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The Birth of Benei Israel

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)

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Introduction. 1

Intercourse. 4

Foul Odors 5

Trimesters 6

The Conception. 8

The Womb. 12

The Pregnancy. 13

The Placenta (Afterbirth) 14

Fetal Growth. 15

Umbilical Cord. 16

False Labor. 17

Mucus Plug. 19

The Midwife. 19

Labor. 20

Breaking of the Water. 24

The Crowning. 27

Birth Canal 28

Birth. 29

The After Birth. 31

Lactation. 33

The Birth of Mashiach ben Yosef 34

The Birth Pangs of Mashiach. 34

The Resurrection of the Dead. 37

Conclusion. 40

 

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Introduction

 

In this study I would like to examine the Egyptian exile and exodus in order to see the prophetic significance of the birth of the Jewish people, the Benei Israel (Children of Israel). This birth took place on the seventh day of Pesach, Passover. The Nazarean Codicil declares that the festivals are prophetic of things to come.

 

Colossians 2:16 Let no (PAGAN) man therefore judge you but the body of Messiah (i.e. the Jewish people) concerning (kosher) meat, or (kosher) drink, or in respect to (the celebration of) a (Biblical) holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: 17 For these (observance of the laws of kashrut and of Biblical festivals) are a shadow (prophecy) of things yet to come.

 

My teacher, Hakham Dr. Yosef ben Haggai, has made the above comments regarding this amazing passage. From this passage we can see that the seventh day of Pesach contains a prophecy regarding the final Redeemer, The Mashiach.

 

The Prophet Micah teaches us that the messianic redemption will be just like the reemption in the days of Moshe.

 

Micah 7:15 As in the days of thy coming forth out of the land of Egypt will I show unto him marvellous things.

 

This connection between the Mosaic redemption and the Messianic redemption suggests that understanding the details of the Mosaic redemption can provide much understanding of the future.

 

This study seeks to understand the birth process of the Benei Israel (the Children of Israel) in order to understand the prophetic significance of this birth process. Come with me as we examine this fantastic event and its prophetic significance. The ArtScroll Mesorah series expressed it this way:

 

The Redemption from Egypt was Israel's birth. As Maharal puts it, "When Israel was in Egypt and the Holy One, Blessed is He, took them out, they were surely like a fetus which had been born, as is stated in Midrash.[1] Therefore, their redemption could have come about only through God Himself and not through an angel.[2]

 

A prolonged birth can encounter complications. The birth of the Jewish nation was swift, before the people could sink to the fiftieth level of spiritual impurity, a point of no return. The revelation of the Divine Presence, which the Jews experienced on the night of the Exodus was essentially a gift from Heaven, an awakening initiated from Above, to rescue the Jews from the morass into which they had sunk.[3]

 

Let’s start by examining Egypt, that womb which bore the Benei Israel.

 

The Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, means a place of confinement. Mitzrayim is likened to a womb from which the Benei Israel emerged as a single entity. Egypt is a remez, a hint, of what the Jewish people will go through, just before the final redemption. The womb, the place of nourishment and comfort, will become a place of pain and of certain death. The womb was a place where all of our needs were met, yet somehow it has turned against us. The place of comfort has become the place of torture.

 

This is not torture for the sake of delivering pain. No, this is torture for the sake of revealing new life. Without this torturous birth process, there would be no way we could ever enter the new and better world. Without dying, we would have no chance at eternal life. Egypt, the womb, is the process that brings us to real life!

 

The mitzva of the Pesach seder is to tell our children about the miracles that HaShem used to deliver us. Yes, we tell the story, but more importantly, we tell the story of the miracles! The birth of the Benei Israel is about miracles. It is a prophecy of our final redemption which will also be miraculous.

 

The nation of Israel was “born prematurely” – after only 210 years, instead of 400 years.

 

Rashi’s Commentary for: Shemot (Exodus) 12:40: was four hundred and thirty years-Altogether, from the time that Isaac was born, until now, were 400 years. From the time that Abraham had seed [i.e., had a child, the prophecy] “that your seed will be strangers”[4] was fulfilled; and there were another 30 years from the decree “between the parts”[5] until Isaac was born. It is impossible, however, to say that [they spent 400 years] in Egypt alone, because Kehath [the grandfather of Moses] was [one] of those who came with Jacob. Go and figure all his years, all the years of his son Amram, and Moses’ 80 years; you will not find them [to be] that many, and perforce, Kehath lived many of his years before he descended to Egypt, and many of Amram’s years are included in the years of Kehath, and many of Moses’ years are included in Amram’s years. Hence, you will not find 400 years counting from their arrival in Egypt. You are compelled, perforce, to say that the other dwellings [which the Patriarchs settled] were also called being “sojournings” and even in Hebron, as it is said: “where Abraham and Isaac sojourned (גָּרוּ)”,[6] and [Scripture] states also “the land of their sojournings in which they sojourned”.[7] Therefore, you must say that [the prophecy] “your seed will be strangers” [commences] when he [Abraham] had offspring. And only when you count 400 years from the time that Isaac was born, you will find 210 years from their entry into Egypt. This is one of the things that [the Sages] changed for King Ptolemy.[8]

 

Also, the ten plagues were apparently HaShem’s means of “inducing birth”.

 

When we left the womb of Egypt, notice what we do as soon as we are out:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 15:1 Then sang Moshe and the children of Israel this song unto HaShem, and spake, saying, I will sing unto HaShem, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

 

How do several million people spontaneously sing the exact same words as Moshe? Unless the Benei Israel, the Children of Israel, were a single soul it would be impossible to achieve such a song. When the Benei Israel sang (will sing[9]) this song, they sang it as Am Israel, the nation of Israel. They sang as only Adam HaRishon could sing, they sang as only Mashiach could sing. This was true unity! Thus we learn that the forging of the unity of the Benei Israel took place in the womb of Mitzrayim!

 

The imagery of Mitzrayim, during the time of the sojourning of the Benei Israel, is the imagery of a pregnant woman about to give birth. From the days of Avraham until the beginning of the exodus, HaShem weaves the history of the beginning of the nation of Israel within the imagery of pregnancy and birth.

 

The imagery of pregnancy and birth is reinforced with the constant refrain of the characters who are involved in pregnancy and birth. Thus, for example, we have the story of Shifra (from the same root as shofar) and Puah, two midwives[10] who are desperate to save the male children. Shifra and Puah were in fact Yocheved and Miriam, the mother and sister of Moshe Rabeinu (Moses our teacher), respectively.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 1:15 And the king of Mitzrayim spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shifra, and the name of the other Puah: 16 And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live. 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Mitzrayim commanded them, but saved the men children alive. 18 And the king of Mitzrayim called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive? 19 And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. 20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty. 21 And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses. 22 And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.

 

Chazal, our Sages, have taught that the names “Shifra” and “Puah” indicate different roles midwives play. “Shifra” stems from the Hebrew verb to swaddle or to clean a baby, while Puah comes from the Hebrew word to cry out, because a midwife tries to calm a new mother’s cries by offering her words of encouragement.

 

Mitzrayim is the picture of galut, the exile – all exiles. When we see this galut through the imagery of the birth process, then we will begin to understand why Chazal explain that the harshest period of galut started in the year in which Miriam was born. That is why she was called Miriam, from the Hebrew word mar meaning bitter. She explained that the harsher the subjugation the closer the redemption. She said it was like childbirth, the closer a woman came to giving birth the more painful the labor pains became.

 

GOEGYPT

 

Chazal compare the passage through the Yam Suf, the Sea of Reeds, and our leaving Mitzrayim, to a birth, with similar stages.

 

In separating the Benei Israel, the Children of Israel, from Mitzrayim, HaShem took one nation from the midst of another nation. This separation is the separation of a baby from the womb. All of us have experienced the process of childbirth in one way or another so we know that during the birthing process, there is a long period of incubation where the two bodies, mother and child, live as one, sharing a common food supply. Suddenly, with HaShem’s help, the fetus leaves the mother’s womb, hurries down the birth canal, and becomes a separate entity, struggling to breathe on its own. And so it was with the Benei Israel; on that night, HaShem created a people. Am Israel was born. Israel became a nation with its own mitzvot and with its own existence. Finally free of Mitzrayim, in both body and soul, Israel was ready to leave.

 

The birth process began with plagues, the pains of labor. The divine intervention shook the Benei Israel out of their Egyptian attachment and positioned them for birth.

 

The birth began when the Benei Israel started leaving Mitzrayim (Egypt), but as long as the Egyptians were alive, and they related to them as their masters, they were not completely detached and the birth was not complete.

 

As they were going out, the Benei Israel reached a terrible crisis. The Yam Suf, the Reed Sea, was in front of them, the Egyptians were bearing down behind them, and then came the decisive prosecution in Heaven: The Benei Israel worshiped idols just as their oppressors. The birth could not proceed, posing a threat of disaster. The splitting of the Yam Suf was the final, successful birth and that was truly the moment of redemption, and birth. This birth was a picture of creation. Just as the dry land was separated from the waters just before the creation of man, so too were the waters of the Yam Suf separated from the dry land before the resurrection and birth of the Benei Israel.

 

What makes the birth of Benei Israel in Mitzrayim such a fascinating study is that it is also an accurate picture of the birth of Benei Israel in the days of Mashiach, the Messiah. This suggests that if we carefully study the birth in the days of Moshe, then we will understand the birth pangs of Mashiach. History will repeat itself. Since these birth pangs will be some of the most difficult times that the world has experienced, it makes sense that we would want to understand what we are getting into.

 

When history repeats itself, our Emunah (faithful obedience) and bitichon (trust) in HaShem are being tested. We are obligated to believe that HaShem will take us out of this galut, this exile, through Mashiach. The righteous will only be gathered as a reward for their Emunah and bitichon in HaShem. But, we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves. Let’s begin our study at the place where all births begin: The intimacy that leads to pregnancy.

 

Intercourse

 

The first time that Mitzrayim (Egypt) is mentioned, in the Torah, is the creation of the concept of Mitzrayim. This first use of the word Mitzrayim is found in:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 12:10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Mitzrayim to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.

 

Here we see that Mitzrayim was a place to procure food so that Avraham and his descendants might grow and become an independent nation. The repeated forays into Mitzrayim are a picture of the intimacy which leads to pregnancy and birth. Israel and his progeny descended into Mitzrayim like a man descends into his wife.

 

Yosef’s brothers, representing the penis, made three thrusts, or trips, into Mitzrayim. Notice that each trip is set in the context of procuring food and a place for growth. Lets look at these thrusts in greater detail:

 

1. The first thrust was when Yosef HaTzaddik’s ten brothers made their first trip to purchase food during the famine.

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 42:1 Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another? 2 And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die. 3 And Joseph’s ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt.

 

On this first trip of Yosef’s brothers, Yosef makes a startling statement:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 42:9 And Joseph remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them, Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.

 

This nakedness of the land is a clear allusion to the act of sexual intercourse which, metaphorically, we are viewing. This is another strong strong hint that this was actually the first thrust.

 

2. The second thrust was when Yosef HaTzaddik’s ten brothers made their second trip to purchase food during the famine.

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 43:11 And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds: 12 And take double money in your hand; and the money that was brought again in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight: 13 Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man: 14 And God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved. 15 And the men took that present, and they took double money in their hand, and Benjamin; and rose up, and went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph.

 

3. The third thrust was when Yaaqov and his entire family went to Mitzrayim to sojourn.

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 46:5 And Jacob rose up from Beersheba: and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, and their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. 6 And they took their cattle, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob, and all his seed with him: 7 His sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt.

 

These repeated trips, to procure food during the famines, speak to the intercourse that was to produce the Benei Israel in the womb of Mitzrayim.

 

Famine: This is a lack of food. Food, by definition, is that which connects the soul to the body (see also Daat). Yosef built the support system in the womb that would support the baby when he stored the grain, the blood supply in the body of Egypt, for seven years.

 

To help us understand this intimate connection, consider that the tongue, the brit HaLashon (the covenant of the tongue), is used to make spiritual offspring (Talmidim) in the same way that the brit mila, the place of the circumcision, is used to make physical offspring. The mouth which contains the tongue is also used for eating. Food provides the fuel for connecting the soul to the body. If you have trouble visualizing this, consider that if you stop for a few days, you will become weak and faint as the soul starts to leave the body. If you refrain from eating long enough, the soul departs the body and you are dead. Thus, as food connects a soul to a body, so also does marital intimacy have the power to bring down a soul and connect it to a body.

 

The Torah alludes to the end of the period of intimacy in:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 1:8 Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew (yu’dah) not Joseph.

 

The word Yu'dah – know, has a specific meaning when used by the Torah to describe relationships. It denotes knowledge, or daat, beyond simple information. It describes knowledge gleaned from the intimate and loving dimension of a relationship, usually between a husband and wife. We see this knowledge, that is intimacy, most clearly in:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 4:1 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from HaShem.

 

From the Garden of Eden, Adam knew Chava and the result was the fruit of the womb, Cain. Knowledge is a connection with someone, or something, which will always bear fruit. Thus we see that the intimacy which began with Yosef’s descent into Mitzrayim, ended when a new king arose in Mitzrayim who did not know Yosef.

 

Foul Odors

 

Intimacy brings with it a couple of foul odors. One from the woman and one from the man. The woman’s lubricant releases an odor first, while the man’s semen provides putrid drops later in the intimacy. Now, negative odors only exist where decay and death reside, therefore we need to look for sin as this is the catalyst that leads to decay and death.

 

Since odors are non-physical, we would expect the metaphor to also be non-physical. Since the woman’s odor comes first, we need to look to the first odor (sin ascribed to Yosef) to originate in Mitzrayim (the womb) and in Yosef (the egg). The following pesukim detail this sin ascribed to Yosef:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 39:7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said: 'Lie with me.' 8 But he refused, and said unto his master's wife: 'Behold, my master, having me, knoweth not what is in the house, and he hath put all that he hath into my hand; 9 he is not greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?' 10 And it came to pass, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her. 11 And it came to pass on a certain day, when he went into the house to do his work, and there was none of the men of the house there within, 12 that she caught him by his garment, saying: 'Lie with me.' And he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out. 13 And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth, 14 that she called unto the men of her house, and spoke unto them, saying: 'See, he hath brought in a Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice. 15 And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment by me, and fled, and got him out.' 16 And she laid up his garment by her, until his master came home. 17 And she spoke unto him according to these words, saying: 'The Hebrew servant, whom thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me. 18 And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment by me, and fled out.'

 

Note that this sin even comes in the context of illicit sexual relations, but it comes before the actual intercourse.

 

Now that we have seen the woman’s foul odor, lets look at the man’s putrid drops. In this metaphorical context, the semen surrounds the sperm (Yaaqov Avinu). We, therefore, expect to see this metaphorically as the brothers’ sin. this sin will become apparent to the world[11] in the process of the pelvic thrusts (the brother’s repeated forays into Mitzrayim to procure food). This odor (sin) will also be revealed as something that will preserve life, much as a woman’s lubricant becames the which smooths the way for a new life to be brought into the world.

 

Bear in mind that the repeated thrusts are designed to produce friction. Metaphorically this friction is reflected in the accusations that Yosef repeatedly brings against his brothers. So here is the man’s odor (Yosef’s brothers’ sin):

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 45:4 And Joseph said unto his brethren: 'Come near to me, I pray you.' And they came near. And he said: 'I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. 5 And now be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life.

 

Trimesters

 

The normal gestation period for the sons of Adam is forty weeks. This gestation period is normally broken down into three parts which are called trimesters.

 

The first trimester is from conception to the end of week thirteen, the second trimester is from week fourteen till the end of week twenty-six, and the third trimester is from week twenty-seven till the end of the pregnancy. Thus we see that each trimesters is thirteen weeks long. Those who wish to explore the meaning and significance of thirteen may wish to examine my study on thirteen.

 

The first trimester is defined as the time from conception until the fetus has a functioning placenta and the sex of the fetus has begun to be differentiated. During this time, most women have ceased menstruating. This trimester is also distinguished externally by the changes in the mother’s body including breast changes, tiredness, nausea and vomiting, frequent urination, and many more symptoms. More importantly, the mother will begin to show that she is pregnant from the growth in her womb. The womb will be the size of grapefruit at this stage. Additionally, the midwife can begin to feel abdominal palpitations by placing her hand on the belly of the mother.

 

The Talmud teaches that at forty days from conception the soul enters the new fetus, and the gender is determined:

 

Menachoth 99b R. Johanan and R. Eleazar both said, The Torah was given in forty days and the soul is formed in forty days: Whosoever keeps the Torah his soul is kept, and whosoever does not keep the Torah his soul is not kept.

 

Chazal forbid a female from marrying into Benei Israel until she has been without a man for a trimester in order to know for certain whether she is pregnant. Thus paternity can easily be established.

 

The second trimester is defined as the time from when the sexual organs have begun differentiation, until the fetus looks similar to what he or she will look like at birth.

 

This trimester will find the mother experiencing sleeping problems and she will begin noticing Braxton Hicks contractions. At the end of the second trimester, the fetus will measure about ten inches and will frequently practice their kicking movements. The fetus at this point can be felt by the mother and by the midwife. The baby has a chance of survival if born during this trimester.

 

The third trimester is defined as the time from when the fetus looks similar to what he or she will look like at birth, until the baby is born.

 

During this trimester, the mother will need to urinate frequently and her belly will looks like it’s ready to explode. Towards the end of this trimester, most babies will have become positioned for birth with their head down.

 

The trimesters used by Chazal and also by doctors and midwives in their description of a pregnancy also speak to the Egyptian exile. Conceptually, we can also view the trimesters of the pregnancy of Benei Israel as follows:

 

First trimester: From the descent into Mitzrayim until the death of Yosef HaTzaddik. This trimester begins with the descent of the seventy souls of Yaaqov into Mitzrayim. At this stage their presence can just barely be felt as “palpitations”.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 1:6 And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation. 7 And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.

 

Second trimester: From the death of Yosef HaTzaddik until the hard labor inflicted by Paro on the Benei Israel. At this stage, the growth of Benei Israel is noticeable and begins to come to the attention of a Paro who knew not Yosef:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 1:8 Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. 9 And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: 10 Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. 11 Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel. 13 And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: 14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 1:15 And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah: 16 And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live. 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive. 18 And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive? 19 And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. 20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty. 21 And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses. 22 And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.

 

Third trimester: From the hard labor inflicted by Paro on the Benei Israel until the crossing of the Yam Suf.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 1:23 And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 3:7 And HaShem said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; 8 And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.

 

The Conception

 

A spermatozoon fertilising an ovum

 

The gestation of a human being takes forty weeks (or two hundred and eighty days). Since we were in Mitzrayim for 210 years (thirty weeks) we left early, seventy years early. Which is very interesting because the conception began when the seventy members of Yaaqov’s family descended into Mitzrayim.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 1:5 And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already.

 

On a pshat level, we see that Yaakov and his family, of seventy, were connecting together for the first time in Egypt. This gives us a superficial understanding of seventy.

 

Although there were seventy souls in the family of Yaakov, the singular form of the word “soul” (nefesh) is used to describe them, as the Midrash explains:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Leviticus IV:6 Of Jacob, on the other hand, there were seventy souls, and yet the word used of them in Scripture is "soul", as it is written, And all the nefesh [sing., soul] that came out of the loins of Jacob, etc.[12]

 

To understand the conception, we need to go back to where we find the number forty in Torah:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 15:12 And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. 13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.

 

Four hundred is forty times ten. Chazal associate the beginning of this period with the birth of Yitzchak:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Genesis XLIV:18 AND HE SAID UNTO ABRAM: KNOW, YEA KNOW (XV, 13): Know that I shall disperse thy seed; know that I will gather them together, know that I will give them in pledge, know that I will redeem them; know that I will allow them to be enslaved, know that I will free them. THAT THY SEED SHALL BE A STRANGER IN A LAND THAT IS NOT THEIRS, AND SHALL SERVE THEM, AND THEY SHALL AFFLICT THEM FOUR HUNDRED YEARS: this means, until four hundred years after seed shall be granted to thee.’

 

Midrash Rabbah - The Song of Songs II:20 They reckoned that [the four hundred years of bondage began] from the time when the decree was pronounced, when God spoke with Abraham between the pieces, but it really began from when Isaac was born.

 

The four hundred years were spent living in places that were not theirs, of which the last two hundred and ten years were spent in Mitzrayim.

 

The Jewish people spent forty years in the desert, as part of the atonement process for having spoken derogatorily about Eretz Israel. We were supposed to have been in Egypt for 400 years, 10 times 40 years, because 40 always signals the end of a period of development.

 

Yosef HaTzaddik, the egg, is prepared

 

When Yosef HaTzaddik was sent out by his father - Israel, it was with the expressed intent of finding the status of his brothers, as was indicated by a cryptic conversation which occurs shortly after Yosef HaTzaddik was sent by his father:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 37:13 And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I. 14 And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. 15 And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou? 16 And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed.

 

Sperm is seed. Seed is quintessentially a collection of memories. This sperm contained the memories of Yaaqov. Yosef, the egg, is equated to Yosef HaTzadik, the sperm, by the Torah:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 37:2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.

 

Yosef HaTzaddik, like an egg, was sent to prepare a place for a child:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 45:4 And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. 5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.

 

It is the nature of seed that it must apparently die and begin to decompose in secret, before it can sprout and bear fruit. We looked at this in depth in a previous study. Thus we see that Yaaqov Avinu ‘dies’ (in mourning) first:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 37:31 And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood; 32 And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no. 33 And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces. 34 And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. 35 And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him. 36 And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard.

 

Sperm is the male seed. By definition, this means that it gives to the female egg. The male is primarily a giver as we can see from marriage intimacy.

 

If Yosef was the egg, then who was the sperm? To understand this answer, we must first understand the essential difference between male and female. This is best seen in marital intimacy. During intimacy, we see that the males gives and the female receives. The female is primarily a receiver. This helps us to understand why HaShem is called male whilst His people are called female. HaShem gives and we receive.

 

Yosef gives food and shelter to his father and brothers. This makes Yaaqov Avinu the receiver. Thus we would say that Yaaqov is the female component, the egg, if you will.

 

When the sperm and the egg meet, we see the ecstatic moment. We see also that this meeting is for the purposes of preserving life:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 45:1 Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren. 2 And he wept aloud: and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard. 3 And Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph; doth my father yet live?[13] And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence. 4 And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. 5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. 6 For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. 9 Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not: 10 And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children’s children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast: 11 And there will I nourish thee; for yet there are five years of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty. 12 And, behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaketh unto you. 13 And ye shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that ye have seen; and ye shall haste and bring down my father hither. 14 And he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him.

 

After the ecstatic moment, the brothers (the penis) goes flacid. They are completely overcome and everything goes out of them.

 

After the ecstatic moment, the sperm must be transported, via the semen, to the uterus for implantation. This transport is exemplified in the following pasuk:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 45:17 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Say unto thy brethren, This do ye; lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan; 18 And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Mitzrayim, and ye shall eat the fat of the land. 19 Now thou art commanded, this do ye; take you wagons out of the land of Mitzrayim for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. 20 Also regard not your stuff; for the good of all the land of Mitzrayim is yours.

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 45:25 And they went up out of Egypt, and came into the land of Canaan unto Jacob their father, 26 And told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob’s heart fainted, for he believed them not. 27 And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived: 28 And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die.

 

Yosef, representing the egg, initiates the transport mechanism, the semen, whereby the sperm is transported to its place of implantation. The wagons, metaphorically, are the semen, the transport mechanism for the sperm. Yosef provided the wagons, as we saw above.

 

When the sperm and the egg meet, we see a new life has begun:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 46:29  And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while. 30  And Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive.

 

The neck is the portion of the anatomy that represents the connection between the higher world (of the head) and the lower world (of the body). The Temple is called the neck because it is the connection between the world we live in and the higher world where HaShem dwells. Thus the neck is synonymous with connection. Thus we see that the sperm (Yaaqov) and the egg (Yosef) have connected. In this connection, the sperm is absorbed into the egg and dies.

 

Now that the sperm and the egg have met, there is yet one more task that must be accomplished: The egg must be implanted in the womb. This implanting of Israel is seen when Israel comes to sojourn in Mitzrayim:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 46:28 And he sent Judah before him unto Joseph, to direct his face unto Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen. 29 And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while. 30 And Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive. 31 And Joseph said unto his brethren, and unto his father’s house, I will go up, and shew Pharaoh, and say unto him, My brethren, and my father’s house, which were in the land of Canaan, are come unto me; 32 And the men are shepherds, for their trade hath been to feed cattle; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have. 33 And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say, What is your occupation? 34 That ye shall say, Thy servants’ trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians. 47:1 Then Joseph came and told Pharaoh, and said, My father and my brethren, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, are come out of the land of Canaan; and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen. 2 And he took some of his brethren, even five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh. 3 And Pharaoh said unto his brethren, What is your occupation? And they said unto Pharaoh, Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers. 4 They said moreover unto Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land are we come; for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan: now therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen. 5 And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee: 6 The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle. 7 And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. 8 And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou? 9 And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage. 10 And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh. 11 And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded. 12 And Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father’s household, with bread, according to their families.

 

Thus the male component, the seed, sperm, is implanted in the female component, the egg; and the two components together become embedded in the uterus (Mitzrayim) to begin the pregnancy.

 

The Womb

 

The womb (uterus) is an organ that shelters the fetus and provides for its nourishment. In return, the fetus causes the womb to grow and develop. The womb is the strongest muscle in the human body. At the end of the pregnancy it is at its greatest size and strength.

 

Mitzrayim, Egypt, is the womb which sheltered the Benei Israel during a critical period of growth and development. The following Torah portion indicates that the womb was the best place for the development of the Benei Israel:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 47:1 Then Joseph came and told Pharaoh, and said, My father and my brethren, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, are come out of the land of Canaan; and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen. 2 And he took some of his brethren, even five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh. 3 And Pharaoh said unto his brethren, What is your occupation? And they said unto Pharaoh, Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers. 4 They said moreover unto Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land are we come; for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan: now therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen. 5 And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee: 6 The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.

 

The womb provides the best environment and nourishment the body has to offer. The developing child need do nothing except study Torah and grow in size and in strength. Thus we see that Mitzrayim was the perfect womb for the development and growth of Benei Israel.

 

Our Sages teach that the baby in the womb has a light over his head with an angel teaching him the whole Torah.

 

Nidah 30b R. Simlai delivered the following discourse: What does an embryo resemble when it is in the bowels of its mother? Folded writing tablets.[14] Its hands rest on its two temples respectively, its two elbows on its two legs and its two heels against its buttocks. Its head lies between its knees, its mouth is closed and its navel is open, and it eats what its mother eats and drinks what its mother drinks, but produces no excrements because otherwise it might kill its mother. As soon, however, as it sees the light[15] the closed organ[16] opens and the open one[17] closes, for if that had not happened the embryo could not live even one single hour. A light burns above its head and it looks and sees from one end of the world to the other, as it is said, then his lamp shined above my head, and by His light I walked through darkness.[18]

 

The light over his head and the Torah study are found when Israel sent Judah to prepare a place of Torah study, ahead of his father.

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 46:28 And he sent Judah before him unto Joseph, to direct his face unto Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen.

 

Rashi quotes the Midrash that says that Yaaqov sent Yehuda ahead to prepare a place of learning. There are a number of hints to this in our verse. For example, the word translated in English as "to prepare", is written in Hebrew as "l'horot", which literally means "to teach", pointing to the explanation that Yehuda went ahead to Egypt to set up a yeshiva for Torah learning. Another hint comes from the Sifseiy Chachamim.[19] He points out that the Hebrew spelling of "l'horot", to teach, normally has two vav's whereas in our verse it's written with only one vav. The four Hebrew letters in the word "l'horot", when rearranged, spell the word "Torah", another indication of Yehuda's real mission.

 

The growth and development of the womb is depleted once the baby is born. Thus the building up of the womb is transitory. The Benei Israel built up the womb of Mitzrayim even as they grew:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 1:11 Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel. 13 And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: 14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.

 

The Talmud and Midrash indicate that all of the labor of the Benei Israel in the building up of Mitzrayim, did not produce any lasting edifice:

 

Sotah 11a Pithom and Raamses — Rab and Samuel differ [in their interpretation]; one said: Its real name was Pithom, and why was it called Raamses? Because one building after another collapsed [mithroses]. The other said that its real name was Raamses, and why was it called Pithom? Because the mouth of the deep [pi tehom] swallowed up one building after another.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus I:10 PITHOM AND RAAMSES. Rab and Samuel differed on this also. One said that Pithom was its real name, and the reason why it was called Raamses was because each portion as it was built crashed (mithroses); and the other maintained that its real name was Raamses, and the reason of it being called Pithom was because the mouth of the deep[20] (pi tehom) swallowed them one by one.

 

Thus we learn that the womb which supports the growing child is destined to collapse and return to its former self after the baby is born. The growth of the womb induced by the child, will not last.

 

Mitzrayim, the epitome of galut, exile, is destined to become a shadow of itself as the Benei Israel are born and leave the womb. The womb has value only whilst it is occupied and nurturing the child within. After the child is born, the womb no longer has value.

 

History has shown that Mitzrayim rose to its pinnacle of power and influence in the days when the Benei Israel dwelt and grew there. After the Benei Israel left, the greatness of Mitzrayim also departed. Mitzrayim has never again risen to even a shadow of the greatness that it experienced when the Benei Israel dwelt there.

 

The Pregnancy

 

 

The 400 years of galut, starting with the birth of Yitzchak, promised to Avraham is an allusion to the forty weeks of pregnancy. The actual pregnancy in Mitzrayim lasted 210 years, yet the galut, exile, began when Yitzchak, Avraham’s seed, was born:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 15:12 And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. 13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. 15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

 

The Torah treats the exile of Avraham and his seed as though it all took place in Mitzrayim. Thus we learn that Mitzrayim is the term that the Torah uses for galut, exile:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 12:40 Now the sojourning of the Benei Israel, who dwelt in Mitzrayim, was four hundred and thirty years. 41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of HaShem went out from the land of Mitzrayim.

 

The time spent in Mitzrayim, including the slavery, can be seen as a period of pregnancy; the Benei Israel were growing within the "womb" of another nation, Mitzrayim.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 1:7 And the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly and multiplied and grew exceedingly great.

 

The pregnancy occurred when Yosef HaTzaddik met his family in Goshen, as we discussed earlier.

 

As the fetus grows within the womb, the woman groans and cries in pain and discomfort:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 2:23 And the children of Israel sighed because of the bondage and they cried out.

 

The Placenta (Afterbirth)

The placenta in the womb, fetal side and maternal side.The placenta is an temporary organ present only in the woman during gestation. The placenta is composed of two parts, one of which is genetically and biologically part of the fetus, the other part of the mother.

 

The placenta (also known as afterbirth) is an organ that connects the developing fetus to the uterine wall to providing protection to the fetus trough the transfer of antibodies, to allow nutrient uptake, to provide thermo-regulation to the fetus, waste elimination, and gas exchange via the mother's blood supply, fight against internal infection and produce hormones to support pregnancy. The placenta provides oxygen and nutrients to growing babies and removes waste products from the baby's blood. The placenta attaches to the wall of the uterus, and the baby's umbilical cord develops from the placenta. The umbilical cord is what connects the mother and the baby.

 

The placenta is an apt description of the the guards. There were Egyptian guards / army and Hebrew guards. The Hebrew guards later integrated into The fetus. The Egyptian guards / army formed an interface between the Benei Israel and HaShem. The Egyptians effectively hid the hand of HaShem by seemingly providing the shelter and support that was needed during their stay in Mitzrayim.

 

The placenta which is expelled from the mother’s body shortly after the birth of the child, is an apt description of the Egyptian army which were washed up on the shore of the Yam Suf.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 14:27 And Moshe stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and HaShem overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 28 And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them. 29 But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. 30 Thus HaShem saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. 31 And Israel saw that great work which HaShem did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared HaShem, and believed HaShem, and his servant Moshe.

 

It is interesting to note that the Benei Israel collected more wealth on the shores of the Yam Suf then they did while they were in Mitzrayim.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 15:22 Moshe caused Bnei Israel to journey from the Yam Suf...they went for a three day period in the wilderness, but they did not find water.

 

Moshe had to force the people to leave the Yam Suf. Had it been up to Benei Israel, they would have remained there gathering up the immense spoils of the Egyptian army. Chazal tell us that the Egyptians, assured of their impending victory over the Jews, bedecked their horses with every type of jewelry, gold and silver. After it was all over, the Jews had a "difficult" time coping with the enormous wealth that was now theirs for the taking. As a result, they refused to leave (Rashi). The Midrash tells us a similar story:

 

Midrash Rabbah - The Song of Songs I:55 WE WILL MAKE THEE CIRCLETS OF GOLD. CIRCLETS OF GOLD signifies the spoil of the Red Sea. WITH STUDS OF SILVER signifies the spoil of Egypt. As the difference between silver and gold, such was the superiority of the wealth obtained at the Red Sea over the spoil of Egypt. It is written, And thou camest with ornaments upon ornaments.

 

This wealth that was collect from the Egyptians on the shores of the Yam Sum is like the stem cells that are collected from the placenta and umbilical cord. These stem cells can be used to re-grow organs. For example, stem cells have been used to re-grow the spinal cord such that one who was paralyzed is no longer paralyzed. This is a fantastic treasure!

 

Fetal Growth

 

The growth of the fetus is characterized by the descent of the family of Yaaqov to Mitzrayim and their multiplication in the land.

 

Meam Loez tells us about the growth of the Benei Israel:

 

Some calculate that the total original number of Israelites was 9 billion nine hundred sixty-eight million, seven hundred sixty thousand. During the years in Egypt the women had given birth to sextuplets and families with sixty children were not uncommon. The vast majority of these people, however, died during the days of darkness.

 

Their phenomenal growth is mentioned several times in the Torah:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 47:27 And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 1:7 And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.

 

Rashi, commenting on the many verbs used to describe the amazing growth of the Benei Israel. In the above pasuk, (which explains how we get from 70 people to a nation of some three million at the time of the exodus), quotes the Midrash that the women would have sextuplets (playing on the six words used here).

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus I:8 THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL WERE FRUITFUL AND INCREASED ABUNDANTLY. Another explanation: Each woman bore six at one birth, for it is said: AND THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL WERE FRUITFUL AND INCREASED ABUNDANTLY.

 

If so, ten pregnancies per mother would yield sixty offspring, of which only one would be firstborn; half of the children and of the firstborn would be males, with one male firstborn for every sixty male births.

 

An enigma that shows the validity of Rashi’s sextuplets, is that among the twelve tribes there were only 22,273 firstborn males, aged one month and older (Shemot 3:43). Even compared with the adult male population of 603,550, this represents only one out of every thirty males. The ratio to the total population would be extraordinarily low, one firstborn out of sixty.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 1:12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 1:20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.

 

* * *

 

The Midrash "How does the embryo lie in its mother's womb?--It is folded up and lying like a writing-tablet. Its head lies between its knees, its two hands rest on its temples, its two heels on its two buttocks; its mouth is closed, but its navel is open; its food is that which its mother eats, its drink is that which its mother drinks, and it does not discharge excrement lest [thereby] it should kill its mother. When it issues forth into the open world, that which had been closed is opened, and that which had been open is closed."

 

The paschal lamb sacrificed the eve of the departure from Egypt, was roasted on a spit over the fire, its head upon its legs, assuming the classic fetal position. This symbolizes the Benei Israel as a yet unborn fetus.

 

Umbilical Cord

 

The umbilical cord provides a connection between the source of nourishment, the mother, and the developing fetus. This intimate connection explains why our belly buttons are in the center, from left to right, of our bodies. However, the mother is just a façade. HaShem clearly provides the nourishment for both the mother and the developing fetus. Thus we must conclude that the umbilical cord stretches through the mother to connect to HaShem. The gestation of the Benei Israel is no exception.

 

What is our connection with HaShem, the ultimate source? Surely we must say that Torah is our connection. If we examine the record of the Egyptian galut, exile, we surely must find a Torah connection. Chazal have found that connection in the following pasuk:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 46:28 And [Yaaqov] sent Yehuda before him to Yosef, to guide before him to Goshen, and they came into the land of Goshen.

 

Why did Yaaqov send Yehuda on ahead? The brothers had been down to Egypt and back, twice. Yehuda didn't need to hail a camel driver for directions. So what, then, did Yehuda need to accomplish in order to prepare the way for Yaaqov? Let’s see what the Midrash Rabbah says about this:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Genesis XCV:3 AND HE SENT JUDAH BEFORE HIM UNTO JOSEPH, TO TEACH [E.V. SHOW]. What is implied by TO TEACH? Said R. Nehemiah: To prepare an academy for him there where he would teach Torah and where the tribal ancestors would read the Torah. The proof of this lies in the fact that when Joseph departed from him Jacob knew what subject he was studying when he left him, because he used to go over his studies with him. When Joseph's brethren came and said, Joseph is yet alive,... his heart fainted, for he believed them not (Gen. XLV, 26), Jacob recollected at what subject Joseph had left him, and he said to himself, I know that Joseph left me at the passage on the beheaded heifer, and so he said to them: ‘If he gave you a sign at what subject he left me I will believe you.’ Now Joseph too had remembered at what subject he had left him, so what did he do? He gave them wagons, as it says, And Joseph gave them ‘agaloth (ib. 21). This teaches you that wherever he went he studied the Torah, just as did his forbears, though the Torah had not yet been given. For surely it is written, Because that Abraham hearkened to My voice, and kept... My laws-toroth (ib. XXVI, 5).

 

The Midrash provides the answer, quoted by Rashi in his commentary: Yehuda went to prepare a House of Study for the brothers and their families. The word Torah actually means guide or instruction, from the same root used in "to guide before him to Goshen." Furthermore, the verse is written with a missing vav in to guide, leaving the same four letters as Torah, rearranged.

 

The womb is the first critical environment for formation of the child. The Talmud relates that an angel is dispatched from above to study Torah with the fetus, in utero, for the duration of the forty weeks, to adequately prepare the unborn child for his future existence.

 

Upon birth, we are told, the angel, with a flick of a finger to the indentation of the lip, causes the child to forget all that has been learned.

 

Though we may not remember what we have learned, nonetheless at a subconscious level the information is there, programmed into the marrow of our being, waiting to be downloaded and recalled. All it takes is the desire and willingness to put forth the effort, to access the knowledge, and to bring it to a conscious level.

 

Thus we see that in the pregnancy of Benei Israel follows the same pattern as normal birth in that Torah study is an essential connection, an umbilical cord, between the Benei Israel and HaShem.

 

False Labor

 

False labor, known as Braxton Hicks contractions, are sporadic uterine contractions that actually start at about 6 weeks. unlike true labor, during this so-called false labor the contractions don't grow consistently longer, stronger, and closer together. Thus we can differentiate between true and false labor.

 

In Mitzrayim we also have an example of false labor. The Benei Ephraim left Mitzrayim thirty years earlier in an abortive attempt to bring the redemption. The Benei Ephraim were slaughtered by the inhabitants of Gath and their bones left to rot in open fields.

 

Sanhedrin 92b Now, who were they whom Ezekiel revived? — Rab said: They were the Ephraimites, who counted [the years] to the end [of the Egyptian bondage], but erred therein[21], as it is written, And the sons of Ephraim; Shuthelah, and Bared his son, and Tahath his son, and Eladah his son, and Tahath his son. And Zabad his son, and Shuthelah his son, and Ezzer, and Elead, whom the men of Gath that were born in that land slew[22]. And it is written, And Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him[23].

 

Rashi in his commentary on the Gemara explains: And erred: for they should have calculated the edict, “and they shall be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years” (Bereshit 15:13) from the birth of Isaac, … but they [the sons of Ephraim] calculated it from the moment [G-d] spoke to Abraham. It is taught in Seder Olam [the reckoning of the universe] that our forefather Abraham was seventy years old when [G-d] spoke to him at the Covenant of the Pieces, and another thirty years passed from the Covenant of the Pieces until the birth of Isaac, for it is written: “Now Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him” (Bereshit 21:5). Thus it turns out that from the time He spoke to him at the Covenant of the Pieces until they left Egypt there were four hundred (and thirty) years, and the sons of Ephraim erred by the thirty years from the time He spoke until the birth of Isaac. Whence do we know the sons of Ephraim left too early and were killed? For it is said: “The sons of Ephraim: Shutelah, …, and they were killed by the men of Gath.”

 

Sefer HaYasher Chapter 75 1 At that time, in the hundred and eightieth year of the Israelites going down into Egypt, there went forth from Egypt valiant men, thirty thousand on foot, from the children of Israel, who were all of the tribe of Joseph, of the children of Ephraim the son of Joseph. 2 For they said the period was completed which the Lord had appointed to the children of Israel in the times of old, which he had spoken to Abraham. 3 And these men girded themselves, and they put each man his sword at his side, and every man his armor upon him, and they trusted to their strength, and they went out together from Egypt with a mighty hand. 4 But they brought no provision for the road, only silver and gold, not even bread for that day did they bring in their hands, for they thought of getting their provision for pay from the Philistines, and if not they would take it by force. 5 And these men were very mighty and valiant men, one man could pursue a thousand and two could rout ten thousand, so they trusted to their strength and went together as they were. 6 And they directed their course toward the land of Gath, and they went down and found the shepherds of Gath feeding the cattle of the children of Gath. 7 And they said to the shepherds, Give us some of the sheep for pay, that we may eat, for we are hungry, for we have eaten no bread this day. 8 And the shepherds said, Are they our sheep or cattle that we should give them to you even for pay? so the children of Ephraim approached to take them by force. 9 And the shepherds of Gath shouted over them that their cry was heard at a distance, so all the children of Gath went out to them. 10 And when the children of Gath saw the evil doings of the children of Ephraim, they returned and assembled the men of Gath, and they put on each man his armor, and came forth to the children of Ephraim for battle. 11 And they engaged with them in the valley of Gath, and the battle was severe, and they smote from each other a great many on that day. 12 And on the second day the children of Gath sent to all the cities of the Philistines that they should come to their help, saying, 13 Come up unto us and help us, that we may smite the children of Ephraim who have come forth from Egypt to take our cattle, and to fight against us without cause. 14 Now the souls of the children of Ephraim were exhausted with hunger and thirst, for they had eaten no bread for three days. And forty thousand men went forth from the cities of the Philistines to the assistance of the men of Gath. 15 And these men were engaged in battle with the children of Ephraim, and the Lord delivered the children of Ephraim into the hands of the Philistines. 16 And they smote all the children of Ephraim, all who had gone forth from Egypt, none were remaining but ten men who had run away from the engagement. 17 For this evil was from the Lord against the children of Ephraim, for they transgressed the word of the Lord in going forth from Egypt, before the period had arrived which the Lord in the days of old had appointed to Israel. 18 And of the Philistines also there fell a great many, about twenty thousand men, and their brethren carried them and buried them in their cities. 19 And the slain of the children of Ephraim remained forsaken in the valley of Gath for many days and years, and were not brought to burial, and the valley was filled with men's bones. 20 And the men who had escaped from the battle came to Egypt, and told all the children of Israel all that had befallen them. 21 And their father Ephraim mourned over them for many days, and his brethren came to console him. 22 And he came unto his wife and she bare a son, and he called his name Beriah, for she was unfortunate in his house.

 

It is also interesting and instructive to understand that Chazal[24] connect this incident with Ezekiel’s dry bones in Ezekiel 37. Chazal teach that the bones that are resurrected are the Benei Ephraim that died in Gath.

 

Sanhedrin 92b Now, who were they whom Ezekiel revived? — Rab said: They were the Ephraimites, who counted [the years] to the end [of the Egyptian bondage], but erred therein[25], as it is written, And the sons of Ephraim; Shuthelah, and Bared his son, and Tahath his son, and Eladah his son, and Tahath his son. And Zabad his son, and Shuthelah his son, and Ezzer, and Elead, whom the men of Gath that were born in that land slew[26]. And it is written, And Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him[27].

 

The false labor could also be the explanation for Moshe’s action when he returned to Midian for three months after the plague of blood.

 

Mucus Plug

 

From hours, to days, before labor, the small mucus plug that has sealed the cervix throughout pregnancy may begin to stretch, then break apart as the cervix shortens and thins out in a process called effacing. Once this occurs, pink-tinged mucus, or bloody show, may be discharged from the vagina.

 

Hours before the Benei Israel left Mitzrayim, they put blood on the doorposts and lintels of their houses. This blood marked the opening of a house, a womb if you will, which protected the firstborn.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 12:21 Then Moshe called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the Passover. 22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. 23 For HaShem will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, HaShem will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.

 

This blood on the opening of their houses was the mucus plug that protected the firstborn during his time of growth in the womb Mitzrayim. The next morning those in the house will begin the birth process as they position themselves in the womb of Mitzrayim.

 

The Midwife

 

A midwife is a health care practitioner, who is not a physician, who provides prenatal care to expecting mothers, attends the birth of the infant and provide postpartum care to the mother and infant.

 

Moshe personified the midwife as he was given the responsibility before HaShem for delivering the Benei Israel:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 3:10 Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Mitzrayim.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 6:13 And HaShem spake unto Moshe and unto Aaron, and gave them a charge unto the children of Israel, and unto Pharaoh king of Mitzrayim, to bring the children of Israel out of the land of Mitzrayim.

 

Ibn Ezra asks about the origin of the name Moshe; the Hebrew literally means I draw forth, the active verb, but in context he should have been named Mashui, the one who was drawn forth, in the passive voice. The Netziv and Kassuto both make the point that the word Moshe in Egyptian means son, which gives profound meaning to Bitya's, Moshe’s adopted mother, declaration: "she called his name Moshe, son, because (she said) 'I drew him forth from the water.'" She is in effect declaring that she has earned the right to consider him her son since she took him from the water (a double entendre, referring both to the waters of the Nile River and, by allegory, the water or amniotic fluid which breaks with the birth of a baby) and saved his life from the Egyptian decree.

 

Bitya was indeed a second mother for a man whose name would prove prophetic: he, too, would draw forth the Hebrew slaves from the waters of the Yam Suf, bringing them from death to life, from slavery to freedom, from darkness to light. Moshe would be the model for the eventual Mashiach, or savior, who will ultimately bring all the nations of the world to peace, freedom and redemption.

 

The midwife must be close to family of the one being delivered in order to gain their trust. Moshe was of the tribe of Levi and, therefore, close to his tribal brethren.

 

Moshe was born circumcised[28], suggesting that HaShem had given him a special mission.

 

The birth of Moshe was painless for Yocheved[29], due to her righteousness, suggesting that the midwife did not need a midwife himself.

 

Moshe was fit for prophecy at birth[30], suggesting that he was an agent of HaShem who was sent to assist his brothers.

 

When Moshe was put into the sea, Pharaoh's astrologers told Pharaoh there was no more need to throw children into the sea[31], suggesting that Moshe would save his brothers by delivering them from the water (Yam Suf).

 

Moshe was put into the sea on the 21st of Nisan, and the angels protested that he shouldn't suffer on the water on the date when he was destined to sing to HaShem by the Sea[32]. This suggests that his work was to bring the Benei Israel through the Yam suf.

 

Labor

 

Labor is divided into three stages:

 

1.         The first stage begins with the onset of contractions and ends when the cervix is fully dilated (to ten centimeters).

2.         The second stage involves delivery of the baby.

3.         The third stage entails delivery of the placenta and membranes, or afterbirth.

 

The purpose of labor is to prepare the womb and the baby for delivery. There are several things that must be accomplished for successful delivery:

 

  1. The baby must be positioned in the womb.
  2. The cervix must become dilated to 10 cm.
  3. Contractions must become stronger.

 

The labor and birth pangs are seen in the plagues.

 

Each of the ten plagues occurred in ten months and lasted four weeks each, for a total of forty weeks.

 

These are the ten plagues which HaShem brought upon the Egyptians in Mitzrayim:

 


דם

Dam

Blood,

צפרדע

Tz'fardya

Frogs,

כנים

Kinim

Lice,

ערוב

Arov

Beasts,

דבר

Deber

Cattle Pestilence,

שחין

Sh'chin

Boils,

ברד

Barad

Hail,

ארבה

Arbeh

Locusts,

חשך

Chosheh

Darkness,

בכורות מכת

Makat B'chorot

Death of the Firstborn.

 


The blue letters in the following table show us the first letter of each of these plagues:

 

ד


דם

Blood,

צ

צפרדע

Frogs,

ך (כ)

כנים

Lice,

 

 

 

ע

ערוב

Beasts,

ד

דבר

Cattle Pestilence,

ש

שחין

Boils,

 

 

 

ב

ברד

Hail,

א

ארבה

Locusts,

ח

חשך

Darkness,

ב

בכורות מכת

Death of the Firstborn.

 

At Pesach, during the seder, we read that Rabbi Yehuda referred to these ten plagues by acronyms: Rabbi Yehuda divided these plagues into three groups, or trimesters:

 

DeTzaCh

דצ״ך

(blood, frogs, lice);

AdaSh

עד״ש

(beasts, pestilence, boils);

BeAChaB

באח״ב

(hail, locust, darkness, first-born).

 

The letters באח״ב עד״ש דצ״ך are the initials of the names of the ten plagues in Hebrew, according to the acronym given to us by Rabbi Yehuda.

 

The first plague was that of blood, for the womb cannot open without bleeding first. For if the blood would not come out first, the child would choke and drown in the blood, which correlates to the powers of impurity. Blood issuing from the womb is associated with the powers of impurity since their issuance always causes the woman to focus on herself, and self-awareness is the antithesis of Divine consciousness.

 

Next was the plague of frogs. The word for “frog” [tzefardei’a] can be seen as constructed of the words for “a bird of knowledge” [tzipor dei’a]. These are the seventy voices of the woman giving birth, which correspond to the seventy words in Psalm 20, which begins, “May G-d answer you on the day  of pain.” [These voices] are thus alluded to by a bird, referring to the [sounds women make like] birdcalls and chirps when giving birth.

 

[The analogue of] the plague of darkness [is as follows]. It is known that during the first trimester, the fetus is in the lower chamber [of the womb], during the middle trimester, it is in the middle chamber, and during the last trimester, it is in the upper chamber. At birth, it rolls down and dwells in darkness and great pain. Darkness was the ninth plague. The plague of the firstborn corresponds to the subjugation of the [evil inclination’s ancillary] powers of impurity that ruled within the womb. If this would not occur, they would kill the fetus. Even though they made the fetus grow, thus is their way: they descend to entice and ascend to accuse.[33]

 

Shemot (Exodus) 14:1-2 God spoke to Moshe, saying: "Speak to the Israelites, and let them turn back and camp before Freedom Valley (Pi HaChiroth}, between Tower (Migdal} and the sea, facing Lord-of-the-North (Baal Tzephon}. Camp opposite it, near the sea."

 

HaShem wanted the Israelites to turn around purposely and head back toward Mitzrayim. They were to camp between the Tower and Lord-of-the North, right on the seashore.

 

Freedom Valley (Pi HaChiroth) was a plain between two huge natural pillars. One had the form of a man, while the other looked like a woman, and both seemed to have large eyes. Although they had remarkably human form, they were natural formations[34]. This is the perfect picture for a woman in childbirth with her knees bent and her legs raised like two pillars.

 

There is another interesting question that might be pose: Was the birth of the Benei Israel an induced labor? After all, when Moshe and Aharon went to Paro, in effect their going in to Paro was the inducement that brought on the labor pains, the plagues.

 

The plagues did not unfold suddenly, all at once, nor was there only a single plague. Rather, HaShem brought ten plagues upon the Egyptians, gradually, over the course of a year. HaShem did not begin with the most severe plague, rather, He delivered them slowly, one stage at a time, so that the collapse of Mitzrayim and the birth of Am Israel, the nation of Israel, was gradually manifest. Chazal teach that HaShem will follow the same slow process in the Messianic redemption.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 4:21 And HaShem said unto Moshe, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go. 22 And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith HaShem, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: 23 And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.

 

The ten plagues are the contractions that a woman experiences in the run up to the birth of the child. In the active phase, contractions occur about 3 minutes apart, last about 45 to 60 seconds.

 

In the transition phase, contractions occur every two to three minutes and last 60 to 90 seconds. this is the phase where we have a plague that lasts 1 week (1 minute) followed by three weeks (3 minutes) of quiet.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Deuteronomy VII:9 The plagues deceived them[35]. How? The plagues came every thirty days[36] and lasted for seven days and then departed. The Egyptians had thus respite for twenty-three days between one plague and the next.’ This proves that [the plagues] deceived them.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus IX:12 AND SEVEN DAYS WERE FULFILLED, AFTER THAT THE LORD HAD SMITTEN THE RIVER (VII, 25). R. Judah and R. Nehemiah discussed this. One of them said that God warned them for twenty-four days prior to bringing the plague upon them, the actual plague lasting seven days; while the other said that for seven days did He warn them, the actual plague lasting twenty-four days. According to the one who maintains that for twenty-four days He warned them, the words AND SEVEN DAYS WERE FULFILLED refer to the actual plague; and according to him who maintains that for seven days He warned them, the words AND SEVEN DAYS WERE FULFILLED, AFTER THAT THE LORD HAD SMITTEN THE RIVER refer to the warning given for another plague.

 

The plagues were the forces that caused the Egyptians to expel the Benei Israel:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 12:30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. 31 And he called for Moshe and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve HaShem, as ye have said. 32 Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also. 33 And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.

 

The ten plagues were designed to kill and torture the Egyptians in order that they should recognize HaShem, while at the same time the plagues were preparing the Benei Israel to leave the womb. The plagues were the catalyst to position and prepare the Benei Israel for the exodus and their birth as a nation.

 

The plagues, the contractions, began in Iyar and ended in Nisan with a hiatus during Sivan, Tammuz, and Elul.

 

Nisan 1:          Egypt was afflicted with the first plague: Blood. Exodus 7:19 Seder Olam 3 (Sapphire staff)

 

The plague of blood was designed to affect both the fetus and the womb.

 

PLAGUE1

 

Iyar:                No plague.

 

Sivan:             No plague.

 

Tammuz:        No Plague.

 

PLAGUE2

 

Av 1:               Egypt was afflicted with the second plague: Frogs. Exodus 8:2 Seder HaDoros (Sapphire staff)

 

 

Elul 1:             Egypt was afflicted with the third plague: Lice. Exodus 8:16 Zikhron Yemot Olam (Sapphire staff)

 

Tishri 1:         Egypt was afflicted with the fourth plague: Beasts Exodus 8:24 Zihron Yemot Olam (HaShem)

 

Cheshvan 1:   Egypt was afflicted with the fifth plague: Cattle plague Exodus 9:3 Zihron Yemot Olam (HaShem)

 

Kislev 1:         Egypt was afflicted with the sixth plague: Boils. Exodus 9:9 Zihron Yemot Olam (HaShem)

 

Tevet 1:          Egypt was afflicted with the seventh plague: Hail and fire. Exodus 9:24 Zichron Yemot Olam (Sapphire staff)

 

Shevat 1:        Egypt was afflicted with the eighth plague: Locusts. Exodus 10:4 Zichron Yemot Olam (Sapphire staff)

 

Adar 1:           Egypt was afflicted with the ninth plague: Darkness. Exodus 10:21 Zikhron Yemot Olam. (Sapphire staff)

 

Nisan 15:        Egypt was afflicted with the tenth plague: Death of the firstborn. Exodus 33:3-4 (HaShem)

 

It is well known that a woman is ready to deliver after she reaches ten centimeters of cervix dilation. In the same way, the birth of the Benei Israel was ready to proceed after ten plagues. Thus the ten plagues alludes to this ten centimeter dilation.

 

Chazal teach us that the ten plagues were really the tip of the iceberg. The most intense in terms of severity and number occurred at the Yam Suf:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus V:14 He [Pharaoh] answered them: ‘I do not know who this God of yours is‘; as it is said: WHO IS THE LORD, THAT I SHOULD HEARKEN UNTO HIS VOICE? God then said to him: ' Wretch! "WHO (mi) IS THE LORD? " thou sayest. Well, thou wilt be punished with this word ’’Mi’’.’ The letter mem is forty and yod is ten--indicating the fifty plagues which God brought upon the Egyptians at the sea, as it says: Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh: This is the finger of God (Ex. VIII, 15); and at the sea, what does it say: And Israel saw the great hand (ib. XIV, 31). How many plagues did He inflict with His finger? Ten. Therefore, with the five fingers of His great hand, He smote them with fifty plagues, ten for each of the five fingers.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XXIII:9 Another explanation of THEN SANG MOSHE. It is written, The Lord hath made Himself known, He hath executed judgment (Ps. IX, 17); this refers to the Egyptians on whom God executed judgment in Egypt and also by the Sea. R. Joshua said: The ten plagues with which the Egyptians were smitten in Egypt were wrought with one finger, for it says, Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh: This is the finger of God (Ex. VIII, 15); but at the Sea, they were smitten with fifty plagues, for it says, And Israel saw the great hand [work] (ib. XIV, 31). There are five fingers to one hand, and five times ten are fifty.

 

The plagues, the birth pangs, were intended to have an effect on Mitzrayim and also to have an effect on the Benei Israel:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 10:1 And HaShem said unto Moshe, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him: 2 And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am HaShem.

 

We see that the plagues are not just a message for the Benei Israel who experienced the exodus from Mitzrayim, but for all generations to strengthen their Emunah and bitichon in HaShem and to realize that even in the most difficult of times, HaShem always remembers the Benei Israel. As HaShem told Moshe when He revealed Himself at the burning bush:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 3:7 I've seen the affliction of My people in Mitzrayim, I've heard their outcry … and I know their sufferings and I will descend and save them from the hand of the Egyptians and I will bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land …

 

A woman in the final stages of childbirth goes through a death experience. This is evident from her screams, her pain, and the fact that women do occasionally die in childbirth. We see this same agony in Mitzrayim at the time of the last plague and as the Bnei Israel are leaving Mitzrayim:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 12:29 And it came to pass, that at midnight HaShem smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. 30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. 31 And he called for Moshe and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve HaShem, as ye have said. 32 Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also. 33 And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.

 

Breaking of the Water

 

Chazal have taught us that the birth of the Benei Israel took place on Pesach when we left Mitzrayim in the days of Moshe. Birth or rebirth is always associated with water: The fetus is surrounded by amniotic fluids, the mother’s water breaks as a sign of imminent birth, and therefore the mikveh required for conversion, features immersion in water. This breaking of the water, for the Benei Israel, is seen on the seventh day of Pesach at the splitting of the Yam Suf, the Reed Sea.

 

This breaking of the water is even more incredible when we realize the enormity of the words of the Benei Israel as they stood on the threshold of the Yam Suf and the breaking of that water:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 14:10 And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto HaShem. 11 And they said unto Moshe, Because there were no graves in Mitzrayim, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Mitzrayim? 12 Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Mitzrayim, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness. 13 And Moshe said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of HaShem, which he will shew to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever.

 

The Hebrew word for grave, in the above pasuk, is also the Hebrew word for womb. Kever means grave and it also means womb. Thus the Benei Israel can see that they stand at a critical crossroad which will simultaneously represent their birth as a nation, Am Israel, and their rebirth at Techiyat HaMaitim, the resurrection of the dead. Chazal teach us that the emergence of dry land after the gathering of water is both the picture of creation and the picture of the re-creation at Techiyat HaMaitim:

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 1:9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

 

In the above pasuk we can see that it is redundant to speak of the dry land appearing because this appearing will be obvious if the water is gathered together in one place. Thus Chazal teach that this is allusion to the gathering of water, and the appearance of dry land, at the Yam Suf. Further, Chazal teach us that we learn about Techiyat HaMaitim at the Yam Suf because of this connection.

 

The dry land makes it possible for a man to have a place to stand. Chazal teach us that this place to stand is also to be understood as being a place for us to exist, or the possibility of our existence. Thus the appearance of the dry land at the Yam Suf presents the possibility of our resurrected existence!

 

Shemot (Exodus) 14:15 And HaShem said unto Moshe, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: 16 But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XXI:8 SPEAK UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, THAT THEY GO FORWARD.’ R. Joshua said: God said to Moshe: ' All that Israel have to do is to go forward. Therefore, Let them go forward! Let their feet step forward from the dry land to the sea, and thou wilt see the miracles which I will perform for them.’ R. Meir said: God said to Moshe: ‘There is no need for Israel to pray before Me. If I made dry land for Adam, who was only one, for it says, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together (Gen. I, 9), how much more ought I to do so on behalf of a holy congregation that will soon say before Me, This is my God, and I will glorify Him (Ex. XV, 2)?’

 

YAMSUFF2

"breaking of the waters":

The parting of the Reed Sea.

 

The downward pressure of the baby's head against the amniotic sac may cause these membranes to rupture. The breaking of the water can occur as a trickle or a gush of odorless, colorless amniotic fluid. Once the sac has broken, labor is imminent, often beginning spontaneously within 12 to 24 hours. In fact, in many women, the membranes don't rupture until labor is already underway.

 

As the Jews were standing by shore of the Yam Suf watching their enemy come closer, they did not know what to do. Suddenly, Nachshon ben Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah, jumped into the Yam Suf with full confidence that HaShem would save him. As he touched the water, it parted and allowed the Jews to pass through. It was Nachshon's faith in HaShem that led to Benei Israel's being saved.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XXI:10 AND THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL WENT INTO THE MIDST OF THE SEA UPON THE DRY GROUND (XIV, 22). [How is this possible?] If they went into the sea, then why does it say UPON THE DRY GROUND? and if they went UPON THE DRY GROUND, then why does it say INTO THE MIDST OF THE SEA? This is to teach that the sea was divided only after Israel had stepped into it and the waters had reached their noses, only then did it become dry land.

 

Mechilta Beshalach 5 “When Israel stood at the Sea, this Tribe (Yehuda) said, ‘I will not be first to go down into the Sea;’ and the other Tribe (Benyamin) said ‘I will not be first to go down into the Sea.’ In the midst of this argument, one individual, Nachshon ben Amminadab, Prince of the Tribe of Yehuda, seized the initiative, and went down first into the Sea, inspiring the rest of his Tribe to follow...At that moment, Moshe was deeply engaged in Prayer. The Holy One, Blessed is He, said to him, ‘My beloved friends are drowning in the Sea, and you stand in Prayer before Me!’ Moshe said, ‘Master of the Universe, What should I do?’ He said to him, ‘Speak to the Children of Israel, and let them move...’ Therefore, Yehuda merited to become king of Israel, as it says, ‘Yehuda sanctified His Name; by this he merited to rule in Israel.’ (Tehillim 114:2)”

 

Sotah 37a What was it that Judah did? — As it has been taught: R. Meir said: When the Israelites stood by the Red Sea, the tribes strove with one another, each wishing to descend into the sea first. Then sprang forward the tribe of Benjamin and descended first into the sea; as it is said: There is little Benjamin their ruler[37] — read not rodem [their ruler] but rad yam [descended into the sea]. Thereupon the princes of Judah hurled stones at them; as it is said: The princes of Judah their council[38]. For that reason the righteous Benjamin was worthy to become the host of the All-Powerful[39], as it is said: He dwelleth between his shoulders[40]. R. Judah said to [R. Meir]: That is not what happened; but each tribe was unwilling to be the first to enter the sea. Then sprang forward Nahshon the son of Amminadab[41] and descended first into the sea; as it is said: Ephraim compasseth me about with falsehood, and the house of Israel with deceit; but Judah yet ruleth with God[42]. Concerning him it is stated in Scripture, Save me O God, for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing etc[43]. Let not the waterflood overwhelm me, neither let the deep swallow me up etc[44]. At that time Moshe was engaged for a long while in prayer; so the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, ‘My beloved ones are drowning in the sea and thou prolongest prayer before Me!’ He spake before Him, ‘Lord of the Universe, what is there in my power to do?’ He replied to him, Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward. And lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thy hand etc[45]. For that reason Judah was worthy to be made the ruling power in Israel, as it is said: Judah became His sanctuary, Israel his dominion[46]. Why did Judah become His sanctuary and Israel his dominion? Because the sea saw [him] and fled[47].

 

As the head (prince) of the tribe of Yehuda, the head (leading) of the tribes of the Benei Israel, jumped into the Yam Suf causing it to break (split), so too does the pressure of the baby’s head cause the breaking of the water of the womb.

 

The Crowning

 

Crowning is the part of the birth process where the baby's head is first seen. For the Benei Israel, the crowning is when the head of the Benei Israel first became visible at Freedom Valley (Pi HaChiroth), the Mouth of Freedom.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 14:21 And Moshe stretched out his hand over the sea; and HaShem caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.

 

On the third day of the Exodus, HaShem told Moshe to inform the Israelites that they were to turn around and camp by Freedom Valley (Pi HaChiroth. This was the coastal city of Pithom where the Israelites had previously worked as slaves (1:11). Now, when the Israelites returned there, they renamed the city Pi HaChiroth, literally Mouth of Freedom. In the same place where they had been slaves, they were now able to celebrate their freedom. (Rashi)

 

At the time of birth, as the birth canal is opening, we begin to see the head of the child. The “head” of the Benei Israel is the tribe of Yehuda. The tribe of Yehuda led the Benei Israel in the journey through the wilderness.

 

Sotah 37a Then sprang forward Nahshon the son of Amminadab[48] and descended first into the sea; as it is said: Ephraim compasseth me about with falsehood, and the house of Israel with deceit; but Judah yet ruleth with God[49]. Concerning him it is stated in Scripture, Save me O God, for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing etc[50]. Let not the waterflood overwhelm me, neither let the deep swallow me up etc[51]. At that time Moshe was engaged for a long while in prayer; so the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, ‘My beloved ones are drowning in the sea and thou prolongest prayer before Me!’ He spake before Him, ‘Lord of the Universe, what is there in my power to do?’ He replied to him, Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward. And lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thy hand etc[52]. For that reason Judah was worthy to be made the ruling power in Israel, as it is said: Judah became His sanctuary, Israel his dominion[53]. Why did Judah become His sanctuary and Israel his dominion? Because the sea saw [him] and fled.

 

The marching order of the tribes was as follows:

 

Yehuda (Issachar and Zebulon)

Levi – the family of Gershon

Levi – the family of Merari

Reuben (Shimeon and Gad)

Levi – the family of Kohath

Ephraim (Menashe and Benyamin)

Dan (Naphtali and Asher)

 

Thus we see that as the head leads the body through the birth canal, so Yehuda led the Benei Israel through the Yam Suf, the birth canal.

 

As the Benei Israel were standing by shore of the Yam Suf watching their enemy come closer, they did not know what to do. Suddenly, Nachshon ben Amminadab, from the tribe of Yehuda, jumped into the Yam Suf with full confidence that HaShem would save him. As he touched the water, it parted and allowed the Jews to pass through. It was Nachshon's emunah in HaShem that led to Benei Israel's being saved.

 

Nachshon ben Amminadab was the prince of the tribe of Yehuda. He was the “top” of the head. Thus it is fitting that he should emerge first.

 

Birth Canal

 

The Hebrew word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, is related to the term meitzar[54], which refers to boundaries and limitations and comes from the same verb root as birth canal. The birth canal is in the shape of a shofar as we can see from the following graphic:

 

The imagery of shofar and the birth canal is reinforced when we recall that the name of one of the midwives in Mitzrayim was called Shifra (from the same root as shofar).

 

Seven days after Pesach, the children of Israel crossed the Reed Sea. Keriat Yam Suf, the opening / splitting of the Reed Sea, was the opening of the womb. The opening of the birth canal shaped like a shofar.

 

A most interesting detail not generally known[55], is that the Benei Israel entered and exited the Yam Suf on the same side! Tosefot tell us that the parting of the waters happened in the shape of a shofar, a semi-circle!

 

Thus we see that the Benei Israel started from Etham:

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 33:7 And they removed from Etham, and turned again unto Pihahiroth, which is before Baalzephon: and they pitched before Migdol.

 

After they were through the sea they were still at Etham:

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 33:8 And they departed from before Pihahiroth, and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness, and went three days’ journey in the wilderness of Etham, and pitched in Marah.

 

The Benei Israel had traveled through the shofar shaped birth canal.

 

When the waters of the Yam Suf formed a wall on their left and right with the Clouds of Glory over them, this became the birth canal through which the Benei Israel were born:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 14:29 The children of Israel walked upon dry ground in the midst of the sea, and the waters formed for them a wall on their right and on their left.”

 

The Nazarean Codicil tells us that this was an immersion in a mikveh:

 

I Corinthians 10:1-2 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moshe in the cloud and in the sea;

 

Now what is a mikveh (the place of baptism)? Is it not a place where those who are dead are resurrected to life? Is not the birth process a death experience? Surely anyone who has watched a woman in labor would swear that she is dying. The labor is so intense that some do die. Yet, we see that from this death experience we see new life.

 

This new life also went through a death experience. The fetus lives in water and neither eats nor drinks. The fetus has no respiration nor excretion. Blood does not flow through its lungs and there is a hole in its heart which connects the two upper chambers. The blood in the fetus does not flow in the same direction as one who is born.

 

When the baby is born, the hole in his heart closes, the lungs expel the water and fill with air. The blood circulation reverses. Suddenly the water breathing creature in the womb is transformed into a baby. A human being that breathes, eats, drinks, and defecates has been brought into the world. That which was “dead”, as a human being, is now alive.

 

Birth

 

Chazal have taught that the birth of the Jewish People, the Benei Israel, was in the leaving of Mitzrayim, Egypt. Hoshea the prophet spoke of the birth of the Benei Israel:

 

Hoshea (Hosea) 1:1 When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.

 

This birth of the Benei Israel was possible only through the most intense labor pains which were manifested as plagues:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 3:19-20 And I know that the King of Mitzrayim will not let you go, even with a strong hand. And I will send My Hand and smite Egypt. After that, they will send you away.

 

The ten plagues are called the finger of God. At the Yam Suf we will see five times this number when we see the hand of HaShem which contains five fingers:

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XXIII:9 R. Joshua said: The ten plagues with which the Egyptians were smitten in Egypt were wrought with one finger, for it says, Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh: This is the finger of God (Ex. VIII, 15); but at the Sea, they were smitten with fifty plagues, for it says, And Israel saw the great hand [work] (ib. XIV, 31). There are five fingers to one hand, and five times ten are fifty.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 14:31 And Israel saw that great hand which HaShem laid upon the Egyptians: and the people feared HaShem, and believed HaShem, and his servant Moshe.

 

In the Haggada, where a comparison is made between the finger of God that smote them in Mitzrayim and the hand that smote them at the Yam Suf,. "Rabbi Yossi Haglili says: How does one calculate that the Egyptians received ten plagues in Egypt but received fifty plagues on the sea? What does the Torah say concerning Egypt? 'And the magicians said to Pharaoh: It is the finger of God!' And what does it say concerning the sea? 'And Israel saw the great hand which HaShem laid upon the Egyptians' ... Hence, they received ten plagues in Egypt and fifty plagues on the sea."

 

YAMSUFF3

 

Yosef was the “bones” that came forth from the womb. These were the memories of Yaaqov Ben Yitzchak. These were the memories of Israel which he gave to his children, the Benei Israel!

 

When the Benei Israel arrived on the shore, Israel emerged as a nation distinct from the host nation of Mitzrayim. The Benei Israel were born!

 

MAZALTVH

 

One of the first acts of a baby, after birth, is a heartfelt cry from the depth of its soul. Chazal have taught that this cry of the soul will surely move HaShem. Thus we see that the Benei Israel also uttered a heartfelt cry immediately after crossing the Yam Suf:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 15:1 Then sang Moshe and the children of Israel this song unto HaShem, and spake, saying, I will sing unto HaShem, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. 2 HaShem is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him. 3 HaShem is a man of war: HaShem is his name. 4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea. 5 The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone. 6 Thy right hand, HaShem, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, HaShem, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. 7 And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble. 8 And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea. 9 The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them. 10 Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters. 11 Who is like unto thee, HaShem, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? 12 Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them. 13 Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation. 14 The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. 15 Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. 16 Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, HaShem, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased. 17 Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, HaShem, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established. 18 HaShem shall reign forever and ever. 19 For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and HaShem brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea.

 

As we sang at the Yam Suf, so we will sing the same song when we are redeemed by Mashiach:

 

Revelation 15:3 And they sing the song of Moshe the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.

 

We see also that the words of Hoshea the prophet were also applied to the Mashiach ben Yosef:

 

Matityahu (Matthew) 2:15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Mitzrayim have I called my son.

 

Thus we learn that the Benei Israel, as a united nation, represent the Mashiach Ben Yosef. The Benei Israel are the body of Mashiach.

 

The Talmud states that when a baby is in the womb, "he is taught the entire Torah. However, as soon as he enters the air of this world, an angel comes and strikes him on his mouth, causing him to forget the entire Torah."

 

Niddah 30b R. Simlai delivered the following discourse: What does an embryo resemble when it is in the bowels of its mother? Folded writing tablets. Its hands rest on its two temples respectively, its two elbows on its two legs and its two heels against its buttocks. Its head lies between its knees, its mouth is closed and its navel is open, and it eats what its mother eats and drinks what its mother drinks, but produces no excrements because otherwise it might kill its mother. As soon, however, as it sees the light the closed organ opens and the open one closes, for if that had not happened the embryo could not live even one single hour. A light burns above its head and it looks and sees from one end of the world to the other, as it is said, then his lamp shined above my head, and by His light I walked through darkness[56]. And do not be astonished at this, for a person sleeping here might see a dream in Spain. And there is no time in which a man enjoys greater happiness than in those days, for it is said, O that I were as the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me[57]; now which are the days’ that make up ‘months’ and do not make up years? The months of pregnancy of course. It is also taught all the Torah from beginning to end, for it is said, And he taught me, and said unto me: ‘Let thy heart hold fast my words, keep my commandments and live’[58], and it is also said, When the converse of God was upon my tent[59]. Why the addition of ‘and it is also said’? — In case you might say that it was only the prophet who said that, come and hear ‘when the converse of God was upon my tent. As soon as it, sees the light an angel approaches, slaps it on its mouth and causes it to forget all the Torah completely, as it is said, Sin coucheth at the door[60]. It does not emerge from there before it is made to take an oath, as it is said, That unto Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear[61]; ‘That unto Me every knee shall bow’ refers to the day of dying of which it is said All they that go down to the dust shall kneel before Him[62]; ‘Every tongue shall swear’ refers to the day of birth of which it is said, He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart, who hath not taken My name in vain, and hath not sworn deceitfully[63]. What is the nature of the oath that it is made to take? Be righteous, and be never wicked; and even if all the world tells you, You are righteous’, consider yourself wicked.

 

If the child were not taught the Torah while in the womb, he would not be able to acquire his portion of the Torah, regardless of the extent of effort exerted. If the child was taught the Torah and allowed to remember it, no toil would be needed, and the entire system of reward and punishment, under which the world exists, would be effectively annulled. Therefore, the child is taught the Torah. The child is given the background, the basis needed for the study of Torah. The child is caused to forget the Torah, so that he must strive for excellence during his life and toil to recapture that which he lost, earning Heavenly reward with each iota of effort and accomplishment.

 

The After Birth

 

As we mentioned earlier, the Egyptians guards / army were the placenta for the Benei Israel during their gestation in Mitzrayim. After the birth of the Benei Israel, the placenta became the afterbirth, a worn out, useless organ that was now dead.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 14:22 And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. 23 And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 And it came to pass, that in the morning watch HaShem looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, 25 And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for HaShem fighteth for them against the Egyptians. 26 And HaShem said unto Moshe, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen. 27 And Moshe stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and HaShem overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 28 And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.

 

With the collapse of the placenta and its expulsion from the body, comes the realization that with the birth of the Benei Israel, the Egyptian army is no longer needed. The Egyptians are cast out of the womb of Mitzrayim, dead:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 14:30 Thus HaShem saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.

 

The Benei Israel were united into a single body with a single purpose when they were born. The ending of the cycle of pregnancy and birth resulted in a unified song:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 15:1 Then sang[64] Moshe and the children of Israel this song unto HaShem, and spake, saying, I will sing unto HaShem, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. 2 HaShem is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him. 3 HaShem is a man of war: HaShem is his name. 4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea. 5 The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone. 6 Thy right hand, HaShem, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, HaShem, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. 7 And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble. 8 And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea. 9 The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them. 10 Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters. 11 Who is like unto thee, HaShem, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? 12 Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them. 13 Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation. 14 The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. 15 Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. 16 Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, HaShem, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased. 17 Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, HaShem, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established. 18 HaShem shall reign forever and ever. 19 For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and HaShem brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea. 20 And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. 21 And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to HaShem, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

 

This song that Moshe and the Benei Israel sang and will sing[65], is a great hint to the future Techiyat HaMeitim, the resurrection of the dead.

 

Az Yashir, the song at the sea, symbolizes the birth of the Jewish people. It marks the first time that the nation, acting as one, recognized both their redemption and their redeemer. One cannot find any other place in Jewish history where, unified, the People of Israel burst spontaneously into song praising HaShem and his miracles.

 

Pesachim 117a Rab Judah said in Samuel's name: The Song in the Torah[66] was uttered by Moshe and Israel when they ascended from the [Red] Sea. And who recited this Hallel[67]? The prophets among them ordained that Israel should recite it at every important epoch and at every misfortune — may it not come upon them! and when they are redeemed they recite [in gratitude] for their redemption.

 

Lactation

 

The Mechilta says that the seferot HaOmer period was /is a nursing period, and that matan Torah[68] was when we were weaned.

 

When the Benei Israel left Mitzrayim they had their matzot, their unleavened bread, that parallels the stored food that an infant is born with.

 

Immediately after the birth of a baby, the mother begins lactating with a special fluid called colostrum. The colostrum is gradually replaced by milk after three or four, up till twenty days.

 

What makes this interesting is that we see a similar phenomenon in the wilderness. The Torah records that the Benei Israel ate matza until the fifteenth day of the second month.

 

Shemot (Exodus) 16:1 And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the Benei Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Mitzrayim. 2 And the whole congregation of the Benei Israel murmured against Moshe and Aaron in the wilderness: 3 And the Benei Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of HaShem in the land of Mitzrayim, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger. 4 Then said HaShem unto Moshe, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.

 

After they finished the matza, HaShem begin to feed them bread from heaven:

 

Shemot (Exodus) 16:35 The Israelites would eat the manna for forty years until they came to inhabited territory. They ate the manna until they came to the edge of the land of Canaan.

 

The matzot that the Benei Israel brought out of Mitzrayim on Nisan 15, lasted until the 15th of lyar. This period was counted as part of the forty years that the Benei Israel ate manna. This teaches that the matzot which miraculously lasted so long had the same taste as manna.

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 11:7 And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium. 8 And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh (leshad) oil.

 

Bamidbar 11:8 describes the taste of the manna as "leshad", which Onkelos translates as "kneaded" with oil, from the root "lash". But this term could also be translated as "like a breast", from the root "shad". Thus the manna is likened to mother's milk, which is a complete food. It is the only food an infant requires, and the only food he craves; and furthermore by eating it, he achieves closeness with his mother. Likewise, the manna was the only food the Jews needed and wanted, and it created a sense of closeness to HaShem.[69]

 

The manna was a highly spiritual food. When the Benei Israel first left Mitzrayim, their minds were too coarse for them to be able to receive the Torah. HaShem therefore gave them the manna to eat in order to purify and sharpen their minds. They would then be fit to receive the Torah. The Torah was given twenty days after the manna began to fall.

 

Eating the manna had the effect of increasing the intelligence and spiritual sensitivity of the Benei Israel, so that in time they became known as the "generation of knowledge" (dor de'ah). This was because they were eating the manna that had been made at the twilight of creation.

 

The Birth of Mashiach ben Yosef

 

The birth of the Bnei Israel was proceeded by the arrival of Moshe, the priest, who announced that it was time for the Bnei Israel to come forth. In the same way, the birth of Mashiach ben Yosef was preceded by the arrival of John the Baptist, a priest, who was to announce the time of the coming of Mashiach:

 

Luqas (Luke) 3:1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, 2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. 3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; 6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

 

The birth of the Bnei Israel was accompanied by pain and anguish. So, too, was the birth of Mashiach accompanied by pain and anguish:

 

Matityahu (Matthew) 2:16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the Wise–men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the male children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had exactly learned of the Wise–men. 17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, saying, 18 A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; And she would not be comforted, because they are not.

 

Both the Bnei Israel and Mashiach came out of Mitzrayim:

 

Matityahu (Matthew) 2:13 Now when they were departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I tell thee: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14 And he arose and took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt; 15 and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt did I call my son.

 

The Birth Pangs of Mashiach

 

Torah Ohr, at the beginning of Parshat Vaeira, explains that the exile is compared to pregnancy and redemption, is compared to birth.

 

The words for the birth pangs. In Hebrew, is the same: Chevlai Mashiach [the birth pangs of the Messiah] is Chevlai laida [pain of childbirth].

 

The Vilna Gaon said that all the days of exile are like the duration of a pregnancy, and the final stage is comparable to the birth pangs immediately prior to birth.

 

The Chafetz Chayim, Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, elucidated this concept in his work Shem Olam (the following is a translation by Rabbi Moshe Miller, Targum Press):

 

When a woman has a difficult labor and no longer has the strength to bear the pain, the midwife comforts her with the fact that her travails will not continue much longer. She tells the suffering woman that the pain itself is a sure sign of imminent birth. This concept applies in our case, too. For if the hardships were not so overwhelming, we could see ourselves bearing the pain for a prolonged period. Moreover, the fact that these hardships abate from time to time is a part of the "birth process," just as labor pains subside briefly and then resume. However, when the hardships become so overpowering that we can no longer bear them, we can certainly assume that HaShem will reveal the final redemption very soon.

 

Solomon declared that we can learn from the past because it is the template for the future:

 

Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 1:9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

 

The prophets used Yetziat Mitzrayim as the entry point to our past:

 

Shoftim (Judges) 2:1 And an angel of HaShem came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Mitzrayim, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.

 

Amos 2:10 Also I brought you up from the land of Mitzrayim, and led you forty years through the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite.

 

Preceding the arrival of Mashiach, we will experience the same procedure. We don't know when Mashiach will come, but we know that we are in the process. Never was a generation so painfully lacking spiritually, which is a reflection of the birth pangs. We are in the situation where we are waiting for the resolution of birth.

 

What happened at the splitting of the Yam Suf, and how will this repeat itself in our generation? We must analyze and learn what actually split the Sea because that will bring us the final redemption as well.

 

Now, when a woman is in the midst of a difficult labor, all the comforts the midwife offers her may be of no avail. However, in our case, we can be certain that the moment of birth will arrive. As the verse clearly indicates:

 

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 66:9 ‘Will I bring on labor and not open the womb?' says HaShem.

 

The Benei Israel have experienced an interminably long and difficult pregnancy and a relentless labor, this exile.

 

The prophets tell us that the struggle for the land of Israel will herald the coming of the Mashiach and will be very difficult. This period the Talmud calls "the birth pangs of Mashiach."

 

Pregnant women take courses to learn what to expect helps them to handle the pain. So too, knowing what to expect during the period of "the birth pangs of Mashiach will not change the ordeal, but it will make it less frightening. The fact that certain events were prophesized should make it easier for us to see HaShem's hand in those events.

 

We know from the Prophets that the Messianic age will advance in two stages: the first is to be led by Mashiach ben Yosef, and the second by Mashiach ben David.

 

The Gaon of Vilna, the great 18th century sage, in his book Even Shleima, writes about the era of Mashiach ben Yosef as the era of the physical return to the Land of Israel. This era precedes the spiritual repentance of the actual Messianic age, that of Mashiach ben David.

 

There is a hiatus between the period of Mashiach ben Yosef and the revelation of Mashiach ben David. This is the time period we are in now, which is the most difficult of all periods.

 

Yetziat Mitzrayim was also the blueprint for future redemption:

 

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 11:15 And HaShem shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over dryshod.

 

Yetziat Mitzrayim was also the blueprint for a recommitment to HaShem:

 

Hoshea 2:14 Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. 15 And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Mitzrayim. 16 And it shall be at that day, saith HaShem, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali. 17 For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name. 18 And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. 19 And I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. 20 I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know HaShem.

 

Just as at the exodus from Egypt, HaShem made wonders and miracles for the Benei Israel and at the same time He punished the Egyptians, history will repeat itself. As the Prophet Micah says In the words of the Prophet Micah, HaShem proclaims:

 

Micah 7:15 As in the days when you left Mitzrayim, I will show you wonders.

 

The Talmud proclaims a similar concept:

 

Rosh HaShana 11a In Nisan they were redeemed and in Nisan they will be redeemed in the time to come.

 

The Exodus from Mitzrayim is the prototype for the final redemption, when Mashiach will come, and slavery and suffering will be banished forever from the face of the earth.

 

Midrash Rabbah - The Song of Songs II:23 MY BELOVED IS LIKE A GAZELLE: just as a gazelle leaps from mountain to mountain and from valley to valley, from tree to tree and from thicket to thicket and from fence to fence, so the Holy One, blessed be He, leapt from Egypt to the Red Sea and from the Red Sea to Sinai, and from Sinai He leaps to the future redemption.

 

Why, our Hakhamim ask, does the verse say, "As in the days when you left Mitzrayim", when in fact the Exodus took place on one day?

 

The answer is that true liberation is an ongoing process. The first steps out of " Mitzrayim" are only the beginning. "In every generation," the Sages tell us, "and on each and every day, one is obligated to see himself as if he had gone out from Mitzrayim that very day." All the lessons of Pesach must be applied daily: we must rid ourselves of arrogance and become humble; we must deepen our awareness of HaShem, as though the Yam Suf has split; and we must strive to improve our conduct, as befits the nation that received the Torah on Mount Sinai. Every step we take toward Torah and mitzvot brings us closer to the revelations of the messianic age.

 

As horrific as the birth of the Benei Israel was, the birth pangs of the Mashiach will be even greater, as the prophet declares:

 

Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 16:14 Days will come, G-d said, that one will no longer say `G-d who brought out the Jewish people from the land of Egypt,' but rather, `G-d who brought out the Jewish people from the north, and from all the lands that they were driven to.'"

 

Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 23:7 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith HaShem, that they shall no more say, HaShem liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Mitzrayim; 8 But, HaShem liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.

 

Finally, the Prophet Hoshea speaks of the future redemption using the picture of the Egyptian redemption in order to teach us that there is a clear connection between these two:

 

Hoshea (Hosea) 2:14 Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. 15 And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Mitzrayim.

 

Thus the exile in Mitzrayim is the prototype for the future tribulation which the world will experience. This tribulation is called the birth pangs of the Mashiach. As we have learned earlier, Mashiach = Israel. Thus we understand that what happened to the Benei Israel in Mitzrayim will also happen to the Benei Israel in the days of the Mashiach.

 

The birth pangs of the expectant mother are the strongest just before birth, so too, explain our sages, will the suffering of the Benei Israel be the most severe in the final stage of our galut. This period known as Chevlai Mashiach, the “birth pangs of Mashiach”, explains the Vilna Gaon, will last for 70 years and culminate with the coming of Mashiach. No one can say for sure when these 70 years started; however, no doubt, the suffering and affliction the Jewish people went through during the Holocaust is the strongest that we have seen throughout the exile.

 

The birth pangs of the Mashiach are going to be a very difficult time for the whole world. The Gemara in has two opinions about living at the time of this process:

 

Sanhedrin 98b ‘Ulla said; Let him [The Messiah] come, but let me not see him.4 Rabbah said likewise: Let him come, but let me not see him. R. Joseph said: Let him come, and may I be worthy of sitting in the shadow of his ass's saddle.5 Abaye enquired of Rabbah: ‘What is your reason [for not wishing to see him]? Shall we say, because of the birth pangs [preceding the advent] of the Messiah?6 But it has been taught, R. Eleazar's disciples asked him: ‘What must a man do to be spared the pangs of the Messiah?’ [He answered,] ‘Let him engage in study and benevolence; and you Master do both.’

 

Ullah and Rabbah said “He should come, but I shouldn’t see it” (because of the painful process that would unfold). Rav Yosef said “He should come, and I should just merit to sit in the shade of the dung of his donkey.” (Rav Yosef was willing to subject himself to the most uncomfortable situation, the lowest possible degradation, simply to be able to be part of the process of Mashiach’s arrival.) Then the Gemara asks “What should one do to be saved from the birth pains of Mashiach’s arrival? He should involve himself in Torah [study] and good deeds.”

 

Our Sages, of the current era, have suggested that the following events may signify that we are experiencing the birth pangs of the Mashiach:

 

Pogroms in Russia and during World War I.

The Holocaust.

World II.

Terrorist attacks against Israelis in Eretz Israel and elsewhere.

The attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

 

We are witnessing on a global level a recurring pattern of unprecedented destruction to life and property.

 

"What can a person do to be saved from the birth-pangs of Mashiach?" The Gemara asks. "Let him study Torah and perform acts of kindness."

 

The Resurrection of the Dead

 

Maimonides, in his commentary on the Mishna, compiles what he refers to as the שלשה עשר עקרים של אמונת היהודי, shloshah-asar ikkarim shel emunat hayehudi, the Thirteen Articles of Jewish Faith. The Thirteen Articles of Jewish faith are as follows:

 

1 Belief in the existence of the Creator, be He Blessed, who is perfect in every manner of existence and is the Primary Cause of all that exists.

2. The belief in G-d's absolute and unparalleled unity.

3. The belief in G-d's noncorporeality, nor that He will be affected by any physical occurrences, such as movement, or rest, or dwelling.

4. The belief in G-d's eternity.

5. The imperative to worship Him exclusively and no foreign false gods.

6. The belief that G-d communicates with man through prophecy.

7. The belief that the prophecy of Moshe our teacher has priority.

8. The belief in the divine origin of the Torah.

9. The belief in the immutability of the Torah.

10. The belief in divine omniscience and providence.

11. The belief in divine reward and retribution.

12. The belief in the arrival of the Messiah and the messianic era.

13. The belief in the resurrection of the dead.

 

In his Mishneh Torah, Maimonides concludes that both the one who denies the concept of resurrection of the dead or the one who denies the coming of the Mashiach are among those who have forfeited their share in Olam HaBa[70].

 

The crossing of the Yam Suf is given by Chazal as the quintessential example of the resurrection of the dead. This birth that we had in the days of Moshe is destined to be repeated in the days of the kinsmen redeemer, the Mashiach. May He come speedily in our days! We derive that this event will be repeated from the words of the Prophet:

 

Micah 7:15 According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I shew unto him marvelous things.

 

Now, consider that the birth of the Benei Israel took place on the seventh day of Pesach. If we repeat the process, then we should expect that Techiyat HaMaitim will also take place on the seventh day of Pesach. Thus we see that the crossing of the Yam Suf is also a prophecy of things to come.

 

Techiyat HaMeitim will take place after the forty years of Kibbutz Galiot, and continue until the end of the 210 years[71]. Immediately preceding the resurrection period is a forty year period known as Kibbutz Galiot,[72] the ingathering of the exiles.

 

Kever is the Hebrew word for womb and also the word for grave. What do a grave and a womb have in common? They are both portals to another world. Nowhere is this more evident than at the birth of the Benei Israel. The crossing of the Yam Suf, the Reed Sea, is also used by Chazal as the quintessential passage for proving Techiyat HaMaitim, the resurrection of the dead. It makes sense from what we have just learned about a kever that that place which is the birth is also that place wherein the dead are resurrected.

 

All of the Halachot, D'rashot, and Ma'asim (stories) related during the "first Haggada" relate, solely and exclusively, to the Exodus. It is only after we have completed this obligation that we are able to turn and say: Children, the story you have just heard has happened, in one form or another, many times in our history. It will even happen again when we open the door to welcome Eliyahu, who will bring us the glad tidings of the ultimate Geulah (redemption).

 

After the splitting of the sea, Moshe sang a song of praise and gratitude to HaShem. But in describing that event, the Torah doesn't say, "Moshe sang," (shar) but rather, "Moshe will sing[73]" (Yashir).

 

Shemot (Exodus) 15:1 Then sang Moshe and the children of Israel this song unto HaShem, and spake, saying, I will sing unto HaShem, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. 2 HaShem is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him. 3 HaShem is a man of war: HaShem is his name. 4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea. 5 The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone. 6 Thy right hand, HaShem, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, HaShem, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. 7 And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble. 8 And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea. 9 The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them. 10 Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters. 11 Who is like unto thee, HaShem, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? 12 Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them. 13 Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation. 14 The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. 15 Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. 16 Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, HaShem, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased. 17 Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, HaShem, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established. 18 HaShem shall reign forever and ever. 19 For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and HaShem brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea. 20 And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. 21 And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to HaShem, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

 

From here we can see reference in the Torah to the resurrection of the dead which will take place in the time of redemption. At that time, "Moshe will sing", once again, praises to HaShem. The book of Revelation declares, also, that this song will be sung again:

 

Revelation 15:3 And they sing the song of Moshe the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.

 

Furthermore, R. Eliezer says, anyone who recites the song of Moshe now before the redemption, will merit to recite it in the future, in the Messianic Age.

 

Yochanan (John) 16:16 A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father. 17 Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? 18 They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith. 19 Now Yeshua knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? 20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. 21 A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. 22 And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.

 

* * *

 

The Vilna Gaon (Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman [1720 - 1797] ) refers to the Zohar (a Kabbalistic commentary on the Pentateuch and the 5 Megillot - the 5 scrolls) that explains the phrase in Shir HaShirim (the Song of Songs):

 

Kol Dodi Dofek (the sound of my Beloved's knocking).

 

The Gaon cites a parable of a Jewish midwife who is helping in the difficult birth of a child. A woman is exhausted from her birth pangs. Her breathing is difficult, she is weary and feels she cannot continue. The midwife, after the last unsuccessful effort, tells the mother that the baby is on its way. Then the midwife shouts, "MAZEL TOV, I see it - don't stop now, you have to push just one more time." The mother who no longer has the strength to continue, gathers deep from within her last bit of strength and successfully overcomes her pain and her exhaustion and gives birth to her child.

 

It is a recurring theme in the Torah that man must prepare himself to deserve HaShem's blessing and help. If one is passive, he may not be deserving of HaShem's gift even if the gift has been decreed for him. We must be resisting midwives, we must be leaders willing to act decisively for justice, and ultimately we must cry out and beseech HaShem that He should redeem us, now!

 

Conclusion

 

I would like to conclude with a quote from Rabbi Pinchas Winston. His Eminence has captured the essence of the redemption and it’s connection with the birth of the Benei Israel.

 

The Rabbis in a Mishna in Mesechta Shabbat enumerate things that should be asked just before Shabbat comes in, to make sure that nothing for Shabbat is omitted in the midst of the last minute preparations. In some homes that list includes: Is the bag packed?

 

Yet, in spite of the preparations people make in advance of a birth, like figuring out the quickest route to the hospital, and making sure that the woman has all the comforts with her that she will need at that time, time is not always on the couple's or new baby's side. Countless stories abound of women giving birth in taxis, on hospital sidewalks, going up or down in elevators (and on Shabbat to boot), not to mention but a few of the more tense circumstances.

 

Fortunately for one woman on a Motzei Yom Kippur, an ambulance just happened to pull up next to her car as she began to give birth in the back seat on the way to the hospital. They rushed her from one vehicle into the next, where she promptly gave birth with the experts there to help.

 

It's like, one minute you're there enjoying a cup of tea together, and the next, rushing to get out the door and on the way to the hospital. In spite of the nine months of psychological preparation, and the weeks of physical preparation, it always comes as a surprise when the moment of redemption comes. That is why you have to have as much prepared in advance as possible, including the packed suitcase sitting lonely-like by the front door.

 

Do you think it is any different when it comes to the redemption of an entire nation? Exile isn't over until it's over, and when it has lasted for so long, it is too hard to believe it is actually ending when it does. Chazal knew that, which is why they compared the Final Redemption to a birth process, and why the Jewish people were asked to conduct their Pesach Sedarim with staff in hand, as if they would leave at a moment's notice.

 

 

* * *

 


This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:

 

Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Olympia, WA 98501

 

Internet address: gkilli@aol.com

Web page: http://www.betemunah.org/

 

(360) 918-2905

 

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Send comments to Greg Killian at his email address: gkilli@aol.com

 



[1] Midrash Shochar Tov, Psalms 115.

[2] Gevurot HaShem Ch. 52.

[3] LAG BA'OMER — ITS OBSERVANCE, LAWS AND SIGNIFICANCE / A PRESENTATION BASED ON TALMUDIC AND TRADITIONAL SOURCES, by Rabbi Nosson Scherman / Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz general editors, compiled by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman, overview by Rabbi Nosson Scherman.

[4] Bereshit (Genesis) 15:13

[5] Bereshit (Genesis)15:10

[6] Bereshit (Genesis) 35:27

[7] Shemot (Exodus) 6:4

[8] from Mechilta, Meg. 9a

[9] Revelation 15:3

[10] According to Chizkuni on Shemot 1:20, this verse essentially says, “Yes, it matters, and there were only two midwives.” It is impossible for two women alone to assist at all the births, Pharaoh reasoned, so their claim, that the Hebrew women do not need midwives, is plausible.

[11] It has existed in secret in the brothers’ hearts, but it has not yet been exposed to the world.

[12] Shemot (Exodus) 1:5

[13] Yosef, the egg, introduces himself to his brothers, the penis. Then, metaphorically, the egg wants to know if the sperm is still alive.

[14] Pinkas, cf. **.

[15] Lit., ‘went out to the air space of the world’.

[16] Its mouth.

[17] Navel.

[18] Iyov (Job) 29:3.

[19] Shabbethai ben Joseph Bass (1641–1718) (Hebrew: שבתי בן יוסף), born at Kalisz, was the father of Jewish bibliography, and author of the Sifsei Chachamim supercommentary on Rashi's commentary on the Pentateuch.

[20] Both maintain that these are not two separate names, but that one is the real name and the other explanatory. They were purposely told to build on sandy soil, so as to have perpetually to repair the ravages of insecure foundations and to be working continually.

[21] They counted the four hundred years foretold by God to Abraham (Gen. XV, 13) as commencing there and then, whereas in reality they dated from Isaac's birth, which according to tradition took place thirty years later. As a result, they left Egypt thirty years before the rest of Israel.

[22] I Chronicles 7:20f.

[23] I Chronicles 7:22f.

[24] Sanhedrin 92b

[25] They counted the four hundred years foretold by God to Abraham (Gen. XV, 13) as commencing there and then, whereas in reality they dated from Isaac's birth, which according to tradition took place thirty years later. As a result, they left Egypt thirty years before the rest of Israel.

[26] I Chronicles 7:20f.

[27] I Chronicles 7:22f.

[28] Sotah 12a

[29] Sotah 12a

[30] Sotah 12a

[31] Sotah 12b

[32] Sotah 12b

[33] par. Bava Batra 16a.

[34] Mechilta; Targum Yonatan; Rashi

[35] Connecting the word mofethim (‘wonders’) with the root pathah to deceive, and reading ha-mefathim.

[36] Cf. Ex. R. IX, 12.

[37] Ps. LXVIII, 28, E.V. 27.

[38] Ibid. The word for council has the same root as the verb ‘to stone’; so it is here understood as ‘their stoners’.

[39] The Temple was erected on the territory of Benjamin, v. Yoma 12a.

[40] Deut. XXXIII, 12, i.e., God dwells in the land of Benjamin.

[41] He was the prince of the tribe of Judah (Num. VII, 12).

[42] Hos. XII, 1. The last words are rod ‘im el, which are interpreted: he descended (into the sea because his trust was) with God.

[43] Ps. LXIX, 2f.

[44] Ibid. 16.

[45] Ex. XIV, 15f.

[46] Ps. CXIV. 2. The Temple was in the kingdom of Judah. ‘His dominion’ is understood as Judah's rule over Israel.

[47] Ibid. 3

[48] He was the prince of the tribe of Judah (Num. VII, 12).

[49] Hos. XII, 1. The last words are rod ‘im el, which are interpreted: he descended (into the sea because his trust was) with God.

[50] Ps. LXIX, 2f.

[51] Ibid. 16.

[52] Ex. XIV, 15f.

[53] Ps. CXIV. 2. The Temple was in the kingdom of Judah. ‘His dominion’ is understood as Judah's rule over Israel.

[54] See Torah Or, Va'eira 57b ff, Beshalach 64a-b; Yitro 71c, et al.

[55] Tosefot in Gemara Erchin 15a

[56] Job 29:3.

[57] Job 29:2

[58] Prov. 4:4

[59] Job 29:4

[60] Gen. 4:7

[61] Isa. 45:23

[62] Ps. 22:30

[63] Ps.24:4

[64] See also Revelation 15:3

[65] Revelation 15:3

[66] ‘Torah’ bears here its narrower connotation of Pentateuch. The ‘Song’ referred to is that contained in Ex. XV.

[67] Ps. 113-118. [MS.M. (gloss) inserts: Moshe and Israel recited it].

[68] The Giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.

[69] Rashi based on Yoma 75a

[70] Mishneh Torah Hilkhot Teshuva 3:6

[71] Remember that the Benei Israel were in Egypt for a total of 210 years. You can prove this by adding the years of Levi and his descendants until Moshe.

[72] Zohar, Toldot 139a

[73] See also Revelation 15:3