Water and Land
The seventh day of Passover is marked by the momentous event — popular even in modern culture — that occurred on this day 3328 year ago: The parting of the Re(e)d Sea.
So let’s talk a bit about water and land, and its role in our lives.
Our sages tell us that miracles do not happen in vain. This raises the big question regarding the parting of the sea: Why the need for such a bizarre miracle? Indeed, there is no sea that separates between Egypt and Israel, so there was no need to part the sea for the Jews to make their way to the Promised Land. G-d had to actually take them on a detour to lead them to the sea, so that the parting could take place!
The Midrash goes a step further. Not only the Red Sea but all the seas and water bodies in the world parted at that very moment! What is the significance of this split?
Indeed, the Talmud states that upon creating the sea G-d made a condition with it that it would part when called upon in the future, when the Jews left Egypt. Why the need for this condition?
The mystics answer all these questions in one fell swoop. Land and sea, the two global entities that Earth is comprised of, represent two realities – two forms of consciousness: The “revealed worlds” of dry land are our conscious experiences. The “hidden worlds” of the sea are our unconscious experiences. Water reflects utter unity, where all its creatures are submerged and always feel connected to their source. While land symbolizes fragmentation, with its creatures feeling separate from their source and from each other.
In truth these two states are one seamless whole. Thus, in the beginning of time all Earth was submerged in water, as each of us (the universe in microcosm) begins our life submerged in the embryonic fluids of our mothers’ wombs. Then came a “divide between water and water,” separating the “waters above” from the “waters below” (Genesis 1:6), and the waters below were “gathered to one place,” allowing dry land to emerge, thus creating the distinction between “earth” and “sea” (1:9). A parting took place – a parting that divided between “land” consciousness and water consciousness. The boundaries between land and sea were set in place (see Tsunami).
The Bible tells us that G-d decreed upon the sea that it should never cross over onto land. “This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt” (Job 38:11). He created a “line in the sand,” as it were, which serves as a boundary between water and land, never to be crossed. “Do you not fear me? Says G-d: will you not tremble at My presence, which has placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?” (Jeremiah 5:22).
Ever since water and land have had a tenuous relationship, at times even at war with each other. On one hand land is in need of water for its sustenance. Yet, too much water can cause destruction. We are drawn to beaches and waterfronts, yet we fear the awesome power of the sea.
The universe began submerged in water to ingrain in its “psyche” its fundamental unity. But the purpose of creation is to separate the “upper” from the “lower” and “land” from “sea,” and that human initiative should reunite our seemingly “disconnected” world of “land” with its source and purpose.
When our work in doing so is complete, there will no longer be “evil and destruction” because the “universe will be filled with Divine knowledge as the waters cover the sea.” The evil and destruction that humans can perpetrate against each other is only possible when we do not feel our integral unity. But when we perceive that we are all like “fish in the sea,” submerged in and indistinguishable from our source (Divine knowledge), our interconnectivity will prevent any destruction.
Microcosm macrocosm. Each of us humans – mirroring the larger universe – begins life submerged in the watery womb. Nine months we spend there before we enter “dry land” upon birth. During this time our psyches develop a profound internal unity, which prepares us to face the existential loneliness of life on “land.” Then, upon birth, that “water” consciousness recedes into the background of our unconscious, and our conscious lives follow the psyche of “land mammals,” each of us self-contained in the here and now, living out our fragmented lives.
So the big question is this: Are we “water” people or “land” people? The answer is that in essence we are “water” people, integrally united with our source, but on our conscious level we have a “land” personality, with the purpose being that we discover the “water” within.
But here is the dilemma. Once land and water were separated, a primal and deep-seated tension separates them. The fragmented conscious universe becomes so consumed with its own immediate survival and self-gratification that it does not relate to the integral unity of “water consciousness.”
True, this division was initiated by the Creator who separated “land” from “water,” but the purpose of the separation was that we should emerge from the “womb” as independent entities, and transform the conscious world of “land” into a “world filled with Divine knowledge as the waters cover the sea.”
Indeed, the spiritual root of the separation between “earth” and “sea” is the tzimtzum itself. In order for us to exist as individuals we cannot be (at least consciously) submerged in the all encompassing “light-energy” of the Infinite. The divine decree therefore dictates that there be a boundary between “water” and “land.”
But this division is actually only from our perspective. If you think about it, all land on Earth is actually an island jutting out of water. 75% of the globe is covered with water, leaving 25% uncovered. The same is true of the microcosm: Two thirds of the body is made up of water. Our conscious minds are just a “tip of the iceberg” (no pun intended) jutting out of our unconscious.
Yet a deep separation between land and water define our reality. We cannot see behind the curtain dividing our conscious and unconscious.
But this separation is not airtight. At the outset of creation, when G-d separated between land and sea, He did so on the condition that the sea would always remember that it would one day part and allow man to walk through its depths as we walk on land.
The parting of the sea – in which “water was transformed into land” (Hofach yom l’yabosho) – was a one-time in history demonstration of the naked truth: That sea and land are two dimensions of one reality.
The window opened up at that point, as a preparation to Sinai when the rift was bridged between spirit and matter. Until Sinai a decree dictated a “line in the sand,” which stated, “that which is above shall not come below, and that which is below shall not ascend above.”
This is also the reason that the people sang praise following the parting of the sea: Song is the language of the sea. Conventional speech (“land language”) consists of staccato-like fragments of disconnected words, separated by spaces and breaths, combining together to express an idea. Melody flows like water in one seamless stream.
The parting of the sea – an integral part of the sea’ nature from its inception – paved the way so that today we have the power to sing, the power to unite what is above and what is below, in one harmonious flow.
And who led the way as the divine messenger in parting the sea? None other than Moses — Moshe — so named for he “was drawn from water.” The mystics explain that Moses was a “man of no words” because his soul originated from the “hidden worlds” of water, the intimate world of the unconscious, which is more profound and intense than any words of land can express. But for this exact reason Moses introduced unprecedented revelation to Earth. Precisely because Moses is a “water man” living on Earth, he is able to draw from the inner worlds, and bridge and express the language of the Divine and communicate it to the land people.
Water and land – two worlds that live side by side. So different, yet so intertwined.
Two worlds in our eyes. But really one and the same. They were once one – at the beginning of it all. And they will become one once again – at the end of days, when the world will be “filled with Divine knowledge as the waters cover the sea.”
Every year on the seventh day of Passover we are reminded of their interdependence – a reminder that is meant to make us aware of the need to align the two consciousnesses of water and land and relieve their tension once and for all. It’s up to us to unite them in a way that maintains the personality of each.
Water reminds us that we are all one, originating and being sustained by one uniting source. Let us learn from Moses, the man of “water” how to draw Divine water into our parched land lives.
May we do our part in filling our lives and this world with Divine knowledge and behavior, “as the waters cover the sea.”
And may we sing away.