Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky
Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky

After Krias Yam Suf - Where Do We Go From Here?

Immediately following krias yam suf (the splitting of the Red Sea) the Jewish people became frustrated because they lacked water in the desert. The water they did find was bitter and not drinkable until G-d instructed Moshe to throw wood in the water to sweeten it. Chazal interpret this lack of water in a spiritual sense as well as a physical sense. The Torah tells us that the Jewish people traveled three days without water after leaving Yam Suf (the Red Sea). Chazal understand this to mean that the Jews went three days without Torah – the spiritual "water" – and this caused them to complain against G-d. To prevent three days from passing without Torah, Chazal instituted krias HaTorah on Monday, Thursday, and Shabbos.

This symbolic understanding of the story seems dificult. The Jewish people are criticized for traveling three days without Torah, however at this time they had not yet received the Torah! Furthermore, it is difficult to understand the meaning of the aforementioned "bitter water" if we interpret this story in a symbolic sense.

The Kli Yakar offers an insight into the symbolic meaning of the events surrounding the bitter water. The Jewish people, having experienced krias Yam Suf, just witnessed the climax of Yetsias Mitzraim, whose ultimate purpose, as they knew, was to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. The correct response to Krias Yam Suf was an eager desire to get to Mount Sinai. Yet,we find the exact opposite occurred. Chazal tell us that Moshe had to drag the Jewish people away from the riches of the Egyptians that floated to the shore of the Yam Suf. Even when they finally began their journey away from Yam Suf, they traveled slowly without anticipation. They were criticized for going three days without Torah because they should have begged G-d to give them the Torah immediately. They couldn't be punished for not learning Torah yet since they had not yet received it,but they could be rebuked for not asking to receive it sooner.

What caused this delay in the receiving of the Torah? The Kli Yakar explains that the fear of something new overcame the Jewish people. All beginnings are hard, and this trepidation to begin something new prevented them from running to Mount Sinai. They viewed the Torah as something difficult which would be bitter, and therefore delyaed their trip to Mount Sinai.

Moshe was instructed to show them that although the Torah may appear difficult at first, perhaps even bitter, it will turn sweet as soon as one accepts it.

This lesson of the events following Krias Yam Suf speaks to each of us. As Pesach somes to and end and each of us has experienced Yetsias Mitsraim and Krias Yam Suf another year, hiw do we approach the Yom Tov of Shavuos? Do we delay in our commitment to life of Torah and Mitzvot because we are afraid it will be too hard, or do we get ready to approach Shavuous and Kabbolas HaTorah with enthusiasm? This is the challenge for each of us as Pesach draws to a close.

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