesome for praise, Doer of wonders!” (ibid 11) And so we have been singing ever since.
We must firmly root in our consciousness the divine truth, the eternal truth, that is indelibly bound to the fate of our nation. With this truth we will be able to stand proudly and bravely against the Egypt of any time and any society. We must have faith that, just as our ancestors merited open miracles and wondrous victory, singing, “I will sing to Hashem for He is exulted above the arrogant” (ibid 1) – so we, too, will sing joyfully in the time to come. We also must never forget that the matter rests in our own hands.
As deeply and sincerely as we internalize Torah truth and justice in our own lives, so is truth and justice more deeply woven into the makeup of the entire world. The power of our Godly truth will topple the dominion of evil and falsehood in time: “All the evil will be consumed in smoke.” When? May we merit the complete, universal redemption in our days.
Adapted from Parasha U’Likcha by Rabbi Moshe Grylak
Translated and Adapted by Braha Bender