by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – January 28, 2015

In the Torah section of Beshalach, we read (Sh’mot 14:31), “And Israel saw the great hand that G-d inflicted upon Egypt.”  In his Darash Moshe, the latter day Torah giant R. Moshe Feinstein offers an intriguing comment on this verse.

R. Feinstein wonders why the Torah placed this verse here, after the Israelites saw the Egyptians dead, rather than earlier when G-d first split the Sea allowing them to pass through.  Was the splitting of the Sea not impressive enough to be recognized as a reflection, so to speak, of G-d’s “great hand”?

In explanation, R. Feinstein points out that if G-d had just split the Sea but not killed the Egyptians, that miracle would not have sufficiently helped the Israelites for their enemy would have continued to pursue them.  Such a miracle would only have accomplished to display G-d’s power over nature, but would not have warranted a new exclamation and description such as “great hand,” since the Israelites already had experienced G-d’s power over the world and over nature.

What the Israelites had not yet been convinced of was that G-d is completely just and uses His phenomenal power to rescue the righteous and punish the wicked.  Only when they saw that the enormous miracle of the splitting of the Sea had at the same time saved them and exacted justice from the cruel Egyptians could they recognize His “great hand” – one that performs justice against the evil in addition to stretching out with benevolence to the righteous.

Power alone does not in and of itself warrant to be described as “great.”  However, tremendous power used wisely and justly does deserve to be called “great.”  Authority and strength without wisdom and justice is not to be lauded.  Strength and justice used together, however, is worthy of the greatest praise.

As G-d was able to show us his “great hand” in combining tremendous strength with exacting justice in the splitting of the Sea, may we all have the strength and the wisdom to use that strength justly and wisely – in all our endeavors.