THE EGYPTIAN BONDAGE
RABBAN JOCHANAN, son of Ẓakkai, opened (his exposition with the text): "In that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates" (Gen. 15:18). Abram said before the Holy One, blessed be He, Sovereign of all the universe ! Thou hast not given me seed, yet dost Thou say, "Unto thy seed will I give || this land" (ibid.). He said: "Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?" (Gen. 15:8). The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: Abram! The entire world stands by My word, and thou dost not believe in My word, but thou sayest, "Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?" (ibid.). By thy life! In two ways shalt thou surely know, as it is said, "And he said to Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land which is not theirs,… and they shall afflict them" (Gen. 15:18). Rabbi Elazar, son of 'Azariah, said: Is it not so that the Israelites did not dwell in Egypt except for 210 years? But in order to teach thee, know that this is so, come and see; for when Joseph went down to Egypt he was seventeen years old, and when he stood before Pharaoh he was thirty years old, as it is said, "And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt" (Gen. 41:46). And the seven years of plenty, and the two years of famine, behold, they are nine-and-thirty years (in all). And Levi, the son of Jacob, was six years older than Joseph, and when he went down to Egypt he was forty-five years, and the years of his life in Egypt were ninety-two years; behold, all of them (amount to) 137 years, (as it is said,) "And the years of the life of Levi were an hundred thirty and seven years" (Ex. 6:16). On his going down to Egypt, his wife bare unto him Jochebed, his daughter, as it is said, "And the name of Amram's wife was Jochebed" (Num. 26:59), and she was 130 years when she bare Moses, (as it is said,) "And Moses was fourscore years old when he stood before Pharaoh" (Ex. 7:7). || Behold, (the total is) 210 years in all. And thus it says, "And they shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years" (Gen. 15:18). Rabbi Elazar, son of 'Arakh, said to them: The Holy One, blessed be He, said this to Abraham only at the hour when he had seed, as it is said, "Thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs" (ibid.). From the time when Isaac was born until Israel went forth from Egypt 400 years (elapsed). (Rabban Jochanan, son of Ẓakkai) said to him: Verily it is written, "Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, which they sojourned in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years" (Ex. 12:40). He answered him, saying: 210 years Israel abode in Egypt, and five years before Jacob came to Egypt there were born unto Joseph(the fathers of) two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim, and they belonged to the Israelites. Behold, (we have) 215 years of days and nights, (this equals) 430 years; for the Holy One, blessed be He, reduced the time for the sake of the merit of the Patriarchs, for they are the mountains of the world, and for the sake of the merit of the Mothers, for they are the hills of the world, and concerning them the Scripture says, "The voice of my beloved ! Behold, he cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping over the hills" (Cant. 2:8). Rabbi Eliezer said: During all those years, when the Israelites abode in Egypt, they dwelt securely and peacefully at ease until Ganoon, one of the grandchildren of Ephraim, came and said to them, The Holy One, blessed be He, has revealed Himself to me, to lead you out of Egypt. The children of Ephraim, in the pride of their heart, for they were of the royal seed, and mighty men in battle, took their wives and their sons, || and they went forth from Egypt. The Egyptians pursued after them, and slew of them 200,000, all of them mighty men, as it is said, "The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle" (Ps. 78:9). Rabbi Jannai said: The Egyptians did not enslave the Israelites but for one hour of the day of the Holy One, blessed be He, (that is to say, for) 83⅓ years. Whilst yet Moses was not born, the magicians said to Pharaoh: In the future a child will be born, and he will take Israel out of Egypt. Pharaoh thought, and said: Cast ye all the male children into the river, and he will be thrown in with them, and thereby the word (of the magicians) will be frustrated; therefore they cast all the (male) children into the river. Three years (elapsed) until the birth of Moses. When Moses was born they said (to Pharaoh): Behold, he is born, and he is hidden from our vision. (Pharaoh) said to them: Since he is born, henceforth ye shall not cast the male children into the river, but put upon them a hard yoke to embitter the years of their lives with hard labour, as it is said, "And they made their lives bitter" (Ex. 1:14). Rabbi Nathaniel said: The parents of Moses saw the child, (for) his form was like that of an angel of God. They circumcised him on the eighth day, and they called his name Jekuthiel. Rabbi Simeon said: They called him Ṭob (good), as it is said, "And when she saw him that he was good" (Ex. 2:2). They concealed him in a house || of the earth for three months. After three months she put him in an ark of bulrushes, and she cast him upon the bank of the river. All things are revealed before the Holy One, blessed be He. Now Bithyah, the daughter of Pharaoh, was smitten sorely with leprosy and she was not able to bathe in hot water, and she came to bathe in the river, and she saw the crying child. She put forth her hand and took hold of him, and she was healed. She said: This child is righteous, and I will preserve his life. Whosoever preserves a life is as though he had kept alive the whole world. Therefore was she worthy to (inherit) the life in this world and the life in the world to come. All the household of Pharaoh's palace were (helping) to educate (Moses), as it is said, "And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown up, that he went out unto his brethren" (Ex. 2:11). Moses went into the camp of Israel, and saw one of the taskmasters of Pharaoh smiting one of the sons of Kohath, the Levites, for they were his brethren, as it is said, "And he saw an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren" (ibid.). He began to rebuke him with the sword of his lips, and he slew him, and buried him in the midst of the camp, as it is said, "And he smote the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand" (Ex. 2:12). The word Chôl (sand) signifies (here) Israel only, as it is said, "Yet the number of children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea" (Hos. 1:10). He went forth on the second day, and saw two Hebrew men striving. Who were they? || Dathan and Abiram, as it is said, "And he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?" (Ex. 2:18). Dathan said to him: What! Dost thou wish to kill me with the sword of thy mouth as thou didst kill the Egyptian yesterday, as it is said, "Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? Speakest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian?" (Ex. 2:14). "Seekest thou to kill me" is not written (in the Scripture) here, but "Speakest thou to kill me." When Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, they said to him: "Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Let my people go" (Ex. 5:1), that they may serve Me. He said: I know not the Lord. "Who is the Lord, that I should hearken unto his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, and moreover I will not let Israel go" (Ex. 5:2). Aaron cast down his rod, and it became a fiery serpent. The magicians also cast down their rods, and they became fiery serpents. The rod of Aaron ran and swallowed them up with their rods, as it is said, "And Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods" (Ex. 7:12). (Moses) put his hand into his bosom, and brought it forth leprous like snow, and the magicians also put their hands in their bosoms, and brought them forth leprous like snow. But they were not healed till the day of their death. Every plague which the Holy One, blessed be He, brought upon them, they also produced every plague until He brought upon them the boils, and they were not able to stand and to do likewise, as it is said, "And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils" (Ex. 9:11). Rabbi 'Aḳiba said: The executioners of Pharaoh used to strangle the Israelites in the walls of the houses, || and the Holy One, blessed be He, heard their cry, as it is said, "And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob" (Ex. 2:24). Further, they burnt their children in the furnace of fire, as it is said, "But the Lord hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt" (Deut. 4:20). When Israel went forth, what did the Holy One, blessed be He, do? He cast down all the idols of their abominations, and they were broken, as it is said, "Upon their gods also the Lord executed judgments" (Num. 33:4). Rabbi Joseph said: The Egyptians defiled the Israelites and their wives with them. Bedijah, the grandson of Dan, married a wife from his tribe, Shelomith, daughter of Dibri, and in that night the taskmasters of Pharaoh came in unto her, for they slew him and came in unto her, and she conceived and bare a son. In every case the offspring follows the (nature of) the seed: if it be sweet, it will be due to the sweet (seed); if it be bitter, it will be due to the bitter (seed). And when Israel went forth from Egypt, he began to blaspheme and revile the Name of the God of Israel, as it is said, "And the son of the Israelitish woman blasphemed the Name, and cursed" (Lev. 24:11). Rabbi Ishmael said: The five fingers of the right hand of the Holy One, blessed be He, all of them appertain to the mystery of the Redemption. He showed the little finger of the hand to Noah, (pointing out) how to make the ark, as it is said, "And this is how thou shalt make it" (Gen. 6:15). With the second finger, which is next to the little one, He smote the firstborn of the Egyptians, as it is said, "The magicians said unto Pharaoh, || This is the finger of God" (Ex. 8:19). With how many (plagues) were they smitten with the finger? With ten plagues. With the third finger, which is the third (starting from) the little finger, He wrote the tables (of the Law), as it is said, "And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him… tables of stone, written with the finger of God" (Ex. 31:18). With the fourth finger, which is next to the thumb, the Holy One, blessed be He, showed to Moses what the children of Israel should give for the redemption of their souls, as it is said, "This they shall give… half a shekel for an offering to the Lord" (Ex. 30:18). With the thumb and all the hand the Holy One, blessed be He, will smite in the future all the children of Esau, for they are His foes, and likewise (will He smite) the children of Ishmael, for they are His enemies, as it is said, "Let thine hand be lifted up above thine adversaries, and let all thine enemies be cut off" (Mic. 5:9). Rabbi Eliezer said: The five letters of the Torah, which alone of all the letters in the Torah are of double (shape), all appertain to the mystery of the Redemption. With "Khaph" "Khaph" our father Abraham was redeemed from Ur of the Chaldees, as it is said, (Lekh Lekha) "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred… unto the land that I will shew thee" (Gen. 12:1). With "Mem" "Mem" our father Isaac was redeemed from the land of the Philistines, as it is said, "Go from us: for thou art much mightier (Memennu M'ôd) than we" (Gen. 26:16). With "Nun" "Nun" our father Jacob was redeemed from the hand of Esau, as it is said, "Deliver me, I pray thee, (Hazilêne na) from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau" (Gen. 32:11). With "Pê" "Pê" Israel was redeemed from Egypt, as it is said, "I have surely visited you, (Paḳôd Paḳadti) and (seen) that which is done to you in Egypt, and I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt" (Ex. 3:16, 17). With "Zaddi" "Zaddi" the Holy One, blessed be He, in the future will redeem Israel from the oppression of the kingdoms, and He will say to them, I have caused a branch to spring forth for you, as it is said, "Behold, the man whose name is (Zemach) the Branch; and he shall grow up (yizmach) || out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord" (Zech. 6:12). These letters were delivered only to our father Abraham. Our father Abraham delivered them to Isaac, and Isaac (delivered them) to Jacob, and Jacob delivered the mystery of the Redemption to Joseph, as it is said, "But God will surely visit (Paḳôd yiphḳôd) you" (Gen. 1. 24). Joseph his son delivered the secret of the Redemption to his brethren. Asher, the son of Jacob, delivered the mystery of the Redemption to Serach his daughter. When Moses and Aaron came to the elders of Israel and performed the signs in their sight, the elders of Israel went to Serach, the daughter of Asher, and they said to her: A certain man has come, and he has performed signs in our sight, thus and thus. She said to them: There is no reality in the signs. They said to her: He said "Paḳôd yiphḳôd"—"God will surely visit you" (ibid.). She said to them: He is the man who will redeem Israel in the future from Egypt, for thus did I hear, ("Paḳôd Paḳadti") "I have surely visited you" (Ex. 3:16). Forthwith the people believed in their God and in His messenger, as it is said, "And the people believed, and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel" (Ex. 4:31). Rabbi 'Aḳiba said: The taskmasters of Pharaoh were beating the Israelites in order that they should make the tale of bricks, and it is said, "And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them" (Ex. 5:8). The Israelites were gathering the straw of the wilderness, and they were carrying it on their asses and (also on) their wives, and their sons. The straw of the wilderness pierced their heels, and the blood was mingled with the mortar. Rachel, the granddaughter || of Shuthelach, was near childbirth, and with her husband she was treading the mortar, and the child was born (there) and became entangled in the brick mould. Her cry ascended before the Throne of Glory. The angel Michael descended and took the brick mould with its clay, and brought it up before the Throne of Glory. That night the Holy One, blessed be He, descended, and smote the firstborn of the Egyptians, as it is said, "And it came to pass at midnight that the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt" (Ex. 12:29). Rabbi José said: All that night the Israelites were eating and drinking, rejoicing and taking wine and praising their God with a loud voice, whilst the Egyptians were crying with a bitter soul, because of the plague which came upon them suddenly, as it is said, "And there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead" (Ex. 12:80). The Holy One, blessed be He, said: If I bring forth the Israelites by night, they will say, He has done His deeds like a thief. Therefore, behold, I will bring them forth when the sun is in his zenith at midday. By the merit of three things Israel went forth from Egypt: (1) They did not change their language; (2) they did not change their names; (3) and they did not slander one another. In the unity of (God's) Name Israel went forth from Egypt full of all good things, comprising (all) blessings, because He remembered the word which He spake to our father Abraham, as it is said, "And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge, and afterwards shall they come out with great substance" (Gen. 15:14).