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The water of the sea conceals that which is within its depths

Splitting the Illusions in Two

Splitting the Illusions in Two

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Splitting the Illusions in Two
The water of the sea conceals that which is within its depths

What lesson are we supposed to learn from the splitting of the Red Sea regarding our service of G‑d? The water of the sea serves to conceal that within its depths. When G‑d split the Red Sea, He removed that concealment, revealing the dry land underneath. This represents G‑d's removal of divine concealment in the world - in order to reveal His Divine Presence here.

This is the secret of the splitting of the Sea after the exodus from Egypt. It gave the Jewish people for all generations the strength to withstand any obstacles blocking their path. Water's nature as a liquid is to flow. G‑d changed that nature of water, giving it the ability to be upright and firm. Splitting the Red Sea symbolizes doing the opposite of nature and something higher than nature. As long as a person is working within "the system", he is not challenging any obstructions. Only when a person rises above nature, standing up to the obstacles, serving G‑d with all of his or her abilities - is the aspect of the "Splitting of the Red Sea". (From Ramach Otiot, a 200 year old text of Chassidic sayings) G‑d was so obvious that the Jews could point to His presence…

When G‑d split the Sea, Moses led the Jews in song, including the words, "This is my G‑d, and I will praise Him; the G‑d of my father and I will exalt Him." (Ex. 15:2) The Shelah explains that the two halves of the sentence represent two levels in connection to G‑d. "This is my G‑d" shows a personal connection - that a person has a knowledge and grasp of G‑dliness - and therefore will come to praise Him; that person feels united with G‑d, possessing a deep relationship. On the other hand, there is another type of Jew, whose connection to G‑d is based only upon inheritance and not through personal toil - "the G‑d of my father"; that person senses G‑d to be distant and far above his or her grasp and, therefore, "exalts" G‑d, since he perceives Him as being beyond him.

Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson of Lubavitch expands on the Shelah's commentary. The higher of the two levels, "This is my G‑d", includes the word "this", signifying something specific that one actually sees. At the Sea's splitting, G‑d was so obvious that the Jews could point to His presence. G‑d's revelation was tangible for them.

In the phrase "the G‑d of my fathers", a Jew indicates that he learned about G‑d from his father's teachings. He himself has no real conception of G‑d. Despite this, the father's teachings are so powerful as to give his descendents a faith in G - d that is deep, and for which they are willing to give their very lives. At some point the intellect cannot understand G‑dliness…

Our minds are capable of understanding concepts of G‑dliness, and we must do so to our maximum ability. However, at some point the intellect cannot understand G‑dliness. It reaches its limits. From this point, we rely on our faith in G‑d. These two levels are described in the Shelah's words. "This is my G‑d" shows how a Jew worked to develop his connection to G‑d through his or her mental capability; he has cultivated a personal and intellectual relationship. Beyond that, at the level of faith, the Jew reaches the level of "I will praise Him", in Hebrew "anveyhu" - which can be divided into the Hebrew words, "ani" [meaning "I" in Hebrew] and "ve'hu" [in Hebrew, "and Him"]; this points to unity with G‑d.

If a Jew failed to work towards this level and he settles on the relationship as being with "the G‑d of my fathers", he allows for G‑d to remain an exalted and distant part of his life. He allows that inherited faith to exist deep in his heart, leaving G‑dliness far above himself.

May each of us merit to bring G‑d into our lives through active searching and learning, building our relationship with Him via day-to-day experiences. From this level may we also, reach the limit where we can put aside our minds and turn to our pure faith in G‑d, where there no longer appears to be a separation between us.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag sameach! Shaul


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Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter is a co-founder, executive director and featured teacher of Ascent-of-Safed.
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