Parashat BeShalach tells of two extraordinary events that seem unrelated to each other outside of their chronological sequence: Keri’at Yam Suf and the beginning of the Yeridat HaMan. However, a closer look reveals that the two events are deeply intertwined.
Keri’at Yam Suf was an event that was noteworthy both for its miraculous nature and historical impact. Following Yetzi’at Mitzrayim, the Jewish people stood surrounded and enclosed from all sides as the Egyptian army chased after them to bring them back to Egypt. The Jewish people appeared to be doomed, their return to Egypt appearing inevitable, with the sea in front of them and the Egyptian army closing in from all directions, so they turned to Hashem and prayed out of sheer desperation. Hashem responded to their passionate plea by telling them to stand and watch while He would save the Jews from the oncoming threat. What ensued was the remarkable miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea and the subsequent decimation of the Egyptian army. It was at this moment that the Jews learned that when faced with difficulties, they would need to rely on Hashem to save them.
The Jews’ complete reliance on the mercy of Hashem at this critical juncture is embodied by an explanation of a phrase in Az Yashir, the song that the Jewish people sang after Keri’at Yam Suf. Rabbeinu Bachya (Devarim 32:39) writes that the word “VeAnveihu” in the phrase “Zeh Keili VeAnveihu,” “This is my G-d and I shall glorify Him” (Shemot 15:2) is actually composed of the two words Ani VaHu, myself and Him. Once the Jews had accepted Hashem as their one and only savior, they then realized that their relationship with Hashem depended upon their believing, following and acting in His ways. With the splitting of the Red Sea, the Jews not only became Hashem’s nation, but also accepted a higher standard of living--one that would mirror and emulate the ways of their Creator.
Rav Dovid Katzenstein posits that with this understanding of the deep meaningfulness of Keri’at Yam Suf, we can now understand the connection between Keri’at Yam Suf and the Yeridat HaMan. The Man was a form of sustenance that fell from heaven, falling every day of the workweek in order to feed the Jewish people. It was a symbol of Hashem’s unparalleled love for His people and their corresponding Emunah in his power to provide for them, total belief in the existence of Hashem and acceptance of all of his commandments. Once the special bond between the Jews and Hashem had been forged by the Keri’ah of the Yam Suf, it was maintained throughout the sojourn in the Midbar by way of the Yeridat HaMan.
This connection between Keri’at Yam Suf and the Yeridat HaMan sheds tremendous light onto how we should strive to act as dedicated members of the Jewish people. If we are able to maintain our relationship with Hashem and recognize that He is our true and only source of sustenance, we will hopefully merit receiving great gifts from Heaven.