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The Miracle of the Parting of the Sea

Parshat Beshalach

Exodus 13:17 -17:16

Our Torah portion, Beshalach, is the next installment of the liberation of the Israelites.  The ten plagues that God sent over Egypt in Parshat Vayera and Parshat Bo were powerful signs of God’s power and dominion over the various gods of Egypt. The plagues were sent to inspire the Israelites and at the same time humble and humiliate Pharaoh.  

But God’s mightiest miracle is described in this week’s portion; the parting of the Yam Suf-the Sea of Reeds.  Moses is told to lift up his rod and hold his arm over the sea and split it (Ex. 14:16).  And that is exactly what Moses does.  God drives the sea apart with a strong east wind.   It wasn’t in one moment but the Torah is very clear.  An east wind blew all night and turned the sea into dry ground.  You might say it was a progressive miracle.  The parting of the sea is something that took place not in an instance but over time, over hours, over night. It took time for the water to part. It took time for the Israelites to cross.  It took time to move all those people from one side to the other.

And perhaps that is something that teaches us about the nature of miracles.  We often think that they happen in an instance.  We think of miracles as grand moments when the extraordinary happens. But they aren’t instantaneous like magic. Miracles, even the ones in the Bible, happen over time. And sometimes it takes us that time and longer to even figure them out and to make the connection that what we are a part of is the miraculous.

We search for meaning and for connection in our lives whether we are aware or not. When we experience the miraculous-a healing, insight, forgiveness, the birth of a child, or love these are Divine gifts in our lives. And there are many other miraculous moments too numerous to list. Our human task is to make meaning of these moments in our lives. Place them in a context. Relate them to the meta-story, to our own personal narratives and those of our families.  Perhaps they may not seem as grand as the parting of the Yam Suf-the Sea of Reeds, but each of these is a miracle that we can experience. The key is to assimilate and process that this miracle is happening to us. The miracle is perhaps in acknowledging the Divine nature of the gift.

 The Song of the Sea-Shirat Hayam that makes up a great section of this week’s parasha is the Israelites trying to make sense of this miracle.  It is a poem of celebration and tries to weave the understanding of this miracle into their lives and into ours. It explains that God drove the “horse and rider into the sea,” even while providing deliverance for the Israelites.

We can only imagine what the people thought when they saw the waters parted.  We can only imagine what the people thought when they saw the waters come crashing down upon the Egyptians, wiping Pharaoh’s army out.  Relief? Joy? Sadness? Fear? Hope? Disbelief? Or was there the moment of affirmation of prayers that were finally answered for deliverance, liberation and freedom?
            Yes, a miracle happened.  God parted the Yam Suf-the Sea of Reeds and brought the final blow upon Egypt.  Giving birth is never an easy process.  But that night of labor, as the east wind blew, the Hebrew slaves walked the path between the walls of water, and a people was born.  Yes, this was the miracle of birth and a divine gift of love.