Parshat Beshalach teaches us about Kriyat Yam Suf, the miraculous Parting of the Sea of Reeds as well as the song Moshe and the Jewish people sang in praise, gratitude, awe and love for God’s deliverance. However, before this occurs, the people stand in fear for their lives – trapped between a raging sea before them and a ruthless army behind them. The people cry out to Moshe, and he beseeches God’s help. Directly, God tells Moshe, “Speak to the Children of Israel and let them travel” (Shemot 14:15). According to Rav Soloveitchik, God’s instruction teaches us something very important about how He intervenes in human affairs. Says, the Rav, “There are two types of divine intervention: one in which man plays no role, and one where man takes the initiative and God becomes a partner in the enterprise. One would assume that God should be thanked more for the former than the latter. Yet, the more man participates in the effort, the more he must thank the Creator. Our gratitude is increased because we must bless God for the privilege of allowing us to be His partner” (Chumash Mesoret HaRav, Parshat Beshalach 14:15). Consider the roles God and the Jewish people play in the Exodus itself. God is active while the people are passive. Indeed, the people do not aid or contribute to God’s miracles in any way. That being said, after witnessing all of the wonders wrought by God and God alone upon Egypt, neither Moshe nor the people sang any songs of praise and gratitude to their Redeemer. Instead, it took a whole week after they had left Egypt, upon the splitting of Yam Suf, for Moshe and the people to finally sing. Why did the Jewish people wait so long to sing and give thanks?
According to the Rav, “The reason lies in the fundamental difference between the Exodus from Egypt and the splitting of [Yam Suf]. God did not have, nor did He seek, man’s assistance (in the Exodus) … The Jews were to remain in their homes, eat of the paschal lamb, and watch as events unfolded. In such a case, the expression of gratitude was attenuated. In contrast, at the splitting of [Yam Suf], the Creator offered the Israelites a role in their own redemption. He required a leap of faith: a jump into the water prior to the parting of the sea (Sotah 36-37a). The shock of cold water, the fear of drowning, became Israel’s minute ‘contribution’ to the miracle. At that moment they become partners with God, and as a result Moshe and the people full-throatedly sang the majestic Az Yashir in gratitude” (Ibid.).
God works in our lives in various ways – subtlety and openly. However, the greatest feeling of closeness to God that we can experience is in those moments when we feel like we have done our part in partnering with our Creator. It is in these moments, when we act with God, that we can experience the fullness of redemption, and therefore, can sing openly and unabashedly in gratitude and love. It is true, when something is done for someone freely, with no expectations placed upon them, they may feel less appreciation than if that person had worked in some way to meet their goal. Partnering with God is the finest and fullest way to feel close to our Maker, enabling us to experience gratitude and love. This Shabbat, consider the joys you wish to experience. Consider to love you wish to share. Consider the gratitude you wish to impart. Consider the song you wish to sing, and know, that as you do your part in bringing about your own redemption – through word and deed, God will do His, so that you may declare, as the Jewish people did those many years ago, “I will sing to the Lord, for exalted is He…This is my God…” (Shemot 15:1-2).