The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Shvat 14, 5768/January 21, 2008

"And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground."
(Exodus 14:22)

At the splitting of the Sea of Reeds G-d tore asunder the very fabric of creation. Midrash teaches us that at that moment in time every body of water on earth was divided like the Sea of Reeds, forming a wall on the right and a wall on the left. Even a bucket of water filled at the well experienced the phenomenon. Even a cup of water about to be drunk. In this manner all the world was informed forevermore of the reality of G-d. And as the children of Israel crossed the sea, they peered through, as it were, the rent in time and space as we know it, and beheld, for that one moment, the perfection of G-d's will: the resurrection of the dead.

Exodus 15:1, which introduces the Song of the Sea, is translated into English as "Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto HaShem," however, a true rendering of the Hebrew "Az yashir" is "Then they will sing." When will they sing? Our sages teach us: in the future, at the time of the resurrection of the dead. To be able to glimpse G-d's truth, even for a fleeting moment, is to see beyond the seeming limitations of our finite existence. At this pivotal moment in their history the children of Israel walked through the sea as if on dry ground as physical reality conformed to G-d's will: G-d's will is manifest.

Yet what happens the moment after? Can a single moment of timeless clarity and unity of action and purpose still possess for us meaning even after that moment has passed? Torah provides us with two answers: "And the people murmured against Moses, saying: 'What shall we drink?'" (ibid 15:24) On the one hand the answer is no: Immediately following the splitting of the sea the Israelites grow contentious at the first sign of adversity. Unable to maintain the spiritual "high" they experienced at the sea, they sink into bitterness when G-d's nearness seems obscured. But the Torah also points to a different response: "And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground." (ibid 14:22) Walking in "the midst of the sea," in the midst of G-d's intervention into our lives, it is only natural to sing G-d's praises and feel His presence. But what about when we are back on "dry ground," when G-d isn't visibly splitting seas and drowning Egyptians on our behalf? How can we maintain that faith and clarity of purpose even in our lesser moments?

"O bring them and plant them On the mountain of Your inheritance. The place You dwell in Is Your accomplishment, God. The sanctuary of G-d which Your hands have established." (ibid 15:17) By seeing and focusing on the purpose and goal of the exodus from Egypt: the building for G-d a sanctuary, a house in which His presence will dwell, in the holy city of Jerusalem, the people were empowered to experience His immediate presence in their lives. When the people lost that focus they grew weak and vulnerable, and, as the Torah tells us: "Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim." (ibid 17:8) Loss of vision brought on weakness. Weakness brought on adversity. So the answer to the question, "Can a single moment of timeless clarity and unity of action and purpose still possess for us meaning even after that moment has passed?" is an emphatic yes. But only by keeping our eye on the ultimate purpose of our liberation from slavery, to create from our own efforts a place in our world in which G-d's presence can dwell, can we continue to walk upon dry ground even as we walked in the midst of the sea. This is the secret to seeing G-d's presence in all creation, and ultimately transcending the limitations of our own mortality.

Join Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven on this week's TEMPLE TALK as they discuss the remarkable power of the splitting of the Sea of Reeds, the visionary nature of Miriam and the Israelite women, and a new vessel for the soon to be rebuilt Holy Temple, full of technological wonder and old time inspiration.

Click to hear:

Part 1
Part 2