Parshat Beshalach includes the famous splitting of the Sea (14:21), where Moshe led them into the water, and the sea split for them. Psalms 114 offers that “the sea saw, and ran”, and commentators explain that what the sea saw was Yosef’s remains, and withdrew in their merit. As Rabbi Shmulevitz asks, what was so special about Yosef’s remains that the sea split because of them, rather than because of Moshe or the Jews?
Rabbi Shmulevitz answers by introducing a fundamental concept in Judaism: avoiding temptations. Yosef was in a position where he might have been tempted to sin (with Potifar, and generally living in Egypt as the only Jew), and rather than be placed in a position to overcome his urges, he avoided those urges altogether, even placing himself in danger by leaving an article of clothing behind. This great act is not only an example for us today, but it’s also the reason why the Jews were faced with crossing the sea in the first place. Had human logic prevailed, the Jews would have headed straight to Israel, which would have taken them 4 days. However, that might have tempted the Jews to consider returning to Egypt, so G-d had them go the long way, which included crossing the sea. The splitting of the sea and Yosef’s life join efforts in conveying a critical lesson: Avoid conflict as much as you can. Whether it’s our internal temptations, friends, parents, spouses or those we share borders with, the Parsha offers us 3,000 year old advice that we still holds true today: Avoid conflict and temptation by minimizing confrontations.