And the Children of Israel came into the sea on dry land, and the waters were for them a wall on the right and on the left" (14:22).
And the Children of Israel came into the sea on dry land, and the waters were for them a wall on the right and on the left" (14:22).The Hebrew word for wall, choma, is written here with the letter vav in its maleh, or complete form.
"And the Children of Israel went on dry land into the sea, and the waters were for them a wall on the right and on the left" (14:29). Here, the word choma is written without the letter vav in its chaser, or deficient form.
Many of the commentators were bothered by the two glaring differences in these two otherwise synonymous. Verse 22 states that the Children of israel entered the sea on dry land. Verse 29 inverses the syntactical order, first mentioning that it was dry land, and then stating that they entered the sea. Furthermore, the first verse writes choma in its maleh (complete) form, while the second writes it chaser (incomplete). Why the differences? The Kli Yakar, one of the leading Polish rabbis of the early 17th-century and a popular commentator on the Torah, answers that the first verse is speaking about those members of the Jewish people who had complete and total faith in Hashem. They entered the sea, even though it had not yet split. Nevertheless, they believed that Hashem would save them, and indeed, as they entered the sea, it parted for them. It was for those who had complete faith that the walls holding back the sea on either side were strong, protecting them from the raging waters. Hence, the choma of the first verse relating to the faithful is written maleh.
On the other hand, those that didnt believe in Hashem waited for the sea to first split, and entered only after the dry land appeared. They are the group referred to in the second verse. Because of their lack of faith, the walls holding back the sea "threatened" to give way, to drown them along with the Egyptians. The Torah expresses this by writing choma in the second verse chaser. If read as written, it would say chema, meaning anger. This means to say that the waters were "angry", as their judgment hung in the balance, whether to be saved with the rest of the Children of Israel or to be drowned with the Egyptians.
Our hope and prayer is that we should be counted amongst the faithful in the first verse, rather than with the faithless of the second.
Michael Alterman, who hails from Atlanta, is currently a sophomore at Yeshiva University in New York.
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