Arvei Nachal - Parshas Beshalach

Why was the miracle of removing the wheels of the Egyptian’s chariots needed?

(14,25) “And He removed the wheels of their chariots and made them drive heavily. And the Egyptians said: Let us flee from Yisrael, for Hashem is fighting for them against the Egyptians.”

Behold, Hashem does not make miracles in vain, only those which are needed to help Yisrael. So why did the wheels of the chariots need to be removed in order to slow the Egyptians down? Surely, since Yisrael entered the sea first and the Egyptians followed behind them, the water could have returned to its place immediately after the last Yisrael exited the sea before any of the Egyptians had a chance to get out. So what was the necessity of this miracle?

It would seem that this question could be answered simply with the Tosafos on the gemora in Arachin 15a, which explains that Yisrael did not cross the sea from one side to the other, but instead they exited the sea on the same side they had entered, Red Sea with the sole purpose that the Egyptians should pursue them and drown in the sea, and Yisrael would thus see the great hand of Hashem. And since Chazal teach us that there were many paths - at the very least there were one path for each tribe - the twelve paths for the twelve tribes bent around in a semicircle, as the picture illustrates.

But this scenario is difficult to understand, because the outer paths are longer than the inner ones, with the outermost one being many times as long as the innermost one, and it is possible that all the Egyptians entered the sea by the shortest path. And even if they entered by all twelve paths, the many Egyptians who went by the shortest paths would have exited the sea before the tribes who had gone by the longer paths. So how can the Torah say that after all of Yisrael had gone out from the sea “Moshe stretched forth his hand over the sea…and the waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, the entire army of Pharaoh that came after them into the sea; not even one of them remained”. How can the posuk say that not one of the Egyptians remained?

Therefore, this must be the reason why it was necessary for Hashem to remove the wheels of their chariots to slow them down, so that even the Egyptians that pursued them along the shortest path would not exit the sea before the tribe going along the longest path had enough time to exit, and therefore not one of them remained.

However, if all this is true we have to be astonished by the behavior of Pharaoh and the Egyptians and their wise counselors. Why did they not plan intelligently as is the way of those who plan wars? How they could have failed to understand that just as the sea had split, all the more so would it return to its place. And therefore they should have understood that since they were entering the water second, Yisrael will exit the water before them, and thus when the water returns to its place all of them will drown. And even if they thought that at least those who were going by the shorter paths would survive, nevertheless, at the very least many of them will drown, and thus they are recklessly putting themselves in great danger.

Why did they not act wisely and instead pursue Yisrael from the other side of the paths so that they would then meet Yisrael face to face in the middle and fight with them there? Then the water would not be able to return to its place since Yisrael were still in the sea? Perhaps you will argue that even if they did this it would not help, because when they meet Yisrael in the middle of the sea Yisrael will turn around and exit the sea at the same place where they had entered, and since the Egyptians would continue to pursue them, when Yisrael finished exiting the sea the water would immediately drown the Egyptians. Even so, since there were so many of them they could have divided themselves into two groups and pursue Yisrael from both sides of the paths so that Yisrael would be caught in the middle. How could the Egyptians be so foolish not to think of this simple strategy? We have to answer that indeed this was another of the miracles that Hashem did for Yisrael, confounding their wisdom so that they did not think of this idea.

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