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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Passover 5767

On Erev Pesach we asked some questions regarding the Exile in Egypt and the Exodus. A basic question was: If G-d placed the Children of Israel in Exile why are we thanking Him for redeeming us?


The Abrbanel gives an original answer. He reads Abraham's question differently from every other commentator. Abraham asked (in Hebrew) "B'mah eida she'eirashenah' usually translated as "How do I know I will inherit it?"

The Abarbanel says this is not a Abraham's questioning how can he be sure that he will inherit the Land. Since G-d had promised Abraham several times previously that he would receive the Land and at those times he accepted the promise without questioning. Now Abraham was asking something else. He knew that he or his children would receive the Land as G-d had promised. What he did not know was whether the Land would be his in his lifetime or only in some later generation. This doubt arose because G-d's promise had been phrased differently at different times. Sometimes G-d had said "to you I have given it" (Genesis 13:17) while at other times He said "to your seed (children) I have given this Land (Genesis 12:7) So Abraham was asking, who - he himself or his children in the future - would receive the Land. G-d's answer is very relevant now. The answer was "the fourth generation will come here." Not Abraham but his children.


Why were the Jews in slavery? It is difficult to accept the answers given that Abraham sinned by asking this question, because Abraham himself was not punished - only his children. This is not just. The Ramban also explained that the Jews went into exile in Egypt because Abraham had left the Land during the famine; therefore his children went there into exile. Again this is not just. Abraham who sinned is not punished only his children got punished they who did not sin. For this reason the Abarbanel rejected these answers.

G-d did not place them there; He just predicted that they would come there (many times we have such prophecies). Why then did they go into exile? A simple reading of Genesis answers this question. The fight between the brothers and Joseph lead to them selling him into slavery in Egypt. After that it followed that they all went down into Exile. So the exile was a natural (and G-d given) punishment for the children of Israel (Jacob). This was the first instance that brotherly hatred between Jews led to their being exiled. Unfortunately this pattern repeated itself in Jewish history.


We had also asked why the outcry of the Israelites brought G-d to remember his promise to Abraham, if He had said that the People would be redeemed by a certain time?. Abarbanel explains that the verse "Know that your that your children will be strangers in a Land not theirs, they will be enslaved and afflicted"

These are three different periods, exile, slavery and affliction.

The exile was punishment for the sin of brotherly hatred. But the enslavement was the Egyptian addition to G-d's punishment. Therefore they too will be punished (not just Israel) for the harsh slavery they imposed on Israel. But the exile was extended beyond the 400 years G-d had told Abraham.


The Abarbanel cites some amazing verses in Ezekiel (chapter 20: 5-9). There it says: "I lifted up My hand to bring them forth from the land of Egypt...and I said to them: Cast away every man his detestable things and defile not yourselves with idols of Egypt..." So we see Israel sinned and worshiped idols in Egypt. "But they did not listen to Me, neither did they forsake their idols. Then I said I would pour out My fury on them..." So the afflictions came as a result of their sinning with idols. But they eventually they did T'shuva and cried out to G-d, then He heard them and remembered His covenant with Abraham. This explains the discrepancy between the 430 years the Torah tells us that they were in Egypt as apposed to the 400, which G-d had predicted they would be there. The added 30 years were the punishment for not giving up their idols.

Also the sins of the Emori had by that time reached sufficient depths they had to be expelled from the Land. But the Jews with their idols were not yet worthy of entering the Land. So when the repented, but only once they repented, did G-d redeem them.

In this way the Abarbanel answers many questions. The Exile was punishment for the sin of brotherly hatred. The delay was due to idol worship in Egypt.

Chag Somayach
Avigdor Bonchek

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