Secret of Splitting the Sea

Free translation and adaptation from a discourse of
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi
Parshat Beshalach, 5567 (1807)

by Rabbi David Rothschild

Part 1


Part 2 (of 2)

II. Sea Breach

Open Womb

"The Children of Israel walked on dry land in the midst of the sea" (Exodus 14:29). The most significant factor in the verse is that the sea became dry land . Prior to this event, The Higher Sea - Supernal Speech - hid the Divine Lights of Emanation. Now the order of Creation was miraculously altered. A state of concealment was transformed into one of revelation. The Higher Sea split open, revealing its hitherto concealed lights. Corresponding to this celestial occurrence was the splitting of the physical sea and it's transformation to dry land.

Now, for the first time since Creation, all the higher lights of the World of Emanation could shine in a revealed manner down into the three Lower Worlds of Creation, Formation and Action. For when the Higher Sea split, the screen that had prevented such a revelation, vanished. With the curtain of Supernal Speech removed, the light of Emanation's Will, Intelligence and Emotions shone freely below.

Kabbala uses a different metaphor for the Splitting of the Sea. The Ari Zal describes the state prior to the Spitting as 'pregnancy', while the condition brought about by the Splitting is called 'birth'.

Souls in the World of Emanation had been inter-included within the attribute of Kingship of that world. Similar to an embryo's inter-inclusion with its mother, these souls were hidden within the Higher Sea -Kingship.

When the sea split, these souls emerged into revelation down in the Three Lower Worlds. This new condition is allegorized as 'birth'. Thus, the name chosen for this event is the Spitting of the Sea; similar to the act of birth, where the opening of the womb allows souls to enter the world.

Mount Sinai

Now we can understand why the Splitting of the Sea was an indispensable precondition for the receiving of the Torah. By traversing the sea breach, the Israelites realized a new state of being. Without this benefit, they wouldn't have been able to receive the Torah.

What, though, did the receiving of the Torah actually entail? G-d's Infinite Light shone down in a revealed manner. First it entered His attribute of Supernal Wisdom - Wisdom of Emanation. From there His Light descended into His attribute of the Lower Wisdom, also called the sefirah of Kingship. In Kingship reside the collective souls of the Jewish People. The Zohar calls this spiritual abode The Congregation of Israel (Knesset Israel). Jewish souls obtained G-d's Infinite Light from Supernal Wisdom. That's why G-d's transmission on Mt. Sinai is called not only the Giving of the Torah, but also called the Receiving of the Torah.

The novel nature of this revelation is identical to what happened at the Splitting of the Sea. There, the screen separating Emanation from the Three Lower Worlds lifted, allowing Emanation's Infinite Lights to shine below. Likewise, the Splitting of the Sea permitted G-d's Infinite Light to descend to the Seat of Jewish souls.

Outer Torah

Moses and the Israelites, though, only received the Infinite Light in Supernal and Lower Wisdom for the purpose of performing the commandments. On Mount Sinai we were given the Revealed Torah. This Torah's purpose is to instruct us how to carry out the commandments in actual practice. As the verse says, "Today to do them" (Deuteronomy 7:11). And the learning of Torah is equated to their performance. All of this is contained in the Revealed Torah, which descended below to the physical world -the Revealed World - specifically into material objects.

G-d's Wisdom came down to become enclothed in an external manifestation: the 248 positive commandments and 365 negative mitzvahs all make use of earthly objects.

Inner Torah

But the inner aspect of the Torah wasn't revealed on Mount Sinai. Only in the Future Era will the Messiah make it known. Thus the Talmud reveals, "Tomorrow you will receive their reward." Only then will the secret reasons behind every mitzvah be revealed.

Today, these secrets are concealed in the highest realms of Divinity. They are above even the supernal World of Emanation. Moses never saw them, as it is written, "You won't see my Face" (Exodus 33:23). The Hebrew word for face also translates as "inner.'

These inner truths are sequestered in the Absolute Essence of G-d, within the innermost attribute of Concealed Delight. The Zohar identifies this level as, "Concealment, hidden therein, and impossible to be revealed." The Zohar refers to it as Hidden Paradise, as the verse says, "Eyes can't see it; only G-d can" (Isaiah 64:3).

King Solomon prophesized, "He will kiss me with the kisses of His mouth" (Song of Songs 1:2). Rashi informs us that the verse refers to the secrets of the Torah that only the Messiah can reveal. As Isaiah said of King Messiah, "My servant will enlighten, he shall be exalted and acclaimed, and be very elevated" (Isaiah 52:13). The verse tells us that G-d's Absolute Essence will shine in King Messiah. And through him the secret reasons of the mitzvahs will be made known to all of the Jewish People. The Hebrew word for reason (tam) also translates as taste or delight. King Messiah will reveal, for the first time, G-d's Innermost Delight hidden within the Torah.


[Rabbi David Rothschild, a resident of Tsfat, is the founder and editor of Nefesh Magazine.]


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