Thursday, March 4, 2010

Calculating the years the Jews spent in Egypt


[In Bereishit 15:13 Gd told Avraham that the Jews would be strangers in a land that was not their own, and they would be made to work and be oppressed for 400 years.]

"Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah said: The Jews only remained in Egypt 210 years! When Yosef descended to Egypt he was 17, and he was 30 when he stood before Pharaoh. There were 7 years of plenty and 2 of famine before Yaakov descended, as it is written, ‘It has been two years of famine.’ That’s 39 years [Yosef’s age at this point]. Levi ben Yaakov was 6 years older than Yosef, and so he was 45 when he descended to Egypt.

"Levi lived in Egypt for 92 years, for a total of 137, since Levi lived to be 130 years old (I believe this is an error in the text; the text should say 137, per its own calculation earlier in the sentence and per Shemot 6:16). During the descent to Egypt, Levi’s wife gave birth to Yocheved, as it is written, ‘And the name of the wife of Amram was Yocheved bat Levi,’ and she was 130 when she gave birth to Moshe, and Moshe was 80 when he stood before Pharaoh. All told, that is 210 years.

"And yet, the Torah says, ‘They will be made to work and they will be oppressed for 400 years!

"Rabbi Elazar ben Arach said: Gd told Avraham that this would begin from when he had children, as it is written, ‘Your children will strangers in a land not their own' …

"Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah replied: But it is also written (Shemot 12:40), ‘And the dwelling of the Jews was 430 years!’

"He said: They lived in Egypt five years before Yaakov arrived, when two tribes, Menasheh and Ephram, were born. They were of Yisrael, and they descended to Egypt. That yields 215 years. Count the days and the nights and you have 430, for Gd skipped to the end in the merit of the three patriarchs who are the pillars of the world and in the merit of the mothers who are the hills of the world, regarding whom it says (Shir haShirim 2:6), ‘It is arriving, skipping on the mountains, leaping upon the hills.’”

(Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer 47)

Have a great day,

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