"We should be grateful to G‑d for the doubled and redoubled goodness that He has bestowed upon us! For He has ... split the sea for us, and took us through it on dry land." (Passover Haggadah)

Is there any significance to the splitting of the sea independent of G‑d taking us through it? Is it not essentially one act of kindness? Why are they listed as two separate acts of kindness?

G‑d could have saved us in another way.

Chasidus [and Kabbalah] explains that the splitting of the sea was more than a utilitarian measure to save the Israelites. Indeed, G‑d could have saved us in another way. Why did G‑d choose this method?

The answer is that the splitting of the sea was the manifestation of a profound revelation of G‑d at that time. As our Sages taught, even the most spiritually illiterate amongst us experienced prophetic visions at the sea of the sort that our later prophets never experienced. This revelation of the concealed was mirrored by the splitting of the waters, where what is normally concealed (the seabed) was revealed.

Generally, Divine revelation of this kind would cause a person to be so overwhelmed that he would cease to exist with an independent consciousness at all. How was this possible?

More Than Prophecy

At the sea, G‑d revealed more than what is revealed in prophecy—He revealed His essence, which transcends all rules. The Israelites were therefore able to remain conscious—to walk through the sea during this immense revelation.

Hence the two acts of kindness: 1) He split the sea for us —i.e., revealed to us the Divine reality that is normally concealed; 2) He led us through the sea on dry land—i.e., He revealed His essence, which transcends the conflicting properties of "sea" and "dry land," thereby enabling us to remain conscious during this revelation.

On dry land:

In contrast to the above interpretation, another perspective is that we are thanking G‑d for:

  1. Splitting the sea and providing us an escape from Egypt, and
  2. for drying the seabed for us so we would not have to walk in mud.

But sparing us a muddy walk seems a relatively insignificant miracle in comparison to the other miracles enumerated here. Why then is it included?

...this inspiration slowly escapes once we close the prayer book and enter the "real" world...

As mentioned, the splitting of the sea represented a revelation of the G‑dly reality that is usually hidden. In a personal sense, we also have times when G‑d's presence is revealed and times when G‑d seems concealed from us. There are times when we are spiritually inspired and feel close to G‑d, and times when we are uninspired and feel distant from G‑d. Generally, we experience Divine "revelation"--awareness and inspiration—during the times of prayer, especially through meditative prayer. But this inspiration slowly escapes once we close the prayer book and enter the "real" world, where G‑d is concealed.

A Personal Revelation

A "splitting of the sea" in our lives would mean that the inspiration of prayer stays with us throughout the day—that we experience Divine awareness and revelation even in a time and place where G‑dliness is typically concealed.

But this can occur in two ways:

In the first, the perspective gained during prayer is enough to affect our behavior during the day but does not transform our feelings and inclinations. This can be compared to a splitting of the sea in which the waters of concealment have not been completely removed from the seabed—it remains wet and muddy. This means that the hidden has been revealed, but not entirely—a residue of the waters of concealment remains.

Yet, as we say in the Haggadah, even if G‑d only granted us this "small" spiritual achievement — Dayenu!

He gave us the ability to experience an absolute "splitting of the sea"...

But G‑d accorded us an even greater kindness: He gave us the ability to experience an absolute "splitting of the sea," a revelation of the concealed, where no "water" remains at all and we can walk on "dry land." Our meditative prayers can "part the sea," enabling us to see through the "concealing waters" of the world even outside the times of prayer. We are then able to see the world as the handiwork of its Creator and to perceive the purpose He intended for it in its creation.


From The Kehot Passover Haggadah: Translator--Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet; Commentaries—Yanki Tauber; Editor—Rabbi Yosef Marcus.