Looking at the ocean, all we see is water.
The ocean is full of life. It is home to creatures of all sizes and shapes. Yet this abundant and diverse world, submerged beneath the surface, is hidden from our view. In fact, more than 95 percent of the underwater realm remains unexplored.
It is for this reason that the Kabbalists use the sea as a metaphor for the “concealed worlds.” The spiritual worlds are indeed full of spiritual life—angels, souls, energy, Divine light—yet they are concealed from our eyes. Dry land, by contrast, is a metaphor for reality as we perceive it. If something is tangible enough to be grasped by our five senses, then it is in the realm of “dry land.” If it is a spiritual reality that cannot be perceived with the naked eye, it is in the concealed world of the “sea.”
This explains the spiritual significance of the biblical story of the Splitting of the Sea. When the Children of Israel left Egypt, they were pursued by Pharaoh and the Egyptians and were trapped at the Red Sea. Miraculously, the sea split before them, and they traveled on dry land in the midst of the sea. The Egyptians followed, and the waters of the sea came crashing down upon them, drowning them.
One look at a map of the Middle East will show that the Jewish people, who were en route from Egypt to Mount Sinai, had no business being at the Red Sea—it’s completely out of the way. In fact, the Jewish people did not cross the sea; rather, they emerged from the sea on the same side they had entered, effectively making a U-turn.
So what was the purpose of the Splitting of the Sea? Was it just a way for G‑d to drown the Egyptian army? Couldn't G‑d have found an easier way to punish the Egyptians?The answer is that in order for the people to receive the Torah, they first needed to experience the Splitting of the Sea.
The sea represents that which is concealed. The sea represents the Divine energy within every created being. The sea represents the spark of holiness that is at the core of every creation.
When the sea split, when the waters were transformed into dry land, then the hidden core within every creation was revealed. As the sea split, all of the concealment of the world was torn open, exposing the truth of the oneness of G‑d. As the sea split, each and every individual experienced a Divine revelation, to the extent that the Talmud teaches that “a maidservant at the sea was able to see what the prophet Ezekiel was unable to see.”2
When we received the Torah at Sinai, we were charged with the mission to connect the physical and the spiritual, the mundane and the holy, the earthly and the Divine. But how is that even possible? They seem to be polar opposites.
The Splitting of the Sea explains it all.
Before G‑d could command the people to connect the physical and the spiritual, they first had to experienced the Splitting of the Sea, the tearing open of the concealment. They had to understand that the hidden core of all of creation is indeed the Creator. They had to realize that, in truth, the physical is nothing more than concealed spirituality. Every creation craves to be used as a vessel for a mitzvah, craves to be reunited with its Divine source.
To split the sea in the world around us, we must first split our own sea. We must first expose the hidden reality of our soul. And then we’ll discover that the world around us is disguising a deeper truth, a truth waiting to be revealed.
When the Torah tells the story of the Splitting of the Sea, the Torah emphasizes that the waters of the sea became protective walls for the Jewish people. This is not just a physical description, but a metaphor for our souls. As finite beings, we tend to see things in black and white. We often define ourselves in terms of what we can do and can’t do. We tell ourselves that there are certain things we are capable of doing, we’re good at, and we’re comfortable striving for. Then are the things we believe to be beyond our grasp. The things that are inconsistent with our nature, ability and inclination. We have a long list of things, we tell ourselves, that we cannot accomplish.
The Torah teaches us that as the sea split, as the hidden world came to light, the core of the soul was also unveiled. At that moment of revelation, the Jewish people realized that the soul defies definition. They realized that they could express themselves in opposite ways; they could excel in contrasting fields. They could be introverts as well as extroverts, scholars as well as people of action. Both the “right side” and the “left side” are protective walls. A soul is not limited to a single form of expression. A soul cannot be boxed into one model of achievement. As soon as we reveal our essence, there is nothing that we cannot achieve.
The stories of the Torah are not merely stories about the past; they are the stories of our lives. To achieve the purpose of our creation, we too must experience the three most fundamental events of Jewish history: the Exodus, the Splitting of the Sea, and the Giving of the Torah.
Each and every day, we have the opportunity to escape our Egypt. To escape the enslavement to our perceived limitations. Each and every day, we receive the Torah at Sinai, empowering us to connect creation to its Creator, to reveal the hidden core of the physical. To do so, however, we must first reveal the inner core of our soul, we must split our own sea, reveal our hidden truth, and discover that our essence is indeed limitless.
We must reveal the hidden spark of infinity within our souls.
by Menachem Feldman