January 23, 2016 – י”ג שבט תשע”ו
In Shemos 14:2, Hashem tells Moshe to camp before the idol of Ba’al Tzafon, near the city of Pi Chiros. Rashi raises the question: G-d destroyed all of the Egyptian idols during the final plague, so how could this idol remain? He answers by saying that G-d wished to mislead the Pharaoh and the Egyptians, in that, when they saw the idol, they would assume that this idol is greater than Hashem and therefore attack the Jews, confident that Ba’al Tzafon would protect them.
Later on (Shemos 14:21), we find that G-d made a wind blow onto the Yam Suf the night before it split. The Ramban asks what the purpose of this wind was, and responds by giving, in essence, the same response as Rashi above. G-d created this wind in order to give the Egyptians an opportunity to interpret the results of the splitting in a way that ignored His intervention for the Hebrew nation. The Ibn Ezra suggests that the wind kept blowing throughout the entire time that the sea was split, giving the Egyptians an even better case to reject the G-dly origin and initiation of the occurrence. The Ramban adds a further question in this case. While a strong, cold wind can indeed dry up and freeze rivers, the event was still a miracle: winds do not normally split entire seas. Surely, this would have clued the recalcitrant foes of Israel to recognize the presence of an omnipotent G-d and stop giving chase. The Ramban gives a key insight into humanity’s relationship with Hashem. We constantly desire to flee from recognizing G-d in order to relieve ourselves of the incumbent and accompanying responsibilities.
We see from these the capacity of the human being for self-deception. When humans come face to face with a situation in which we have the potential to rationalize away any wrongdoing by attributing events to nature or chance, we will leap at it. Rashi, the Ramban, and all of the other commentaries cited hint at our obligation, as the antithesis of the Egyptians, to do the opposite. While the Egyptian army did not recognize even an explicit miracle as being the word of G-d on the flimsiest pretext, we must understand that in every happening, and “random” incident is the hand of G-d, without whom, Chazal tell us, not even a leaf falls from its tree.