Prior to Krias Yam Suf,
HaShem admonishes Moshe: "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to go."
There’s no need for tefilah. Rashi explains that the sea would split in
the merit of their forefathers and the merit that they believed in HaShem and
followed Him into the wilderness. But then, when the Torah tells us that the
waters were a wall on the right and left of them, the word for wall, chomah,
is written without a vav, rendering it as chaimah, anger.
Why anger? Because the entire night that they were encamped at the sea, there
was a judgment going on in shamayim over whether they should be drowned
or not. The angel of Egypt said, elu v’elu ovdei avodah zarah—the
Israelites were idolators like the Egyptians. They deserve to die in the sea as
much as the Egyptians. The whole night there was a din, and only in the
morning did HaShem decide to save us. It appears to be a contradiction: did we
have a long-standing merit or not?
In answer to this question, I wish to say that there are
really three aspects to Krias Yam Suf, each totally independent of the
other. Normally, we think of it as one great event, the splitting of the sea to
save us and destroy them. But the splitting of the sea is one thing; the Jews
going through is a second thing; the drowning of the Egyptians is a third thing.
As we say in the Haggadah, “If He had split the sea and not
brought us through on dry land, dayeinu…If He had brought us through on
dry land and not drowned our enemies, dayeinu!” Each one was a separate
It could have happened that the sea would have split, but the
Jews wouldn’t go through. What would that have accomplished? V’yadatem ki ani
HaShem, and you shall know that I am G‑d. It would be a re-enactment of the
creation of dry land at the time of maaseh bereishis. Dayeinu.
If someone asks you, “Why did the Jews cross the sea?” The
answer is not, “To get to the other side.” Because actually they didn’t get to
the other side. They made a U-turn and came back to the same side. So it was
actually unnecessary to go into the sea at all. Now, if the Egyptians were also
punished at the same time, it made more of an impression. Measure for measure.
But even without that, there still would have been reason for splitting the sea.
And that’s what HaShem said to Moshe: You don’t have to daven
in order for the sea to split. The sea will split for Israel in the merit of
their emunah and the avos. Whether they are going to be saved or
not is another matter. Later on, when they’re in the middle of the sea, they
better daven well. Even if they are going to drown, they will have that merit
forever, that the sea will split in their merit. Whether the Jews will make it
to the other side, or whether the Egyptians will be drowned, are entirely
That’s the peshat in what Moshe Rabbeinu said: “B’az
chatasi; u’vaz ani mesaken. I sinned with the word az, I’m going to
correct it with the word az.” From the time Moshe came to Pharaoh, things
got worse, and he complained to HaShem, “Why have You made things worse?” Hashem
said to Moshe, “Do you only gauge success in terms of how it affects the Jewish
people positively? There’s another success that you had in going to Pharaoh. For
so many years My name wasn’t mentioned in the royal court. When you and Aharon
came in and said, ‘Thus says the G‑d of the Hebrews…HaShem nikra aileinu…’
to which Pharaoh responds ‘Who is HaShem,’ though he mentions My name
questioningly, he is still mentioning it. Isn’t all this a success? G‑d’s name
has been re-introduced into Pharaoh’s court. True, things got harder for the
Jews, but there was a tremendous success, too.”
So Moshe admitted, az chatasi, I didn’t fully
appreciate that you don’t calculate success only in terms of how it affects us,
but of how it affects the world. So he pledged to correct that mistake. Az
yashir Moshe. When did he sing those words? When the Jews were safely on the
other side of the sea? No. When he saw the sea split, that’s when he said it’s
time to sing. Even though there was no guarantee that the Jews weren’t going to
drown. But he understood and taught that even if they would not make it to the
other side, it was reason to sing because the miracle of the splitting of the
sea was a kiddush haShem. That was the tikkun on his chet.
Even if they would drown, there would be a great benefit in that the world would
recognize the presence of G‑d once again, and that’s reason to sing.