Why all the Miracles? By Shmuel Sackett
Here’s a basic Jewish history question: From the time the Children of Israel left Egypt, until the time they entered the Promised Land, how many times did water split for them in a miraculous fashion, allowing them to cross from one side to the other? Answer: Two.
The first one is the famous “Splitting of the Sea” which we will read in the Torah on Shabbat:
“Moshe stretched out his hand over the sea, and Hashem moved the sea with a strong east wind… and the water split. The Children of Israel came within the sea on dry land; and the water was a wall for them, on their right, and on their left.” (Exodus 14:21-22)
Everyone is familiar with that one, but how many Jews saw the sequel: “Splitting of the Sea (actually, River) Part II”???
“Joshua said to the Children of Israel… ‘It shall happen. Just as the soles of the feet of the Kohanim… rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off… and they will stand as one column…and all Israel crossed on dry ground” (Joshua 3:9-17) – Translations by ArtScroll
That’s right… the water split twice! The first, led by Moshe, was the Red Sea (really the “Reed” Sea, but we’ll use the popular term) just 7 days after we left Egypt and the second one, led by Joshua, was 40 years later when we crossed the Jordan River. I have a simple question and it’s called – Why? What was the need for these two miracles? Hashem could have defeated the Egyptians in a different way and then let us cross the Red Sea by boat. The Jordan River is an even bigger question. A simple bridge could have been built since we are not talking about a major ocean. What’s the message being sent through these two, almost identical, miracles?
The answer comes down to how we define two crucial concepts in the world of Jewish life: “Emunah” and “Bitachon”. The basic translations of these words are usually; “Belief” and “Faith”. I have seen them translated as both, so what’s the difference? Are they just synonyms or do they actually mean something completely different from one another?
Rabbi Meir Kahane ztz”l wrote an amazing book called “Ohr Ha’Ra’ayon” (The Jewish Idea) which, among other things, addresses this exact point. On page 178 he writes the following (translation is mine): “The concept of Emunah includes also the concept of Bitachon, although they are two different sides of one idea… Emunah is having absolute knowledge about the past; that Hashem created the world and performed miracles for our people, such as the splitting of the sea and everything else in the Bible, while Bitachon is the action that results from that knowledge; the admission and total belief that just like Hashem did these great miracles in the past, He will also perform them for us in the future!”
Summary; Emunah – is belief in the past – that all the stories we read about our Forefathers, Moshe, King David and Queen Esther are 100% true while Bitachon is belief in the future. Just like Hashem did miracles for our Nation in the past, He will also be there for us in the future as well!!! I cry when I realize how much Emunah we have yet how little Bitachon we have…
In my opinion, this is why Hashem split the water twice. As you know, the generation entering the Land of Israel was not the same generation that left Egypt, outside of a few exceptions. Hashem was teaching us this concept way back then. It was as if He was saying to the young Jewish nation about to enter the land: “Have no fear, for the same miracles that I performed for your fathers (emunah), I will also perform for you (bitachon). I split the sea for your fathers (emunah) so I also split the river for you (bitachon). The same is true with your enemies. I defeated any nation that threatened your fathers (emunah) and I will do the exact same thing for you as well (bitachon).”
And now comes our turn. How many of us cheer the stories of King David smashing the Jewish enemy or Shimshon taking revenge on the Philistines or Mordechai and Esther defeating Haman and his army… yet cringe in fear when some Ayatollah in Iran talks about nuking Israel??? That is a classic example of believing in the past – even celebrating it with holidays such as Purim – but having little or no belief that what was done then will also be done now. The Jewish enemy changes only his/her name but in the end, they all suffer the same fate.
The modern State of Israel is another example of the “splitting of the sea” and I believe that just as Hashem destroyed the Egyptians and Amalekites and Midianites and Romans and Philistines, He will also destroy Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and the fanatics who run Iran. Yes, we need to do our part – as our people did throughout Jewish history. Our ancestors never stood on the sidelines… they were always involved in the main battle and we must do that as well! This is why we support a strong and proud IDF!
So much is spoken and written these days about Emunah but I beg to differ. What is needed is Bitachon – strength and resolve in the future – and the courage to take on those challenges and make a difference in bringing the redemption closer. Have no fear my brothers and sisters. The water has been split – let’s cross to the other side and make it happen!