The crossing of the Red Sea was the ultimate “high” for the Jewish nation. So epic was the revelation of G‑d at the splitting of the sea that each Jew could point to the Almighty with his or her finger and state: “This is my G‑d.” The sages say that even the common folk, the maidservants, witnessed a mystical vision greater than anything witnessed by the prophet Ezekiel.
This revelation is incomparable to anything we know
This revelation is incomparable to anything we know, but perhaps we can sense a tiny glimmer of such a reality during a “peak experience.” Psychologist Abraham Maslow described peak experiences as moments during which we feel the maximum levels of happiness, harmony and possibility. These experiences can range from the deepening of everyday pleasure to “supernatural” occurrences of enhanced consciousness. Climbing Mount Everest, giving birth, producing a great creative work, one’s wedding day—these have been described as peak experiences in an individual’s life.
These momentous events would all pale in comparison to the splitting of the Red Sea, the ultimate peak experience. And yet the commentators tell us that the maidservants, after experiencing this open miracle, remained maidservants. What do they mean, and why is it important for us to understand this point?
The sages point out that following their peak experience—their “high”—the maidservants reverted back to their prior selves. Instead of taking advantage of the awe-inspiring revelations during the splitting of the sea, the maidservants squandered an opportunity for accelerated growth, insight and union with their Source. The prophet Ezekiel, on the other hand, may have bore witness to a more understated degree of Divine revelation, but he utilized his spiritual opportunity to create a higher connection to G‑d.
Interestingly enough, the Talmud says that “to match couples together is as difficult as the splitting of the sea.”
Why the comparison?
First off, according to Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, whenever our sages refer to paradox—the unification of opposites—they refer to it as being as difficult as the parting of the Red Sea. Just as we were paradoxically able to walk on “a dry sea,” in marriage we are paradoxically asked to live with someone who seems to be from another planet!
Perhaps another reason for the comparison between the splitting of the sea and marriage is that they both have miraculous origins. The wedding is the beginning of this Divine miracle. In front of G‑d, and those you love, you enter a holy union with anticipation and hope. Starting a new life together, your world is your tabula rasa, your blank slate. Your heightened senses bring the awe and love you feel for one another into undeniable view. You want to give. You want to be the best possible partner. You are at the apex of a peak experience; you are in the middle of a genuine high. This is a moment that can be a catalyst for great personal and spiritual growth. It is not only about you anymore; you have another. There is the potential for great transformation.
Remember the maidservants? After their great awakening, they returned to their earlier ways.
When the wedding is over, and the intense bliss dissipates, will you remember the compassion, kindness and commitment that you felt during your great awakening? When you settle down—and life becomes more routine, and the responsibilities begin to pile up—will you remember to be as receptive, forgiving and unselfish as you were on your special day? And as the years go by and the inevitable challenges emerge, will you still cultivate the closeness you felt with your spouse during your peak experience?
How fortunate are we that, at some point in our lives, we may be given the gift of an elevated awareness—a peak experience. During those times, it is important to take positive action to ensure that what we gleaned during those moments will not remain just a vague feeling.Will you still
cultivate the closeness?
We have to step up during the “highs” and internalize their messages. When we
are moved by a piece of music, when we arrive at meditative bliss, when our
babies are born, when it is our turn under the chupah, let us not remain the maidservants that we were before. Let us transform.