“The waters were split, and the Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.” (Exodus 14:21-22)


There are different understandings of how the water split, from the p’shat – literal understanding —  that there was a wall of water on the left and one on the right and all the Israelites passed through dry land in between these walls, to an interpretation found in various midrashim that the sea split into twelve different paths, one for each of the twelve tribes.


Rabbi Eliezer said: “When God said, “Let the waters be gathered together” (Gen. 1:9), the waters congealed into twelve valleys, corresponding to the twelve tribes, and they were made into walls of water between each path, and the people could see one another, and they saw the Holy One, blessed be He, walking before them… ( Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer chapter 42)


Why would the sea split into twelve different paths? The traditional answer is that each tribe is different: they see the world differently, they have different strengths and experience even the same event in different ways. 


The Sfat Emet, a nineteenth century commentator, believes that the sea split into 600,000 paths, one for each Jew. In other words, although every Israelite was going through the same experience (leaving Egypt and crossing the sea), if asked what they had just experienced, they would have different perspectives. What this means for us is that not everyone will see things with the same eyes. 


We must acknowledge that there are many ways to see the same situation. In his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey writes “Seek first to understand then to be understood.”


When we are exposed to different perspectives, we grow. Being able to talk and to listen to others enriches our understanding and ultimately allows us to grow. 


As a community, we do not travel in separate lanes, but join together to journey through these challenging times. We are exposed to those who view things differently, so that we can learn from them. We dismantle the walls that separate us, so that we can see and hear the other. We won’t necessarily change our views of the world, but we will certainly be introduced to other views that contribute to our growth as human beings.


Just as every person or every tribe had their path, Wisdom Without Walls hopes to help you find your path to make sense of the world we live in while understanding other paths as well. As we experience the first Pesach after October 7th, let us remember that the Jewish world has no place for walls.


And as we were putting the finishing touches on this d’var Torah, we learned the news from Saturday’s Iranian attack. We must acknowledge that at least for now, the Angel of Death “passed over” Israel. May it continue to be so!  


Wishing all a Chag Sameach and a meaningful Seder. If we can help in any way, reach out to us!


Rabbi Jeff Salkin and Dr. Sandra Lilienthal

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