As young students in day school, we are often exposed to a basic appreciation for some of the importance of how carefully every word in the Torah is used. One example is in Parshas B’shalach where a striking contrast is noted in two places where the Torah discusses the fact that the Yam Suf was “dry land within the water” ( B’shalach, 14:29) and “in the water on dry land” (14:22). The most widely accepted explanation is the well known description of Nachshon ben Aminadav and some followers faithfully jumping into the threatening sea and upon it reaching their nostrils, the sea split. For Nachshon, he was in the midst of the sea and then on dry land. For the rest of B’nei Yisroel, when they entered the sea it was already dry land, within the sea.
This beautiful explanation indeed introduces on a simple level how the use of particular words in certain places have substantial meaning beyond their elementary translation. Even in this well-known explanation, we have only begun to scratch the surface of how critical each word and context is in each Pasuk. Consider that in these same P’sukim there is a very strong suggestion to this popular description. In the first Pasuk, where it says, “in the midst of the water, on dry land” (14:22), the verb used to describe the action is “Vayavo’u – and they came. Contrast this with the second reference where B’nei Yisroel went into the water on “dry land, in the midst of the water” (14:29) and you will note the verb used for this second reference is “hulchu” – they walked. Nachshon couldn’t “walk” in, the sea was still raging. He “came” in. B’nei Yisroel were in fact able to simply “walk” in.
Our introduction to these beautiful insights should only serve to whet our appetite for further study and exploration of the Torah. Literally, every Pasuk is a tapestry of lessons, information and implication waiting to be discovered. The next time someone asks you if you’ve read any good books lately….