I was deeply moved recently as I read a beautiful piece in the sefer Nefesh Hachaim at the end of the first gate, chapter nine, and the accompanying commentary of Rav Bentzion Epstien (Feldheim hebrew edition of Nefesh Hachaim pp. 98-101).
Rav Chaim Volozhin explains the deep idea that Hashem set up the world in such a way that all that He wishes to give to the world is completely dependant on our actions. Hashem acts precisely corresponding to how we act.
With this premise Reb Chaim explains why Hashem told Moshe specifically not to pray when the Jews stood next to the sea of reeds. Rather Hashem told him to speak to the people and have them move into the sea. With this display of absolute trust, they would merit an ‘awakening from above’ that would bring about the miracle of the splitting of the sea.
In explanation of this, Rav Epstein brings down the Gr”a (who was R’ Chaim’s rebbe) who says that prayer would not help them at this juncture because in order for the miracle to occur, there had to be a breakthrough to the highest spiritual dimension. This dimension is one that is not dependant on actions from below but is a dimension of complete mercy, irrespective of one deserving that mercy. The prayers that they would offer would have no effect in that dimension, and thus they were to hold off on prayer at that time.
Rav Epstein goes on to explain (based on Rashi) that when the Jews stood next to the sea, they were actually being judged at that time whether they would be saved or drowned. The angel of Egypt claimed that both the Jews and the Egyptians served idolatry. If they had been judged with strict justice, they could not have made it. Prayer would not get them past that level.
So how would they be able to access the dimension above judgment, the dimension of absolute mercy?
Moshe was directed to leave any and all types of hishtadlus (concrete efforts) and to instead have the people do something which showed their absolute faith in Hashem’s miracles. Acting in a manner which was למעלה מן הטבע – above nature – would ensure that Hashem would behave with them in a way that was above nature. When they showed their willingness to jump into the sea, a place impossible to sustain life, which was completely unnatural, and listen to Hashem’s command, that action was reflected in Hashem’s supernatural response, which was to split the sea.
In short, the way they were able to access that supernatural dimension of absolute mercy was by showing their absolute trust and faith in Hashem. That opened them to the sublime level where mercy is shown irrespective to one’s level of deservedness.
Unbelievably, Rav Epstein brings numerous sources for the idea that one can merit salvation from Hashem even if one is evil, just by stepping back and placing one’s complete trust in Hashem! To prove this point he brings the passuk in Tehillim (107:17) that says, “Fools will be pained from the path of their iniquity, they that eat from their despicable desires will reach the gates of death. They will call out to Hashem from their difficulty and He will save them from their desperation.” We are clearly talking about a great רשע (evil person) here, and nevertheless, when he calls out to Hashem, he is immediately saved!
Finally he quotes the famous meditation of Rav Chaim Volozhin (Nefesh Hachaim third gate, chapter twelve) where one focuses completely on the fact that Hashem is God, and there is no other but Him. If one constantly focuses on this idea, no evil power in the world can affect him. This goes hand in hand with the previous idea that when one trusts completely in Hashem, he can rise above the level of strict judgment and access the dimension of pure mercy.
The reason this whole concept hit home for me was because we find that exactly the level that was needed to be accessed there at the splitting of sea is the same dimension we need to access for the miracles of Geulah. Thus, if we want to access this level, we need to learn from Hashem’s directive to Moshe. We need to show our complete trust in Hashem, and also be ready to act in ways past our natural comfort level. By doing so, we will merit the supernatural miracles of Geulah, and they will bring down this unbelievable level of pure mercy.
I think it is so important to stress that this type of mercy is one that is shown whether we as a people are meritorious or not from any other perspective. Our collective emunah raises us above our level – even if we are similar in many ways to the culture around us, we can rise above it by displaying our supernatural trust in Hashem.
To me, if one looks at the type of sacrifice and trust that is necessary to live here in Eretz Yisrael, there is no greater show of a readiness to live by the ideals of emunah and bitachon. There are so many reasons not to be here, but those who make the sacrifice are opening the Jewish people up to the highest revelation of Hashem’s mercy and the ultimate miracles of redemption.
The truth is that this type of emunah can be activated wherever one is. The greater the show of faith in Hashem, the greater the effect will be to bring about miracles.
This is why the final tikkun before Moshiach is working on emunah and bitachon. The more we attach ourselves to this middah, the more we will be able to merit the unconditional mercy accompanying the miracles of Moshiach, not just for ourselves, but even for those who may be less deserving than we are. May we all merit to see the day soon. Amen!