It was only a week after the Jewish Nation left Egypt in dramatic fashion, that they found themselves lost in the desert, in a seemingly hopeless situation facing annihilation. The remainder of the Egyptian army is rapidly approaching with Phaaroh on the front lines, and they clearly mean business. Before them is the Sea of Reeds. The Jewish people panic and Moshe turns to God.
And, as we all know, perhaps the most magnificent scene in all of Torah and perhaps all of Jewish history unfolds as the Jewish people jump in to the sea which then splits for them, providing them shelter, food and water as the Jews climb to an unparalleled level of prophecy.
This display of the splitting of the water carries deep significance and a great lesson for the Jewish nation that crossed and us who learn this story for all future generations.
The dual power of water is discussed by our Sages. The great Kabbalists teach that all of man's character traits are connected to the four elements of earth, fire, water and wind. On the negative side, fire is anger, earth is laziness and sadness, wind is idle talk and light-headedness, and water is lust. On the positive side, fire is inner strength, earth is happiness and simplicity, wind is silence, and water is the passion for spirituality.
The duality is fascinating. Just as water, in the proper measure and with the proper boundaries, brings life and goodness, but when lacking boundaries can destroy the world, so can the trait of passion be the source of spiritual hunger, but when lacking boundaries turns to lust, the cause of so much pain and destruction.
Two completely different manifestations of one character trait; all depends on how we channel our passion. If we set boundaries in our lives and focus on getting our vitality from spiritual pursuits, all of that passion will generate inside us a thirst to become great. Without that focus, without those boundaries, that passion can drown us in an ocean of activities and pursuits that can never truly satisfy us.
We see this idea in a most fascinating way during the generation of Noah and the Flood. The commentaries teach us that the generation of the Flood had such great potential that they could have been the generation that received the Torah. But with greater potential comes greater challenges, and that generation fell into the grasp of lust that ultimately led to its destruction. That destruction came about by water, measure for measure for those misguided inner passions. The rains of the Flood were meant to wake the people up at first, to give them the message that these very waters can be channeled to rains of blessing but can also destroy. When they chose not to listen, the rain waters did in fact wipe them out.
And it is surely no coincidence that the generation that did in fact receive the Torah was rescued from the hands of the pursuing Egyptians by the splitting of water! Clearly God was giving them that very same message. The last generation that could have received the Torah was destroyed by waters with no boundaries; this generation that will merit receiving the Torah will be saved by waters that understand their boundaries.
The Torah, itself, is often compared to water. Torah draws on the endless wellspring of passion and thirst that we have in our hearts and channels it towards greatness.
May God always watch over our physical and spiritual well being, setting boundaries for the physical waters so we shouldn't have to experience the trauma of the past few days again and helping us set boundaries for our spiritual waters so they will always be channeled and harnessed for life and for blessing.