The Sea That Would Not Split
Rabbi Dov Nossel, M.D.
"You Moshe lift your stick and split the Yam Suf". On this verse, the Midrash says that Moshe told the Yam Suf to split and it answered, "You have no authority over me. Go to the Nile River where you are the ruler." Moshe told Hashem what had happened. Hashem answered, "When a servant refuses to obey his master he beats him with a rod. Lift your staff and strike the water and it will split." Moshe struck the Yam Suf, which adamantly refused to split. Then Hashem Himself came down. When the Yam Suf recognized Hashem’s approach, it split immediately… (Tzenah Urenah Parshas Beshalach)
What is it about the Yam Suf that left us alive and the Egyptians dead?
The Yam Suf would not split for Moshe Rabbeinu because to master over it is dependent on one thing, a realization that crossing the Yam Suf is really beyond our own natural abilities. Whereas the Nile River can be mastered, bridged, damned and controlled by man, the Yam Suf cannot.
Bnei Yisroel needed to receive supernatural abilities to cross the Yam Suf. The word sea –Yam- has a gematria of 50. The number 50 represents Jubilee, freedom, escape from the limits of the 49 levels of physicality. We must reach the end of our abilities before achieving success as a gift from above for Yisroel to succeed as a nation and distinguish ourselves from the other nations.
The Gemara in Megillah (6b) says
If a person says to you, "I toiled and I did not find success" don’t believe him. If he says, "I did not toil and yet I found success" don’t believe him If he says, "I did toil and I succeeded" believe him.
The Hebrew root for the word "toil" is yaga, which connotes exhaustion. This means to reach the end of one’s abilities. The Hebrew root for the word "found" is matza, which implies a perchance unexpected finding.
Therefore the Gemara teaches us that the way to acquire Torah is first to toil, not merely to work hard, but to work until we feel we’ve reached the end of our abilities, our "dead end" point. It is then and only then that the waters of the Yam Suf split unexpectedly as Hakodesh Baruch Hu Himself opens up the a new path of understanding previously beyond our grasp.
This is the secret of the splitting of the Yam Suf. This is the secret of the success of Yisroel over Mitzrayim. And this too is the secret of success in yegias HaTorah (toiling in Torah).