"And the waters split…." (Ex. 14:21)

Though the Israelites had left Egypt, they were still threatened by them. They were being chased by an army that naturally should have destroyed them. According to the Midrash (Tanchuma on Deut. 12:29), there were 30 Egyptians to each Jew. Only when the sea split and swallowed the Egyptians alive was the Exodus truly complete. The splitting of the sea…is an integral part of our daily spiritual exodus…

Spiritually too, the primary achievement of the Exodus was attained only after the sea had split. As mentioned, the purpose of the exile was so that the Jews would liberate the sparks of holiness trapped in Egypt. This occurred primarily at the splitting of the sea, since the Egyptian wealth that the Jews took at the sea exceeded that which they took with them from Egypt (Rashi on Ex. 15:22, from Mechilta). Also, the Jews only borrowed the wealth they took from Egypt; it did not actually belong to them until the Egyptians drowned in the sea.

Further, the ultimate goal of the Exodus, the receiving of the Torah, could only have been achieved by first experiencing the spiritual revelations at the splitting of the sea. It is for this reason that we are required to mention the splitting of the sea every day in our prayers, since it is an integral part of our daily spiritual exodus.

Spiritually, leaving Egypt means freeing the G‑dly soul from the shackles of the animal soul. The G‑dly soul is free when it realizes that though we are surrounded by pharaohs we need not be servants to them; we are free to be servants of G‑d alone. The soul, however, cannot experience this freedom fully until "the sea has been split" - until the true, divine nature of reality has been revealed.

True, even when our pharaohs pour cold water on our commitment to Torah we can physically leave Egypt and fulfill our duty - even if we are not inspired. But such unenthusiastic commitment is vulnerable. If our mind and heart are not in it, Pharaoh and his armies can give chase. Only after the sea is split, i.e. when G‑d's presence is revealed and obvious and the lie of Egypt has been exposed, has one truly left Egypt and Pharaoh behind.

[Adapted from Likutei Sichot, vol. 1, pp. 878-80; Copyright 2001 Chabad of California / http://www.LAchumash.org]