Klal Yisroel find themselves in dire straits in this week’s parsha. Trapped between the Egyptian army in hot pursuit and the deep blue sea, they cry out to Hashem. The Medrash tells us that only on seeing רכוש של מצרים בידם, the wealth of the Egyptians in the hands of the Jewish people, did the sea split.
This is very strange. The waters did not give way for the men, women and children of Klal Yisroel, but only for the Egyptian plunder! What does this mean?
Rabbi Pinchos Roberts explains that after decades of slavery and persecution they were suddenly free and very wealthy. But their newfound wealth did not go to their heads, it was firmly in check – it was בידם, in their hands and in their control.
The Yam Suf witnessed this remarkable self-discipline of the Jewish people and only then split its waters.
Rabbi Dovid Kaplan tells a wonderful anecdote about a girl who lost a towel on a school trip. The mother, upset at the school for their careless supervision of the property of others, called the Headteacher.
After apologising and re-assuring the mother that the school would try to locate the missing towel, she asked the mother “What did it look like?”
“It was white,” said the mother, “with ‘Holiday Inn’ written across it.”
After decades of slavery and persecution, Klal Yisroel managed to ensure that their newfound wealth did not go their heads. It was בידם, in their hands and in their control. That, says the Medrash, is what so impressed the Yam Suf that it split its waters.
Chazal (Eruvin 65b) tell us that a person’s relationship with money is a good indicator of who that person is. To have newfound wealth and still be in control is impressive indeed.
Children have a canny ability to detect honesty or the lack of it, both of their parents and teachers. Let us live our lives with honesty and use whatever resources we are blessed with wisely. Our children will notice, and it is a true indication of who we are.
Rabbi J Golker