According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, the crossing of the Red Sea describes an inner spiritual state of leaving one’s egoistic desires behind, and entering into spiritual desires for love, bestowal and connection. It is essentially the crossing from this world to the spiritual world, and it is a process that unfolds in any person who applies themselves to the method of spiritual ascent.
When we exit the egoistic boundaries of this world, i.e., the desire to enjoy for self-benefit alone, we have to leave it once and for all. The boundary we cross in such a transition is described as “crossing the Red Sea.”
The process of exiting the ego requires powerful egoistic resistance, which is expressed as a desire to return to Egypt (i.e., living under the control of our self-aimed demands) in order to be slaves of the ego as before. The nation, which are desires that want to exit Egypt, still have no idea how to progress in order to become more altruistic, giving and loving.
These states play out inside each and every person and in a group of people as they try to rise above their ego in order to connect with each other. The parting of the Red Sea takes place by a process that kabbalists call “faith above reason,” symbolized by Moses’ rod. In general, “faith above reason” means the elevation of the importance of progressing on the spiritual path—a path of love, bestowal and positive connection—over the importance of remaining servants to our egoistic and materialistic desires. By default, the importance of spirituality is lower than the importance we naturally hold for egoistic pursuits, and thus raising the importance of spirituality requires a supportive environment of like-minded people aiming for spiritual attainment.
The Red Sea parts for those in the state of faith above reason. Crossing the Red Sea means that we shift from the corporeal transient world that is under the control of egoistic desires, into the eternal spiritual world that runs by an opposite altruistic operating system. Pharaoh’s armies represent the inner state called “below reason.” Their drowning represents the ego that is left behind as we shift into spirituality.
This action is symbolized by Nachson’s jump into the sea. Why does Nachshon jump into the sea first instead of Moses? It is because Moses is already beyond that state, in the quality of Bina. In other words, the spiritual qualities of love, bestowal and connection already govern Moses. His connection to these spiritual qualities leads the nation, i.e., desires aimed at exiting the ego and entering into a spiritual connection, gradually releasing them from the ego, and leading them to spiritual connection.
The desires that have no desire to advance by way of faith above reason, but which want to remain in the ego, are put to death by the condition of faith above reason. This means that they cannot cross the Red Sea into spiritual attainment, as they cannot obtain the quality of love and bestowal above their ego. The egoistic desires die at sea, causing a split between egoistic and altruistic desires.
The sea, or water in general, represents life—the quality of Bina, bestowal and love. We are born in water. Water is life’s foundation, but there are good and bad waters. When the water is still within the ego’s bounds, it is harmful, drowning those who are in it.
The entire story about crossing the Red Sea describes the acquisition of a supernatural ability, the quality of caring about others with no self-interest, and the shift to a completely different system of existence in which benefiting others becomes more important than self-benefit. We cross a boundary, and where we previously lived only for ourselves through the ordinary ego, we shift into a life of love for, and bestowal unto, others.
Crossing the Red Sea thus describes a complete inversion of our attitude to life— from egoism to altruism, corporeality to spirituality, division to connection, and reception to bestowal—and it is driven solely by the aspiration to become as loving and giving as the Creator: a force of pure bestowal with no shred of self-interest.
Based on the program “Spiritual States” with Kabbalist Dr. Michael Laitman and Michael Sanilevich on Friday, April 1, 2021. Written/edited by students of Kabbalist Dr. Michael Laitman.
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