We know that in our morning prayers, the song by the sea and the splitting of the sea has a greater status than the earlier exodus from Egypt. Why does it play such a big role and what are we to learn from this?
First of all, the fact is that as great as the Exodus was, it was only the middle of a process. The Jews were still running from Egypt for the first full week after they left. That does not signify true freedom at all. A slave who is preoccupied with escaping from his master, or a prisoner running from jail, is really not free until he can stop looking over his shoulder for fear of being caught once again. The freedom that the Torah wants us to achieve can only be appreciated after the Egyptians are fully defeated at the sea.
We learn from this that there are two significant steps in freedom. The first is leaving behind your state of slavery. The second is to create an environment in which you can truly be, and live as, a free person. Beating an addiction, defeating your yetzer ha’ra, or leaving a toxic relationship/job, is only the first step to living a free life. The potential is there, but it takes much time and effort to take our lives to the next step.
In our prayers, we want to emphasize this second step, so that our day should be filled with opportunities to actually develop and celebrate our personal freedoms and be able to focus on being the best Jews we can be.
To take it one step further, in Parashas Beshalach, the Torah states in the introduction to the actual splitting of the sea, and at the end of the song, that the Jews crossed over on dry land. This repeated emphasis of a seemingly minor detail carries great meaning. Chassidus explains that the earth represents those aspects of life that we can see, while bodies of water that cover over parts of the earth represent those aspects of life that we cannot see. Hashem wanted that the Jews in their crossing should have nothing hidden from them. The Midrash tells us that the revelation of G-d that took place by the splitting of the sea was greater than even that seen by later-day prophets. They saw the truth, and the dry land represented that they were walking on solid ground, unimpeded by life’s many obstacles which hide the truth.
Hashem’s message to the Jews then, and to us when we pray now, is that once we have completed the first step in our pursuit of personal freedom, with Hashem’s help we all have the potential to walk on dry land, to see the truth for what it is, to “see” beyond the tumultuous waters of life, to split seas and aim high in our life. We can reach real freedom, both spiritually and physically.
With this message, we are given extra strength to refine ourselves and to elevate the world around us the entire year to bring Mashiach closer.
Rabbi Tuvia Teldon is the regional director of Chabad Lubavitch of Long Island. He can be reached at email@example.com. For more information and inspiration, visit www.chabadli.org or Facebook.com/RabbiTeldon to view his weekly broadcasts.