We arrived to one of those moments in Biblical narrative that are not only culminating, but special: the crossing of the sea of reeds, the Yam Suf. This crossing always gives rise to controversy. Did it happen? Didn't it? It is as if our entire belief, tradition and attachment to Judaism depend on whether or not the waters really parted.
Besides the findings of presumably Egyptian carriages at the bottom of the sea, back in September 2010, there was a study saying that, would the easterly wind blow at a certain angle over the bend of Yam Suf, then it could be that the waters receded almost completely. Therefore, if the east wind that indeed exists in that area ceased, the waters would soon return to their course. This was intended to verify that this alleged miracle could have occurred naturally.
This is exactly what the Torah account is talking about. It says that Moshe stood in front of the sea, stretched out his hand and the waters, not that they parted on their own, but the Kadosh Baruch Hu sent a wind to shake them, and so it happened. Then, when the people concluded the crossing, the waters returned to their course.
It seems that they were two parallel stories.
We are always trying to prove miracles—and we can see this one from two different points of view: one says that all natural forces stopped for a people to be free, that is, the Kadosh Baruch Hu suspended everything from its natural course for this to happen. This sounds childish, like the stories we were told when we were little, so that we would marvel with our eyes wide open and surprised.
But then comes science and tells us: no, there is an east wind. The one the Torah speaks of is the same one that exists and that the Lord manipulated.
This sounds more organic. The people were there at the right time, or the wind appeared at the right time when they were there.
There is a miracle: the people attended at the moment that they were surrounded by the Egyptians and facing the sea—and, suddenly, the easterly wind, that exists in the natural world, occurred.
So, it is the Kadosh Baruch Hu who manages nature (as well as our own), but we are the ones who must be ready at the right moment, seeing, receiving and perceiving that nature and that message or sign of the Kadosh Baruch Hu.
The Torah says that in Egypt there were otot, signs and moftim, wonders or portents. The otot are the signs that tell us that the Kadosh Baruch Hu is present, as in the case of the ninth plague, darkness, where He was there, present and challenging the authority of the Egyptian gods.
It was a sign, and not really a wonder, that darkness.
Now, the crossing of the sea, the opening of the waters, was it a marvel or a sign?
We can take it as the wonder or the miracle in which the People of Israel were passing between two amudei, two huge walls that surrounded them and then collapsed on the Egyptian people. It is a wonder, a miracle.
But we can also take it as a sign, like tefillin or shabbat, that the Lord is there for us.
Those signals that they send us have to do with being at the right time, doing the right thing. To conceive that quality of holiness and of spirituality when it is necessary to do it.
To trust that we can do it.
May we be able on this Shabbat Kodesh to perceive the signs that the Kadosh Baruch Hu gives us all the time in nature and in our daily life to achieve special moments in our lives.
Rabbi Gustavo Geier