"But the Israelites had walked on dry land in the midst of the sea, while the water formed a wall for them, on their right and on their left." (Ex. 14:29)

While the water formed a wall for them on their right and on their left: The repetition of this fact underscores its centrality to the miracle of the Splitting of the Sea. Indeed, it serves to indicate that this encompassing protection served not only to protect the Jews from Egyptians - for if that were the case, it would only have been needed earlier on, when the Egyptians were still alive - but also from some other peril endangering their journey towards the Giving of the Torah.

At the Giving of the Torah, the G‑dliness latent within the physical world would be fully revealed….

The Midrash describes the Splitting of the Sea in the following terms:

As the Jews were passing through the sea, the angels appeared before G‑d, complaining: "How can it be that idol worshippers such as these should be able to walk on dry land through the sea itself? What merit can they possibly have that makes them worthy of such a great miracle?" G‑d answered: "Their protection is derived from the right - the Torah that they will soon accept, and from the left - the prayers they will recite and the tefilin they will don."

Why the necessity for a double merit?

As mentioned, the purpose of the sea's splitting was not merely to escape from the Egyptians; it also served as a foretaste of the Giving of the Torah and a preparation for it. At the Giving of the Torah, the G‑dliness latent within the physical world would be fully revealed.

This revelation was elicited by a parallel occurrence within the Jews themselves. Under normal circumstances, the restrictive, material context in which we live our lives forces us to develop our personalities in a limited way, emphasizing one or another character trait or propensity to the exclusion of others. When we respond to G‑d's call to join in the work of rectifying the world, we naturally gravitate toward those aspects of the divine mission that align with our dominant personality traits. We try to respond to G‑d on our own terms.

But the Torah requires us to enlist all possible facets of human nature in performing G‑d's work, even those that area of opposing natures. For example, we are required at times to draw divinity into the world by studying and teaching the Torah's rules for life of fulfilling G‑d's commandments. At other times, we are required to do just the opposite: to renounce this world and lose ourselves in the ecstatic rapture of prayer. By advancing toward accepting the Torah, the Jews displayed their essential connectedness to G‑d, reflected in their willingness to serve Him on His terms. As such, the Jews were protected on both the "right" and the "left", meaning they accrued the merit of their willingness to serve G‑d in conflicting directions.

This willingness revealed and reflected their very essence, which transcended whatever particular personality each of them had developed. As a result, they merited the Splitting of the Sea, a similar act of revelation within nature.

[Adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Likutei Sichot, vol.3,
pp. 966-973; Copyright 2001 chabad of california / www.lachumash.org]