Friday, February 21, 2020

10,000 Kikars

Someone just sent me a brilliant piece explaining a very difficult תוספות regarding the 10,000 ככר of silver which המן gave for the extermination of the Jews. Check it out!


Friday, February 7, 2020

חמושים

When B'nei Yisrael leave Mitzrayim, the pasuk says (13:18) that they left "chamushim." Rashi says that the literal meaning is that they left armed. But he brings a Midrash from Mechilta that only 1/5 of B'nei Yisroel came out of Eretz Mitzrayim and the rest died during the plague of darkness because they did not want to leave. In the Mechilta itself there are two other opinions, that 1/50 or 1/500 of B'nei Yisroel came out. This is indeed a disturbing Midrash. It would mean that 2.4 million, or 24 million, or 240 million of B'nei Yisroel died during the plague of darkness. That would make it a far greater blow than everything brought upon the Mitzrim put together. R' Shimon Schwab in Ma'ayan Beis HaSho'eva asks, as well, that the point of the B'nei Yisroel dying during the darkness was so that the Egyptians would not see them dying. It's kind of hard not to notice at least 2.4 million people missing. 

 R' Schwab answers, therefore, that really only a few people died at that time. The discussion in the Midrash is concerning the long term effects of it and how to gauge it. The first opinion looks only so many generations down the line and sees that at that point, 2.4 million Jews that would have been born never were. The other two opinions simply look farther down the time line to see the greater long term effects of this loss. This would answer all the questions. But what I find very bothersome about this answer is that the wording of the Midrash simply does not seem to lend itself to such interpretation. The number of deaths is not given at all but rather the fraction of B'nei Yisroel that left Eretz Mitzrayim. This fraction would not change over the generations. In other words, let's say 600,000 went out but it could have been 3 million. If generations down the line, we reached a population of 6 million, the projection should dictate that we could have been would be 30 million, still a 1:5 ration. I don't see how the fraction can be interpreted the way R' Schwab did. Nevertheless, it is the only answer I've seen to these difficulties with the Midrash.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Can you Count to 70?

Question: How many males are counted as coming to Mitzrayim with Yaakov? One thing is for sure, it wasn't 70. I still have not been able to figure out how all the numbers worked - who were the 66 mentioned in 46:26 and the 70 in 46:27? 66+3 = 69, the last time I checked. If you add up all of the children and grandchildren, it does come out to 70 but then it should have been 67 and then 70. All that aside, it was not only males who were counted. Dinah is counted along with her brothers which is understandable. Serach bas Asher is counted as well which is slightly more puzzling. One must assume she was not the only granddaughter. From Rashi (46:27) it seems Yocheved was somehow part of the 70 as well.

While I was not able to find anything explaining why these particular women figured in the count as opposed to others, I did see an interesting insight into the pesukim in consideration of that fact. Tzeror HaMor and Emes L'Yaakov both point out a discrepency in the per-wife tallies found in the pesukim. The numbers for Rachel ("arba'ah asar") and Bilhah ("shiv'ah") are of the masculin form. The numbers for Leah ("sheloshim veshalosh") and Zilpah ("sheish esreih") are feminine. They both explain that Leah and Zilpah both had women counted among their offspring - Dinah from Leah and Serach from Zilpah. Therefore their numbers are delivered in feminine. Rachel and Bilhah had no feminine offspring counted and thus their numbers are in masculine.

One might wonder why this is so, considering that the generic plural is usually masculine by default. However, Emes L'Yaakov points out that the word "nefesh" which the number is qualifying is feminine. So the default gender of the number for "nefesh" should be feminine. Rachel and Bilhah were the exceptions.