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What Bene Yisrael experienced after traversing the Yam Suf transcended the miraculous and enters the profound. The Splitting of the Sea left such a deep impression for eternity on the Jewish psyche that recalling this event prefaces the Shemoneh Esreh during morning and evening Shmoneh Esreh prayer. Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon ZT’L ZY’A taught in the Laws of Prayer (4:16) that when one recites Shemoneh Esreh one should envision these words are being said before the Shechina (D-vine Presence). Consequently, it would appear the Splitting of the Sea was and remains sufficiently profound to instantly inspire an awareness of G-D’s presence.
However, curiously according to the Talmud (Erachim 15a) Bene Yisrael are called people of little faith, rebelling against G-D both before entering the Yam Suf (Shemoth 14:11) and even in the Yam Suf itself as they emerged (Tehilim 106:7-8). The Bene Yisrael complained while passing through the dry sea floor “ . . . [A]s we ascend from the sea, so too the Egyptians shall ascend from a different route . . . .” It was not until the bodies of the dead Egyptians were washed up on sea shore did the Torah state” And Israel saw the great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians; and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.” (Shemoth 14:31)
This is fascinating even after all Bene Yisrael witnessed, the arrival of a redeemer as foretold by Yossef, the plagues, the collected Egyptian wealth as well as leaving Egypt all supernatural events, things that rationally have no rational explanation. Yet with all these recent shared experiences were not enough to fully inspire those who left Egypt. Indeed the Ohr HaChaim ZT’L ZY’A commenting on 14:31 opined that at the Splitting of the Sea it was not that this was when Bene Yisrael came to faith, they believed albeit on an immature level . Till now Bene Yisrael’s fear of Heaven was borne of fear from punishment now it developed in to awe. Bene Yisrael now were filled with awe of G-D’s majesty. Ibn Ezra ZT’L ZY’A (14:31) explains that now the nation realized this, G-D was the truth and that Moshe would not act except in fulfillment of G-D’s will. Rabbi Naftali Zvi Berlin’s ZT’L ZY’A Hamek Davar (14:31) Bene Yisrael had no doubts that what they had just seen and were seeing was the product of magic or practical Cabbala rather it clearly was the product of Providence. Both Onkales and Targum Yonatan Ben Uziel translate Bene Yisrael’s realizations as seeing “ . . the power of G-D’smighty hand . . . ,” meaning what Bene Yisrael saw was not limited the D-vine attribute of Gevurah, strength that is associated with judgment (see Nachmonidies 14:31) but implies something more all encompassing.
But how did seeing Egyptian bodies washing ashore inspire Bene Yisrael? Tosafoth (Erachim 15a K’Shem) explains Bene Yisrael’s concern. Bene Yisrael passed through the Yam Suf did not mean the nation crossed from side of the Yam Suf to the other. Rather the course Bene Yisrael was to travel would lead Bene Yisrael further down the same side of the Yam Suf so it would be very easy if not logical and reasonable for Egyptian forces to remain on the shore and to overtake Bene Yisrael attacking as Bene Yisrael exited the Yam Suf. Bene Yisrael’s concerns were not farfetched, the danger was was close at hand. Bene Yisrael saw threat approaching the threat looked very real. Instead, Bene Yisrael not only no longer saw the Egyptians pursuing them rather their corpses washed up on the shore. At that moment everything came together all the puzzle pieces fell into place. At that moment, Bene Yisrael had seared into the national psyche the depth of D-vine involvement in human affairs generally and Jewry in particular.
Therefore, it is fitting then that the Ah Ha moment when Bene Yisrael reached a clarity of faith should serve as the paradigm for the attitude and mindset for prayer.