Seder plate 311.
(photo credit: courtesy)
The day that seals the Passover holiday, called Sh’vi’i Shel Pessah (beginning
on Sunday evening this year, and ending the next night in Israel) is unique
among all the other days of the festival in that it is a Yom Tov – a festival
when work is forbidden, just like the first day of Pessah. On this day we read
the “Song of the Sea” (Shirat Hayam) in the synagogue, the song that the
Children of Israel sang under Moshe’s direction after the great miracle of the
splitting of the Red Sea. The splitting of the Red Sea took place on this day,
seven days after the Jewish people was liberated from Egypt and went out to
The splitting of the sea, which began at midnight and went on
until dawn, was an impressive event that left its mark on the various nations,
both near and far, as it is written in the Torah: “Nations heard and shuddered;
Terror gripped those who dwell in Pleshet (Philistia). Edom’s captains were
taken aback. Moab’s heroes ....All the residents of Canaan melted. (Exodus
15:14-15) Forty years later, when the Jewish people stood at the entrance to the
Land of Israel, the strong impression of the splitting of the Red Sea
We see this in the words of Rahav, who hid the two spies sent
to Jericho in advance of the Jewish nation’s entrance into its land: She said
unto the men: ‘I know that Hashem has given you the land, and that your terror
is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before
For we have heard how Hashem dried up the water of the Red Sea
before you, when you came out of Egypt. (Yehoshua 2:9-10) As a remembrance of
this impressive event, which sealed the miracles of the exodus from Egypt and
made the Jewish people a free and independent nation, the seventh day of Pessah
was established as a special festival. On this day we remember the splitting of
the Red Sea and attempt to relive the exalted feeling that the Children of
Israel experienced when they saw the army of Egypt, formerly powerful and
undefeated, drowning and thoroughly vanquished.
On this day, when the
miracle of the splitting of the sea took place, it is worthwhile to take one
small insight for our lives from this great story.
Before the Red Sea was
divided and turned into dry land so that Israel could cross it and flee from its
enemies, the people were in great distress.
The flight from the great
Egyptian army was halted on the seashore, and the situation looked hopeless. The
Egyptians behind, the sea ahead, and nowhere to run. In this difficult and
discouraging hour, the people turned to Moshe, their deliverer, and spoke
harshly: “Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt? Why did you have to bring us out
here to die in the desert? How could you do such a thing to us, bringing us out
of Egypt? “Didn’t we tell you in Egypt to leave us alone and let us work for the
Egyptians? It would have been better to be slaves in Egypt than to die in the
desert!” (Exodus 14:11-12) The people expressed their despair in harsh and
bitter language. Better to have remained slaves in Egypt than to be slaughtered
here, in the desert, by the Egyptian army.
Lo and behold, a miracle
occurred! A miracle of amazing proportions. The Red Sea was split into two, and
a dry and comfortable path was created for the Jewish people. And if this were
not sufficient – when the Egyptian army forged ahead on the dry land created
from the sea and pursued the people of Israel, the waters immediately flowed
back and covered the Egyptians, drowning them. All this happened before the eyes
of the Children of Israel.
And here we have a surprise. After this great
miracle, the people, lead by Moshe, burst into song: “Moshe and the Israelites
then sang this song to G-d....’Who is like You among powers, G-d? Who is like
You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praise, doing wonders?’ (Exodus 15:1-11)
Let us note: When the nation left Egypt and were liberated from slavery, they
did not burst forth in song. The song came only after total despair.
after they had lost all hope and the chances of survival seemed remote, only
then, when salvation came, their gratitude overflowed and they burst forth in
There’s an important lesson to be learned here. Sometimes
one is successful, and does very well in business. His family is pleased – but
he doesn’t remember to thank God. It all seems normal and natural.
when he is in trouble, and then saved from disaster, only then does he remember
to be grateful and express his thanks. It’s too bad that in order to appreciate
all the good things, first we have to lose them.
It’s worthwhile to
appreciate all of G-d’s goodness towards always, and sing the song of
thankfulness on time! Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz is Rabbi of the Western Wall and