Parashat Beshalach, 5775
31 January 2015
Ever wonder how many Jews actually left Egypt? Rashi in Parshat Beshalach brings the medresh that explains the verse, “with chamushim the Jewish people went out of Egypt” Rashi explains this word chamushim to means that only one fifth of the Jewish people left Egypt. The Jewish people suffered a colossal loss. Only 600,000 Jews left, which means at least 2.4 million people died.
These deaths happened during the plague of darkness, “so that the Egyptians shouldn’t notice.” How could so many people go missing without being noticed? How could so many people be buried so quickly? There couldn’t have been that many people in Egypt all together! The numbers just don’t make sense.
Rav Shimon Schwab zt”l suggested that the medresh cannot be taken literally. To illustrate this point he compares it to a Rashi in Bereshis where he quotes the Talmud in Sanhedrin. The narrative goes that Cain kills Abel and Hashem tells Cain that the “bloods (d’mei in Hebrew for blood, in the plural) of Abel your brother call out to Him from the ground.” Why ‘bloods’ and not blood? Rashi answers that bloods refers to the blood of Abel as well as his unborn children and great grandchildren. Rav Schwab zt”l comments that when we look at a Jew, we don’t just look at the fruits of his present but we also look at the fruits of his future. A few Jews died and didn’t merit leaving Egypt, but had they lived they would have been the forefathers to tens, thousands and even millions of Jews.
We take this message with a more positive spin. When we look at a Jew, we don’t just see them as they are now- we see their potential. We see their future. We see their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. We see the infinite power of the individual. What seems like just a small spark- should be cared for as a pillar of fire!