This Friday is the seventh day of Pesach when we celebrate the splitting of the Red Sea, when the Jewish people completed their libration from Egypt. The Egyptians that were pursuing them drowned in the Red Sea, and the Jewish people celebrated the completion of their liberation after they passed through the Red Sea.
Coincidentally, also on Friday those who learn Daf Yomi are learning Yevomot 46. The bottom of 46a learns about the process of conversion from what happened when the Jews were leaving Egypt. It says:
A convert that was circumcised but didn’t go in a mikvah, Rabbi Eliezer says he becomes a convert, because we find that our fathers (when they left Egypt) were circumcised but didn’t go in a mikvah. If the convert goes to the mikvah but is not circumcised, Rabbi Yehoshua says he a convert because our mothers (when they left Egypt) went to the mikvah but were not circumcised.
Rashi comments: Our fathers were circumcised – In the days of Moshe when they went out of Egypt, and went out of the category of Bnei Noach in order to accept the Torah and to accept the Pnei Haschechina. Our mothers – Their women went to the mikveh, because if they hadn’t gone to the mikveh with what would they enter under the wings of the Shechina.
(Of course, it is established that acceptance of the Mitzvot of the Torah is an essential part of conversion).
We can ask the question: at what point did the Jewish People become the Jewish People? For example, was it on the night of Passover, when they ate the Korban Pesach, or at the splitting of the Red Sea, or at Har Sinai when they were given and accepted the Torah?
I would like to suggest an answer by proposing an analogy, a metaphor. It says in Devarim 4:34 ‘Hashem took a nation from the womb of another nation.’ This implies that being in Egypt was a pregnancy. When Yaakov and his children went down to Egypt, this was like a seed being implanted in a womb, and steadily grew like an embryo. As the pregnancy progressed, the fetus grew until it was ready to emerge and be born.
The Korban Pesach that is eaten on Passover night is folded with its head touching its feet, in the shape of a fetus. This might symbolize that on Pesach night the fetus stage was complete, and that we were ready to emerge as a newborn infant.
The ‘labor’ lasted 7 days. When they reached the Red Sea, the sea split just like the waters of a pregnant mother breaking, resulting in the baby emerging as a newborn being.
This suggests that emerging through the split waters of the Red Sea is analagous to the birth of a baby, and then the Jewish People were born as the Jewish People. Just like a baby is nursed from its mother’s milk, they were fed from the manna from Heaven.
Let’s extend this analogy based on the Torah portion that we read today on the Wednesday of Chol Hamoed. The third aliya (Exodus 34:18) says:
The Festival of Matzos you shall keep; seven days you shall eat matzos that I have commanded you, at the appointed meeting time of the month of spring, for in the month of spring you went out of Egypt.
This is followed by the law of Peter Rechem, the firstborn male animal that emerges from the mother’s womb:
All that opens the womb is Mine, and all your livestock that bears a male, by the emergence of ox or lamb (peter rechem).
What is the connection between Pesach and the emergence of a firstborn male animal? It can be that a firstborn birth is a commemoration of leaving Egypt, because the Jewish People were born as a people when they emerged from the Red Sea after it split.
The next sentence talks about the Peter Chamor, the firstborn donkey:
And a firstborn donkey you shall redeem with a lamb; if you do not redeem it, you shall ax the back of its neck.
My wife Miriam has an interesting interpretation. Yishmael is called a firstborn donkey, and he was half Egyptian from his mother. This can be seen as re-enacting that the chamor (Egypt is the land of Cham) let the lamb go (the Jewish People, the Korban Pesach) on Pesach.
The next sentence talks about redeeming the firstborn male son. The relevance again might be implying that every firstborn male is a remembrance of going out of Egypt, when the Red Sea split like a mother’s water breaking as the Jewish People were born.
This metaphor says that the Jewish People were born when the Red Sea split, like the breaking of mother’s water. We celebrate this on the seventh day of Pesach, this Friday. It is quite a coincidence we will learn about this in Daf Yomi on Friday.