The pasuk (Tehillim 114:3) tells us that at Kriyas Yam Suf, "the Sea saw and fled."

It seems that the Sea would not split until it saw something. The Medrash explains: What did it see? It saw Yosef's coffin. Just as Yosef ran away from Potiphar's wife, so too, the Sea split" (Mechilta D’Rabbi Yishmael 14:15; Bereishis Rabbah 87:8; Midrash Tehillim 114).

The Maharal asks the question slightly different: Why did sea go against its natural order and by splitting? Because Yosef overcame his nature to flee the house of Potiphar and refrain from sinning" (Gevuras Hashem, chapter 40).

Yet, the Medrash (Shemos Rabbah 21:8) says that it was in the merit of Avraham that Hashem split the sea for the Jews.

In whose merit did the sea split: Yosef or Avraham?

  • 3
    I'm sorry but you can find thousands of midrashim I don't understand why make a choice, it is not Halachica.
    – kouty
    Nov 16, 2016 at 16:19
  • @kouty That's indeed what most Geonim and Rishonim thought judaism.stackexchange.com/a/11995/759
    – Double AA
    Nov 16, 2016 at 16:20
  • FWIW Midrash Tehillim is quite a late Midrash.
    – mevaqesh
    Nov 17, 2016 at 19:03
  • @mevaqesh I added other midrashim
    – robev
    Apr 5, 2018 at 17:32
  • 1
    Why can't it both be in Yosef and Avraham's merit? Does it have to be one over the other?
    – ezra
    Apr 5, 2018 at 17:42

1 Answer 1


The Midrash you are quoting from Shemos Rabbah itself gives different opinions about whose merit caused the sea to split, but apparently this didn't strike you as being problematic or contradictory, presumably because it explicitly states that one view is the opinion of one particular Tanna and one is the opinion of a different particular Tanna (similarly the Midrash Tehillim presents Yosef's coffin as the second possibility/opinion of what lead the sea to split). Therefore we can simply answer that the Midrash Tehillim is just presenting the opinion of yet another Tanna.

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