This week's parsha
A Glimpse Beyond the Veil
Life can seem very confusing. The struggle to get from one stage to another, even from one day to the next, can seem meaningless. The Torah perspective is that there is indeed deep and beautiful meaning at every step of our lives: but that sense of meaning is often hidden. It is veiled, covered, like a new and exciting invention which is concealed by a large flowing cloth at the beginning of its first public appearance. The crowds are standing there, feeling expectant. The journalists are ready with their poised cameras. Then the veil is drawn aside, and one hears an involuntary gasp from the crowd…
The Splitting of the Sea was something like this, and more. On the one hand it was an astonishing expression of G‑d's power. More than any of the ten Plagues, this showed that G‑d is master of nature, and that He can eradicate evil completely. After the destruction of the Egyptian army in the Sea, the threat of Egypt disappeared completely. For several centuries the Jews did not have to worry about Egypt as a political force.
Another aspect of the Splitting of the Sea is that it revealed the Infinity of the Divine to every individual. The Sages tell us that the simplest person who was present at the Splitting of the Sea experienced visions more profound than did the greatest Prophets of old.
The Sea represents the realm of that which is hidden, since the waters conceal everything beneath the waves. Splitting the Sea, and revealing the dry land on which the Jews could walk, expresses the idea that the hidden realms become in some way revealed and accessible. Experiencing this event had a tremendous effect on each person, and prepared them for the greatest experience of all time: the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, which took place six weeks later. The Torah comes from the inward hiddenness of G‑d. At Sinai the hiddenness of G‑d was made accessible to every man and woman, bonding them as Jews together and to G‑d, throughout the generations. The Splitting of the Sea was a preparation for this.
Once that kind of experience has taken place, the person knows that there is meaning, beauty and holiness. The fact that this meaning and beauty is hidden at the moment, by a veil, a cloth, or a heap of rubble, does not matter. One knows what one's task is: to go forward, step by step.
The struggle which might be involved in this endeavour itself has meaning. This was explained by the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Schneersohn, in a remarkable tract called Bati LeGani, "I have Come into My Garden." The purpose of existence is to achieve a dwelling for the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, in our physical realm. This began to be achieved at the time of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but due to their sin, the Shechinah receded from the world. The task of the Jewish people is to bring the Shechinah back, through our daily lives in fulfilment of the teachings of the Torah.
Sometimes this can seem very difficult. But one of the deep qualities within our personalities is Netzach, the determination and resolve to achieve victory. Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak tells us that when we struggle for something good, with all our effort, we break through to an exalted sense of revelation of the Divine. This is the Divine aid which is granted to us, so that we can move forward to the Redemption, when, as at the Giving of the Torah and the Splitting of the Sea, the veil will finally be drawn aside, and for all humanity, infinite beauty, goodness and holiness will be revealed.