Parshas Bishalach:
Levels of Faith

by Rabbi Mordechai Raizman      

In the process of redemption, we find two stages; the ten plagues, followed by the climax, the splitting of the Red Sea. Why was it necessary to go through two stages. Surely Hashem could do what he wants, wouldn't ten plagues suffice?

In Chapter 14 verse 31, the Torah states, "The Jews saw the great hand of Hashem in Egypt, and the people revered Hashem, and they had faith in Hashem and in Moshe, his servant." At this point in time, the Jews were standing by the sea, what does it mean they saw the great hand of Hashem in Egypt?

There are two fundamental principles of faith in Hashem. Firstly, that He created the world. Secondly, after creation, that He is still in touch with the world & guides it behind the scenes. The first stage of faith was reached in Egypt with the ten plagues. There is a God that is omnipotent. One might still ask, does He really know everything that is going on in the world now? Is he paying attention to every detail?

When the Egyptians were drowning, the Jews were singing a song of praise to Hashem, describing the justice done to their enemies. Rashi (chap 15 verse 8) points out there are three different descriptions of the drowning of the Egyptians, like stone, like lead, and like straw, each one representing different punishments to different groups of people. The most wicked ones drowned like straw, stirring about, rising and descending before dying. The average ones drowned like stone. The relatively decent ones drowned like lead, they sunk and died immediately.

After witnessing how each Egyptian received exactly what he deserved according to his level of wickedness, it becomes undoubtedly clear that Hashem pays attention to every detail that goes on. Each person was repaid measure for measure, according to their wickedness.

To resolve the original question, why did it need to be this way? Could not everything have been accomplished all at once?

Our sages tell us that in Egypt we, as a nation sunk to a very low level. We worshipped idols just like the Egyptians. To suddenly snap back to a strong belief in Hashem was not realistic. The change had to be gradual, a little bit at a time until that faith became an integral part of us. Once that was accomplished we realized our goal of as the nation of Israel ready to accept the Torah and continue its study and observance throughout the generations.

Published and Jan 20, 1997 by the Chicago Community Kollel


If you have any questions or comments about this week's Parsha Encounters please email Rabbi Mordechai Raizman      




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