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Parshas Beshalach (5772)

Of Prophets And Maidservants

This week, in synagogues all around the world, we will be reading the Torah portion of Beshalach in which we find the story of Krias Yam Suf, the Splitting of the Red Sea.

There is a famous passage in the Talmud in Sotah 2a which states that “it is as difficult for G-d to arrange a shidduch (match) between two people as it was for Him to split the Red Sea.”

Much ink has been spilled over the centuries by the great Talmudic commentators to explain the connection between marriage and the splitting of the sea. I would humbly like to offer my own novel interpretation:

One of the verses of the “Song by the Sea” that the Jewish people sang as they witnessed the great miracle of splitting the sea that G-d had performed on their behalf is: “This is my G-d and I will glorify Him ….” (see Exodus 15:2). The Midrash teaches that the revelation of G-d at the Splitting of the Sea was so clear to each and every Jew that they could actually point to Him with their finger and say this is my G-d. Even the lowliest maidservant witnessed G-d at that awesome moment to a greater degree than did the famous Jewish prophet Ezekiel in all his days. Of course the obvious question then is why is the maidservant just a maidservant – doomed to obscurity - while Ezekiel is considered one of our greatest prophets? Wasn't her prophecy even greater?

The great Baalei Mussar (teachers of Jewish ethics and character refinement) answer that the maidservant saw what she saw – and remained a maidservant. She never let herself grow from the experience. Ezekiel, on the other hand, may have witnessed a lower degree of Divine Revelation – but he used that opportunity to catapult himself to higher and higher levels of spirituality and connection to G-d.

This is the ‘difficulty’ in G-d’s splitting the sea. Whereas some people know how to capitalize on moments of revelation and inspiration and to grow from them immeasurably, many others simply remain maidservants – and squander away golden opportunities to change themselves for the better.

This same difficulty and challenge arises when a Jewish couple joins together under the chuppah to start a newly married life together. Will they use this new stage in their lives – as their slate is ‘wiped clean’ and they start fresh – as a catalyst for spiritual growth and change – or will they let this awesome moment pass them by and allow themselves to remain the same ‘maidservants’ they were before.

We all have our moments of inspiration in our lives – sometimes they are joyous occasions like the start of a new married life, or possibly a new baby. At other times they might be sad, as with the loss a close relative. The challenge is to make sure that we grow from all these awesome, life-changing moments – and become greater and more spiritually sensitive as a result.

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