The gemora in Pesachim 118a says "קשין מזונותיו של אדם כקריעת ים סוף", and there is a similar expression in Sota 2a and Sanhedrin 22a "קשה לזווגן כקריעת ים סוף". What exactly was difficult about Kriyas Yam Suf? Who was it difficult for? Us? Hashem? Can something really be difficult for Hashem?

9 Answers 9


The question is dealt with here

A brief summary of the article:

Why is it difficult to “tear” the Red Sea ?

A medrash says that Moshe who saw all the plagues of Egypt, asked Hashem, You have set a border to the sea and You have sworn never to tear it up”

The Maharal explains tearing the Red Sea breaks all the rules of natural resources. Until then when there was a break of the use of natural laws, it was local and specific. The Torah compares all the plagues of Egypt to a finger and splitting the sea to a hand.

In the words of the Maharal:

All the seas are effectively one. It is not that part of the world has undergone a change, but one of the basic elements of the six days of creation is undermined here.

As Chazal say: ויבקעו המים - כל מימות שבעולם נבקעו

Of course nothing is difficult for Hashem. But the Torah speaks in our language. So the "difficulty" so to speak was indeed for Hashem in the sense that

  • He had set a boundary for the sea which He now changed and
  • He did this on a global scale.

I once heard an interesting explanation of this by Rabbi Uziel Milevsky zt'l regarding marriage. (he didn't explain about the livelihood version of that statement)

Basically he says that the most difficult barrier in marriage is selfishness - each spouse focuses on his/her own self.

The analogy to selfishness in the physical world is gravity, where each piece of matter pulls things to itself. The splitting of the sea was going against gravity.

So it is merely teaching us marriage is difficult in that it is going against the natural human tendency of selfishness, just like the waters went against the natural law of gravity. The midrash seems to be emphasizing just how hard this is for a human being and that it requires great effort to go against one's nature.

(source here).

  • Seems like Yehoshua causing the Yarden to flow vertically upwards would have been a better example if that were the point. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 19:10
  • @YEZ not necesarily. the sea is much bigger volume of water. and perhaps it is not 90 degrees "steep" against one's nature
    – ray
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 5:23

This is a matter of how can Bnei Yisrael merit Hashem "intervening" in the "natural" world to do things. Of course, Hashem can do anything He wants, but it is a matter of people seeing the nissim and meriting Hashgacha Pratis. Kriyas Yam Suf is the "breaking" of natural law as a one time event. Thus, people can see the miracle that is being done. As it says, "A shifcha at the Yam Suf saw more than the navi Yechezkel was able to see". However, the constant miracles that are required to provide the "daily living" or to continue for a lifetime with one's zivug. If we were to be left to "natural law" these things would be unable to continue. We must realize that it is only through hashgacha pratis that we are able to continue in the world and we must realize this and work to merit the constant nissim as well as understand that it is only through nissim that we can survive.

For Example "Ki Sisa Es Rosh B'nei Yisroel Lifkudeihem

When a person is at risk of drowning in the ocean, as long as his head is above the water and hasn't sunk below the surface, he is still alive and [at least temporarily] safe. His body may be fully submerged, but as long as the head is above water, he's breathing. Similarly, we are familiar with the Medrash that describes the efforts in earning a living as being as hard as "crossing the Red Sea" (kashe mezonosav shel adam k'kriyas Yam Suf). The problems and complexities of "making an honest buck" are the same as the waves of the ocean that threaten to overcome one who is at risk of drowning. The key is to keep one's head up, to keep from sinking under the relentless waves. This is done by reserving time for Torah study and Tefilla (prayer), which help us to lift our heads from the drudgery of the daily grind.

Kriat Yam Suf

Chazal tell us that there are three things that are as difficult for the Ribbono Shel Olam, k'vayachol, as the performance of Kriyas Yam Suf: providing a person with food, finding a person's zivug, marital partner, and the keeping the functioning of a person's body in a proper manner. What does this mean? HaRav Drillman explained that if we work a little harder to see the miracles in these "everyday" occurrences then we will be better able to rise to the Madreigah of seeing HKB"H in every aspect of our lives and being able to come closer to Him.

  • The first paragraph you quote seems to imply that the difficulty was for the Benei Yisrael passing through the Yam Suf, the waves above their heads threatened to drown them. The second one sounds like it might be "difficult" so to speak for Hashem, but then is rather ambiguous as to what exactly the difficulty is...
    – Jewels
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 11:59
  • @user3032 The point is that Hashem can do whatever he "wants" because the existence of the world itself is dependent on Him. However, the continuing intervention is "more difficult" than a single miracle in order to save people. Also it is a matter of bchiras chafshis. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 12:58

A fascinating answer I once heard:

During Krias Yam Suf, the Jews went in and out on the same side. In other words, they walked in an arc.

The Medrash also says that each tribe walked through its own "tunnel" - so there were parallel happenings of Krias Yam Suf.

As a result, those in the inside of the arc had a much shorter Krias Yam Suf than those in the outer end of the arc.

Simialrly for finding a Shidduch, some people have a longer wait and others a shorter wait; it's as difficult as Krias Yam Suf - you have to do the walk as Hashem plans it for you.


I remember seeing another Peshat (I think it was in Reshimos Devarim by Rabbi Yehuda Chitrik):

There are three "hard" things:

  1. Splitting the sea.

    Why is it hard?

    When Hashem created the world, he made a condition with the sea that it should split for the Jews. Since it was done in Heaven before the world's creation, the angel of the sea saw that the Jews were on a high level and agreed.

    The problem was that by the time the Jews got to the sea, they were serving idols and at the 49th gate of impurity. So the angel said: "What? Split the sea for them? No Way!!". So the hard work was to convince the angel that those Jews standing by the Red Sea were the same people it originally saw.

  2. Parnassah - When Hashem decides how much sustenance each Jew gets (on Rosh Hashana), they're praying and being holy. So the angles say "Sure, give them everything they need".

    The problem is that when they leave Shul, they're no longer as holy, and then the angels in charge of actually distributing sustenance say "I agreed to give money to these people?". So the hard work is convincing these angels that these regular people are the same people who were holy on Rosh Hashana.

  3. Marriage - The Gemara says that 40 days before a child is born, Hashem announces who that soul will marry. Being that the soul is still in Heaven, and sees the other soul's "heavenly" side, it says "Sure I'll marry that person".

    But when it gets time to actually marry, it says "What, marry that person? I never agreed to that!" And the hard work is convincing that it's actually that original soul in that body.

  • Is it possible to confirm this source? Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 3:20

Based on the above and other sources that I found, I'd like to suggest some detailed insights.

The “Difficulty” of Krias Yam Suf

There are a few statements that equate the “קָשָׁה - difficulty” of the splitting of the sea during the Exodus of Egypt, with earning a livelihood and finding a shidduch-match.

With regard to earning a livelihood, the the Talmud (Pesachim 118a) says קשין מזונותיו של אדם כקריעת ים סוף - A person’s livelihood is as difficult (for HaShem) as the splitting the Yam Suf (Sea of Reeds).” A similar expression in regards to finding a Zivug (a spouse - especially as it relates to a second marriage). This is mentioned in Talmud Sota 2a and Sanhedrin 22a where it says, "קשה לזווגן כקריעת ים סוף - It is as difficult to match a couple as the splitting of the Yam Suf (Sea of Reeds).”

Not disregarding that a tremendous degree of Divine Providence is required for all of these three, it is somewhat difficult to understand what connects all these three, since splitting a sea is just the opposite of bringing two people together. And what does this have to do with earning a livelihood?

In addition, these statements stating that something is difficult for HaShem seemingly is hard to understand in light of the following P’sukim. הֲיִפָּלֵא מֵה' - “Is anything difficult (lit. ‘hidden from’ - see Ramban) for the L-rd?” (Breishis 18:14) ...הֲמִמֶּנִּי יִפָּלֵא כָּל־דָּבָר: “Behold I am the L-rd, the G-d of all flesh. Is anything too wondrous for Me?” (Yirmiyahu 32:27) [The above translation of פלא as “difficult” can be based on the pasuk, “ וַיִּפָּלֵא בְּעֵינֵי אַמְנוֹן לַעֲשׂוֹת לָהּ מְאוּמָה:(Shmuel II 31:2) ...and it seemed impossible in the eyes of Amnon to do anything to her.”]

So the question is, is there anything really difficult for HaShem?

Another “Difficulty” to Resolve The Difficulty

In Vayikra 23:36 it states שִׁבְעַת יָמִים ... בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי ... עֲצֶרֶת הִוא - “...seven days...On the eighth day ... it is a solemn gathering.” This is the source from which we observe the Yom Tov of Shemini Atzeres.

Rashi comments on this “עֲצֶרֶת הִוא — The word is derived from the root עצר “to hold back” and suggests: I keep you back with Me one day more. It is similar to the case of a king who invited his children to a banquet for a certain number of days. When the time arrived for them to take their departure he said, “Children, I beg of you, stay one day more with me; קָשָׁה עָלַי פְּרֵדַתְכֶם it is so hard for me to part with you!”

However, the words that Rashi uses should have stated “פְּרֵדַתֵינוּ - Our parting” (that of HaShem and the Jewish people) is difficult...” But instead it says, “פְּרֵדַתְכֶם” which literally means “your parting”. This hints that when Jewish people are together and unified as one during the holidays of Tishrei, the coming separation of leaving one another at the end of Sukkos is as it were (כַּבִיָכוֹל) hard and difficult for HaShem to experience and see.

So we see from here that קָשָׁה (difficulty) can indeed be a state of emotion and not one necessarily of ability.

No doubt that during the Exodus from Egypt, the Jewish people emotionally longed for their freedom. This longing can also be compared to a person who longs to feel financially secure with a good livelihood or to a person who longs to be whole in a loving relationship with a spouse.

We are taught that from the time of creation, HaShem decided upon rules and parameters on how this world should be governed. These rules included that the ocean should keep to its borders and not change its nature. We are also taught that from the time of creation of each soul, it is decided to whom they will marry (Sotah 2a) and what type of livelihood they’ll have. (Niddah 16b) And yet, like a father to his children, HaKadosh Baruch Hu says, “Children, I know of your longing. Keep strong in your Emunah and וְיִסָּֽעוּ - keep moving forward.”

Certainly, we can only do what we can by striving to move forwards & upwards, yet we leave the rest to HaShem to help our efforts succeed. With a balance between personal effort (השתדלות) and trust (ביטחון), we can hopefully be assured that "ה' יִלָּחֵם לָכֶם HaShem will fight (provide - לֶחֶם/a livelihood) for you. But we must not forget that וְאַתֶּם תַּחֲרִשׁוּן - you must also continue to חָרֵשׁ/plow with continued efforts. (R’ Meir of Premishlan)

After plowing, comes the seeding of the ground and the blessings will be - הַזֹּרְעִים בְּדִמְעָה בְּרִנָּה יִקְצֹרוּ: - Those who sow with tears will reap with song. (Tehillim 136:5) In this way, we can offer the explanation of “קָשָׁה - difficulty” to the hardship that our Father in heaven has when viewing our hardships, especially in the area of earning a livelihood and Shidduchim (finding a spouse).

Solid Unity

Another way of answering the above is by looking at a similar use of the word קָשָׁה as can be seen in the pasuk: “וְעָשִׂיתָ מְנֹרַת זָהָב טָהוֹר מִקְשָׁה תֵּעָשֶׂה הַמְּנוֹרָה - You shall make a Menorah of pure gold; the menorah shall be hammered” (Shemos 24:31)... Rashi explains that the Menorah be made from a solid single piece.

On this pasuk, the Sforno writes “This is the symbolism contained in the words וזה מעשה המנורה מקשה (Numbers 8:4) i.e. in spite of what appears to be a multiplicity of lights emanating from this Menorah, their function is singular, one of unification, just as the Menorah from which they emanate was cast out of a single chunk of gold, something unified.”

It is also well known that the Midrash states that the waters of the Yam Suf were solid as well. As it says, “חוֹמָה מִימִינָם וּמִשְּׂמֹאלָם - as a wall from their right and from their left.” (Shemos 14:22)

So,perhaps we can say that “קָשָׁה כִּקְרִיעַת יָם סוּף - As difficult as the splitting of the Yam Suf” could rather mean as “solid” as the Yam Suf.

May this be the blessing to us all. That our livelihood (a left support wall) and our marriages (a right support wall) should be solid and unified, respectively, like the Yam Suf which provided sustenance and security and the Menorah which provided light, warmth and inspiration. (ר’ ש.ג)


Following in the trend of "I once heard" answers in this thread:

The Ibn Ezra says that the sea was closing on the Mitzrim as it remained open for Bnei Yisroel. The miracle had to be tailored to account for how it affected different people in varying ways at the same time.

Similarly, in finding a shidduch and in business, Hashem manages it such that everything you do leads you to (the opportunity of) finding your shidduch, and making your parnassah, while simultaneously not interfering with how others do the same, even though your path in life affect what happens to others. Hashem balances it all at the same time for everyone.


The "difficulty" is referring to the "difficult" situation that B'nai Yisroel were in at Yam Suf - what did they do at this difficult juncture? Davened to Hashem.
This is the p'shat: parnasah and shidduchim "should" be difficult like Yam Suf: you have to daven & scream to Hashem to merit a shidduch and parnasa!

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    – mbloch
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 19:35
  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya, user 16615! I like your "p'shat", but I'm not sure that I understand the difficulty any better than before. Consider clarifying what the difficulty was (as that was the question asked). Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 22:14

My answer:

Rashi says that there is one thing that is hard for H-shem. When Klal Yisroel prepare to leave after Sukkos, H-shem says 'Kasha Alai Predaschem,' 'it is hard for Me to separate from you.' So we have another special day of Shemini Atzeres just with us and H-shem and not with the Umos HaOlam. So we see it is 'hard' for H-shem to separate from Klal Yisroel. We also learn that one reason that H-shem made the Avos and Imahos barren was because he wanted a relationship with them, 'Misave H-shem L'tfilasan shel Tzaddikim.' When The yidden were at the Yam Suf, they were trapped on the right and the left and in front and in back and they cried out to their father in Heaven to save them. When he saved them, then they stopped crying! When someone is pressed financially, like some of may be this week due to the stock market crash, we will hopefully cry out to H-shem to save us. When He does, and that windfall comes in, do we daven to him the same way as when the cupboard was threatening to be bare? And when a chosson and Kallah are seeking their partner, we expect that they are crying to H-shem with all their hearts. When H-shem finally puts them together, do they still have that same relationship with H-shem? This is what I think it means that these three things are 'hard' for H-shem.

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