Monday, August 8, 2011

#116 - Years of Slavery

Writing now only hours before Tisha B'Av, and while the following contents of this post will be touching on the Jews being slaves or in exile, I may wind up studying certain things in Torah that are not for Torah learning on Tisha B'Av in writing up this post, since according to the Halacha/Jewish Law, except for the parts in the Torah that relate to misfortunes, exiles, the laws of Tisha B'Av or mourning, etc. that are not of a happy nature, we do not learn Torah on Tisha B'Av because it is something that makes us happy, and we need to be focused on this most tragic date in the Jewish calendar on the themes of this day. Hence, I want to write this now, even as I don't have a lot of time before the fast of Tisha B'Av starts.

If one was to take the Bible literally without knowing what the Talmud or even plain history has to say about the Exodus, he or she might would perhaps think that the Hebrew year of the Exodus was 2668 (approximately 1100 B.C.E.). Based on the years of the lives of the first 22 generations from Adam to Jacob as can be figured out from the mention of the ages of these people when they passed away, we know that the Hebrew year of Jacob's descent to Egypt was 2238, as the Bible mentions that he was 130 years old at the time.

Now, let's first turn to what Hashem told Abraham when He informed him of the bad news of the future slavery of the Jews in Egypt "Your descendants will be slaves in a land that is not theirs and they will be enslaved and afflicted for 400 years" (Genesis 15:13).

Next, let's see what the Torah has to say about the amount of time that the Jews spent in Egypt in its recounting of the Exodus "The Children of Israel lived in Egypt for 430 years. It was at the end of 430 years that they left the land of Egypt" (Exodus 12:40-41).

OK, so we know that Jacob came to Egypt in Year 2238, and that we lived for another 17 years, as the first verse in Parshat Vayechi states (Genesis 47:28); hence, Jacob's passing took place in Year 2255. Now, noting that taking the literal meaning of the Bible, the Jews lived in Egypt for 430 years, and were slaves for 400 years, which means that according to this thinking, the Jews lived in Egypt for 30 years before becoming slaves, after Jacob's passing.

Now, we do know that Joseph, Jacob's son and viceroy of Egypt, lived for 110 years as the Bible states at the very end of Sefer Bereishit/Genesis (50:26), and then in the beginning of Sefer Shemot/Exodus, it states that Joseph and his brothers died and then it mentions about the slavery beginning.

Although the Talmudic literature makes it clear, as Rashi details in his commentary on the Torah, that Jacob was 63 when he first left his parents' home, with a detour to the Yeshiva of Shem & Ever for 14 years - a fact that is not mentioned at all in the Bible, the Torah makes no mention of his age when he left his parents' home. But what we do know from the Chumash is that shortly after his arrival in Laban's home, he worked for Laban for seven years before marrying his daughters Leah & Rachel. Hence, even his oldest son Reuben at the time of Jacob's passing wouldn't have been older than Jacob's age when Jacob first left his parent's home. And we know that Levi, the third son born, was 137 when he passed away (Exodus 6:16).

For all that we would know from the Chumash alone, Jacob could have been a young man on his way to marry Laban's daughter(s), without ever knowing that he stopped by this Yeshiva for 14 years. So, if we were to take everything literally according to the Chumash's wording, we would think that the Jews were first enslaved in Egypt only 13 years after not only Jacob's passing, and that all of his children passed away within 13 years.

At the best assumption, we would assume based on the above that Levi was 124 at the time of his father Jacob's passing, which would mean that Jacob would have been 23 years old at Levi's birth. We would say that Jacob left his parents' home at the age of 13 right after his Bar Mitzvah, coming straight to Laban working for him for seven years, and then marry at the age of 20 (which by the way is the age that the rabbis of the Talmud expect men to be married by if not sooner), which would mean that his wife Leah would have been pregnant right away with hardly much time between pregnancies by the time that Levi the third son would be born.

These set of circumstances might sound a little more practical these days, but this didn't quite happen with Jacob - at least not at such a young age. As there weren't too many Jews living in those days, Jacob was severely limited as to whom he could marry, because even Laban's daughters, who weren't in the worse spiritually depraved environment, probably worshiped idols until Jacob came along and told them about the belief in one G-d and all, who then accepted what he said, also taking into account that they were related to Jacob via their great uncle and aunt Abraham & Sara. In any case, when Jacob was a young man of 23, Leah and Rachel were not even born, and so Jacob had to wait a long time before even the possible consideration of one of them, and so by the time he married them, they were way younger than him, and unless the Torah or Talmud tells us otherwise, we have to assume that no special miracles happened like it happened to Sara who gave birth to Isaac at the age of 90, and that Jacob's wives were of the normal child bearing age. In fact, Jacob was 84 when he married them; and hence, Levi was not older than 60 years of age at Jacob's passing.

Actually, there is one piece of information that will clearly prove that what I just wrote is the true version, even without any information from the rabbis. You see, when Joseph got hired as viceroy of Egypt, the Torah states that Joseph was 30 years old (Genesis 41:46), following which there were seven years of plenty and then two years of famine before Jacob's family arrived when Jacob was 130 years old. And so, after Jacob's passing 17 years later, Joseph lived for 54 more years before his passing at age 110, and in fact, he passed away before any of his brothers, and even brother Levi who was older than him by a few years, still lived for another 23 years until his passing at the age of 137. As you can see, the Torah doesn't just write peoples' ages as another piece of history, but to prove a point or teach a lesson.

With the above said, the Jews left Egypt in the Year 2448, 210 years after Jacob's family came to Egypt. So, if this is the case, then why did Hashem, so to speak, say an untruth about how long the Jews were to be slaves in Egypt, or how long they lived there?

Taking this literally, we can actually come to the truth - at least part of the way. You see, when Hashem told Abraham that his descendants would be slaves in a land that is not theirs for 400 years, He meant Abraham's descendants starting with his son Isaac. While in fact, Isaac was never a slave, and moreover, never did he step foot outside of Israel in his entire 180 years of life; since Israel was not technically owned by Abraham or Isaac at the time since there were various nations living there, despite Hashem's promise to Abraham that He would give Israel to his descendants, even Israel was considered "a land that is not theirs". And there were exactly 400 years from Isaac's birth on Passover until the Exodus on Passover.

OK, so we understand the 400 years business. But what is this 430 years of Jews living in Egypt? Well, at the time that Hashem told this bad news about Abraham's descendants being slaves, he was 70 years old, which was 30 years before Isaac was born. Since Hashem told Abraham at that time about the Jews living in "a land that was not theirs", this is where the 430 years from that point in time until the Exodus come into play.

So now, we have a question. How many years were the Jews actually slaves in Egypt?

The answer is - 116 years (and this is my 116th Post). While I don't know offhand the original source for this, bearing in mind that Levi lived for 137 years, let's subtract 116 years from the Exodus year 2448, which is 2332 - the year of Levi's passing according to this. Now, subtracting the year of Jacob's passing - 2255 from Year 2332, you have a 77 year difference. Hence, Levi was 60 years old at the time of Jacob's passing, as 60 plus 77 equals 137, the age of Levi's passing, and was the last of the sons of Jacob who passed away, following which the Egyptians starting enslaving the Jews after the "old men", brothers of Joseph, the late viceroy of Egypt, passed away.


We know that the three week period from the date of the fast of Shiva Asar B'Tammuz (17 Tammuz)- the date that the Babylonians breached the wall of Jerusalem, until Tisha B'Av, is called Bein HaMeitzarim, this phrase first coming from Megillat Eicha/Lamentations(1:3)that we read on Tisha B'Av, which literally means "Between the straights". In fact, the word Meitzarim, taking away the Hebrew vowels, is the same word as Mitzrim/Egyptians or Mitrayim/Egypt. Indeed, we are supposed to feel suffering and mourning during this three week period of the destruction of the Temples, though we are of course suffering most from the results of the destruction of the Second Temple.

While one can say that although Tisha B'Av is the 22nd day from Shiva Asar B'Tammuz, and so it is really a little more than three weeks, but this is rounded off to say three weeks since we all know about Tisha B'Av anyways, I have news for you. In the Midrash and the Zohar, it states very clearly that there are 21 days from Shiva Asar B'Tammuz until Tisha B'Av; hence excluding Tisha B'Av from this count. In fact, there is a comparison made between this and the almond tree that bears almonds in exactly 21 days.

So what is going on here? Why aren't we including Tisha B'Av in the count here? In fact, we know that Megillat Eicha hints to these 22 days ending with Tisha B'Av by the fact that the sections in this Bible book divided into sections of 22 verses each starting with another letter of the 22 letters of the Alef Beit, also hinting to the fact that the Jews violated the Torah that is made up of the 22 Hebrew letters, violating the Torah from Alef to Tav (as we say in English from A to Z).

While Tisha B'Av is in fact the saddest date of the Jewish calendar, we are also told from the Bible and the rabbis that this date, along with the dates of other fast days including Shiva Asar B'Tammuz, will one day in the Messianic Era will be days of feasting and rejoicing.

So now, the question is bigger. If this is the case, then what is the difference between these two fast days by excluding Tisha B'Av from the 21 day count when both of these days will seemingly be on the same footing in the future in becoming days of happiness?

In fact, we see that Tisha B'Av - unlike the other fast days - is called a Moed, as first noted in Megillat Eicha. While this seems to be the case about the other fast days from what we just noted earlier, we see in Halacha/Jewish law that in fact, since Tisha B'Av in particular is called a Moed/holiday, we do not say the usual Tachanun/supplicatory prayers on this date that we recite on a regular weekday. This is nice, but still, why the practical difference between Tisha B'Av and the other fast days?

It is noted in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim Chapter 428 that Tisha B'Av will always fall out on the same day of the week as the past first day of Passover. In fact, there is a custom of eating an egg shortly before the start of the fast of Tisha B'Av
just like the custom of eating an egg on the Seder night which is on the first day of Passover.

As we know, the egg is part of the first meal that a mourner eats upon the burial of his close relative. The reason for this is because the egg, being round, symbolizes the circle of life from birth to death, but the circle never ends just as mankind doesn't end so long as it bears the next generation.

As we know, Passover marks the birth of the Jewish nation, and Tisha B'Av marks the ultimate attempt of the anti-Semitic nations to do away with the Jewish nation. However, as our rabbis tell us, the Messiah was born on Tisha B'Av.

While this has been taken to be literally true in the past, particularly about Shabbetai Tzvi, born on Tisha B'Av, who fooled much of his generation, whose rabbis felt powerless as a result, showing himself to be a con-artist by committing various sins, only to convert to Islam at the end; the meaning of this is that even at the destruction of the Second Temple on Tisha B'Av, the potential for the Messiah began at that moment, for if all the Jews were to repent, the Messiah would have come immediately, and is still applicable until today.

Practically today, it will not exactly happen this way, and there is in fact a time limit until how long we will be in exile until the Messiah shows up. While good deeds can speed his coming, we are assured that he will come eventually no matter what the situation of the Jews are at that time.

So in short, we know that the Jews were slaves in Egypt for 116 years. We also know that the three week period from Shiva Asar B'Tammuz until Tisha B'Av is a 21 day period called Bein HaMeitzarim, which can also be read as Bein HaMitzrim "Between the Egyptians".

The two major exiles that the Jews had since the Exodus, ending with the destruction of the Temple in each case, were the Babylonian exile and the Roman exile. In fact, the letters of the name of the month of Av - Alef & Beit - spell the words Edom (Rome) & Bavel (Babylonia).

As we know, there were 70 years of the Babylonian exile. And for the Roman exile beginning with the destruction of the Second Temple, it happened in the Hebrew year 3328. Up to date, it is exactly 1943 years since this happened on Tisha B'Av.

Now, add up 70 and 1943, and the total is 2013. And as I mentioned earlier of the connection between the Egyptian exile and these two exiles in terms of the "Three Weeks", let us take 21 days from each of the total of 2013 years from both exiles, which comes out to a total of 42,273 days. Now, dividing this number by the amount of days per year, based on a solar-lunar calendar, as every 19 years, the Hebrew calendar and the secular solar calendar coincide with the dating, with 365.2425
average days per year, we come out to this: 42,273/365.2425=115.73954.

My friends, do you see? Counting the 21 days of the saddest period of the Hebrew calendar each year - aside from Tisha B'Av - from the two exiles yields the total of 115.73954, COMES VERY CLOSE TO 116 YEARS, corresponding to the 116 years that the Jews were slaves in Egypt - both physically and spiritually.

Since the start of this count begins from Shiva Asar B'Tammuz in Year 3829, the year after the destruction of the Second Temple in 3828 on Tisha B'Av, and we just finished another period of three weeks in this year of 5771, hence 2013 years including the 70 years of the Babylonian exile, it will take like five more years until the count of 21 days per year add up to the total count of 116 years.

Also, it doesn't have to be exact. Bear in mind that although the slavery of the Jews began 116 years before the Exodus, our rabbis tell us in Tractate Rosh Hashana of the Talmud that the Jews in fact stopped slaving for the Egyptians from Rosh Hashana (1 Tishrei) of Year 2448, in the midst of the plagues visiting the Egyptians which made further construction impossible, a clear six and half months before the Jews left Egypt on 15 Nissan. In any case, if you are following the math here, you will catch on to what I am attempting to note.

This means that according to this, we have at most only a few more years until we yield a total of 116 years of 21 annual days in the two exiles to equal the amount of years of slavery in Egypt, though this count may technically already be over if the Jews stopped a little short of 116 years when they were no longer slaves on Rosh Hashana 2448. Is the exile just about to be over? (NOTE: I am not here to predict exactly when Moshiach is coming, but I am here to show a parallel of an equal amount of years based on the teachings of the Torah, Talmud, Midrash & Zohar). But while I am at it, one of the names in the Tanach given for Moshiach is Yinon, which is also the Gematria of 116, perhaps hinting to this fact about the 116 years as I demonstrated here. This name is mentioned in Psalms 72, which is King David's final composition in the Psalms, addressing his words to his son Shlomo/Solomon who was to succeed him, concluding the Psalm with "Ended are the prayers of David son of Jesse".
And this coming Hebrew year 5772 ends with the number 72.

Along these lines, the final word of the Tanach/Bible is V'Ya'al - "may go up" (Chronicles II 36:23) which is the Gematria of 116. Quoting the words of this verse "So says Koresh king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the world has Hashem, G-d of the heavens, given to me, and Has has commanded me to build a house for Him in Jerusalem which is in Judea. Whoever among you from among his people who wishes - Hashem his G-d is with him - may go up (to Israel)." Indeed, it is hardly coincidental that the very last word of the Tanach in which the king of Persia openly declares allowing the Jews to return to Israel to rebuild the Holy Temple, should have the Gematria of 116, as if to say that now, the Jews were finished with the exile (even though it wasn't the completion of the 70 years of Babylonian exile yet) and could return home and resume the spiritual life that they once had before the Temple was destroyed and being exiled to Babylonia.

But the ultimate punchline is Tisha B'Av. While it may be the saddest day of the year as this is when the actual start of the exiles began; ironically, we do not include this in our count here. You see, it didn't and it doesn't have to be the saddest day anymore. The potential of Moshiach began on this day - but only if we would listen to Hashem, and then our exile would be over. It is only if G-d forbid that we don't listen, that we will have to go through a lot of suffering as the Jews did in Egypt, but just as there was a time limit then, since although the Jews didn't suffer as slaves for 400 years - they were technically in exile for that long and so the Jews were not made to suffer anymore as slaves; so too, there is a time limit to our suffering, which also atones for sins by the way, so our suffering collectively as Jews will not last forever.

And as we compared Tisha B'Av to Passover a little earlier here, and Tisha B'Av is the 22nd day, the climax of the annual sad season, from Shiva Asar B'Tammuz, this date of Tisha B'Av corresponds to the 22nd and last letter of the Alef Beit - Tav, also bearing in mind that the name of this date also begins with a Tav. And as Tav is the numerical value of 400, it was exactly 400 years from Isaac's birth on Passover until the Exodus on Passover, and it was this period of time that Hashem referred to when telling Abraham that "your descendants will live in a land that is not theirs and will be enslaved for 400 years".

Perhaps in another sense, Hashem was hinting to Abraham about the future slavery and exile of the Jews that began on Tisha B'Av that corresponds to the letter Tav=400. Indeed, since our exile from Israel, we have been in virtually every country in the world, but none of these other lands are our lands. We have to remember that as long as we don't live in our own land of Israel, that we are truly in exile in every sense of the word, being enslaved to the temptations of the nations that contradict the Torah way of life. And while even in Israel, one can G-d forbid live a non-spiritual Torah life, a lifestyle that led to the destruction of the First Temple and exile to Babylonia, at least when he or she repents, one starts receiving the reward for living in the land that Hashem told us to live in, even without the presence of the Holy Temple. Indeed, we see clearly here that the "Three Weeks" or "Bein HaMeitzarim" corresponds to the years of Egyptian slavery of the Jews, and Tisha B'Av, as the date representing the future Redemption, corresponds to the Exodus.

Moreover, as the fast of Tisha B'Av is always observed during the week of Parshat V'Etchanan, the words from a verse in this Parsha - Avadim Hayinu "We were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt, and Hashem took us out from Egypt with a strong hand" (Deutronomy 6:21) is the very beginning of the (long!) answer to the "Four Questions" that are asked at the Seder on Passover night.

Additionally, the daily Mitzvah in the 31st cycle of learning a Mitzvah a day for yesterday - the first day of the week of Parshat V'Etchanan and 7 Av, the date that the enemy entered the Temple right before destroying it, is the 42nd Mitzva of the Jewish court judging the case for a Jew to be a servant to pay for his theft. In cases where this Eved Ivri "Jewish servant" if married, was given a Canaanite maidservant to sleep with to bear children to be slaves for the Jewish servant's master, refused to leave after his maximum of six years of work as he had to leave behind his Canaanite woman and children for the master, the Jewish court bores his ear as a sign that he wishes to be a slave to a human master rather than to Hashem who took us out of Egypt to be His servants, and then the Jewish servant continued working for his master until the Jubilee year when he was then released permanently.

In conclusion, the reason why not only these fast days will cease to exist as fast days in the Messianic Era, but they will become feast days, is because we will see in the future that the suffering that we had which the fast days represent will have led to the future rejoicing in the Messianic Era. Then we will see that Tisha B'Av, while today may be the saddest day, representing the worst suffering of the Jews, was the BIGGEST factor in leading to the ultimate rejoicing of the Redemption, just as the verse states in Micha "Just as the days of your leaving Egypt, I will show you wonders (refering to the future Redemption)," for then we will see that the future Redemption as related to Tisha B'Av, more than just the symbol of the egg or falling out on the same day of the week as Passover - the date of the Exodus, will be compared to the rejoicing of the first Redemption - and even more so - that we celebrate on the first night of Passover, on which we recite the Hallel psalms that refer both to the Exodus (Psalms 113-114) and the future Redemption (Psalms 115-118), which we hope for very soon.

8 Av, 5771 - Erev Tisha B'Av

1 comment:

FashionFire said...

God said they would be in slavery 400 years not 430 years..when God speaks a thing it is final.. the childern of Israel was in bondage an extra 30 years because they missed their opportunity, they didn't understand what Moses was doing.. when moses killed the Egyptian for fighting with the hebrew that was time! but b/c they understood not they bashed him cauisng him to flee. Moses would return 40 years later..which means they added the extra years themselves..b/c they didn't dicern the time..