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Mida K'Neged Mida and the Splitting of the Red Sea

On the 7th and final day of Pesach, we read from Parshat Beshalach about the splitting of the Red Sea, which of course took place on the 7th day of Pesach. We learn how Bnei Yisrael crossed the sea freely on dry land, and afterward, Paraoh and the Egyptians were drowned in the sea.

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר ה' אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה נְטֵ֥ה אֶת־יָדְךָ֖ עַל־הַיָּ֑ם וְיָשֻׁ֤בוּ הַמַּ֙יִם֙ עַל־מִצְרַ֔יִם עַל־רִכְבּ֖וֹ וְעַל־פָּרָשָֽׁיו׃ וַיֵּט֩ מֹשֶׁ֨ה אֶת־יָד֜וֹ עַל־הַיָּ֗ם וַיָּ֨שׇׁב הַיָּ֜ם לִפְנ֥וֹת בֹּ֙קֶר֙ לְאֵ֣יתָנ֔וֹ וּמִצְרַ֖יִם נָסִ֣ים לִקְרָאת֑וֹ וַיְנַעֵ֧ר ה' אֶת־מִצְרַ֖יִם בְּת֥וֹךְ הַיָּֽם׃ וַיָּשֻׁ֣בוּ הַמַּ֗יִם וַיְכַסּ֤וּ אֶת־הָרֶ֙כֶב֙ וְאֶת־הַפָּ֣רָשִׁ֔ים לְכֹל֙ חֵ֣יל פַּרְעֹ֔ה הַבָּאִ֥ים אַחֲרֵיהֶ֖ם בַּיָּ֑ם לֹֽא־נִשְׁאַ֥ר בָּהֶ֖ם עַד־אֶחָֽד׃ וּבְנֵ֧י יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל הָלְכ֥וּ בַיַּבָּשָׁ֖ה בְּת֣וֹךְ הַיָּ֑ם וְהַמַּ֤יִם לָהֶם֙ חֹמָ֔ה מִֽימִינָ֖ם וּמִשְּׂמֹאלָֽם׃

Then God said to Moses, “Hold out your arm over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians and upon their chariots and upon their riders.” Moses held out his arm over the sea, and at daybreak the sea returned to its normal state, and the Egyptians fled at its approach. But God hurled the Egyptians into the sea. The waters turned back and covered the chariots and the riders—Pharaoh’s entire army that followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. But the Israelites had marched through the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. (Shmot 14:26-29)

The Gemara in Massechet Sotah explains how the Egyptians were punished “Mida k’neged mida”, or measure for measure for their cruel treatment of Bnei Yisrael.

Paraoh had previously commanded that any babies born to Bnei Yisrael be drowned in the Nile River. Shifra and Puah, the 2 famous midwives, refused to do so and saved these Jewish babies. (The Meforshim explain that these 2 were actually Miriam and Yocheved). This was Paraoh’s attempt to destroy Bnei Yisrael by drowning them.

Therefore, when it came time to punish Paraoh and the Egyptians, God caused them to drown in the Red Sea. The Egyptians were treated exactly the way they treated Bnei Yisrael!

A similar case of Mida k’neged mida appears in Megillat Esther. Haman wants to hang Mordechai on a gallows that he prepared. But in the end, it was Haman who was hung on that very same gallows. Haman, like Paraoh, wanted to destroy the Jewish people. But both of their plans were foiled, and they and their followers were destroyed instead.

But back to the Pesach story, when Paraoh decided to enslave Bnei Yisrael and kill their babies, according to Massechet Sotah (Daf 11a), he turned to his 3 advisors to discuss this situation, namely Bilam, Iyob (Job) and Yitro (Jethro).

  • Bilam agreed completely with Paraoh, and advised him to go ahead with his plans. For this, Bilam was ultimately killed.

  • Iyov kept quiet. For this, he led a life full of suffering, as is recounted in the 40 chapters of Sefer Iyov.

  • But Yitro objected and fled in protest. Yitro was rewarded for his actions, and his descendants sat in the Sanhedrin, where they offered counsel to the Jewish people as a whole.

These 3 advisors were thus also judged Mida k’neged mida, both in punishment and in reward.

I hope everyone continues to enjoy a חג כשר ושמח



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