Paroy’s 900,000,000 Man Army
As Parshas Boi was coming to an end, the Yiddin, slaves to Paroy for 210 years (though in Egypt for some 400 or 430 years, depending on which verse you rely on for accuracy), and following the ten plagues the RBSO visited upon Paroy and the Mitzrim, were finally free. They left: some say they were chased out. The heylige Toirah tells with some specificity just how many left Egypt. It does so concerning grown men. In fact, let’s begin by re-reading that posik (verse) from last week. This number and a few others we will encounter in our parsha will be the subject of the Oisvorfer’s review as we revisit Parshas Bishalach, otherwise colloquially known by its alter ego name of Shabbis Shira after the hit Oz Yoshir single -still on the charts- Moshe and the Yiddin began spontaneously singing after safely crossing the river which had split affording them safe passageway. As an aside, though this is our eighth time around this parsha, this week’s review is all new for 2018. Others can found in the archives over at www.oisvorfer.com; check them out!
Said the heylige Toirah last week (Shemois 12:37), azoy:
|37. The children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot, the men, besides the young children.||לזוַיִּסְע֧וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל מֵֽרַעְמְסֵ֖ס סֻכֹּ֑תָה כְּשֵֽׁשׁ־מֵא֨וֹת אֶ֧לֶף רַגְלִ֛י הַגְּבָרִ֖ים לְבד מִטָּֽף:|
What we know for sure is what the RBSO told Moishe to write: “……600,000 men left Egypt” and that excludes the children. Rashi, based on the medrish (Medrish Rabbah), tells us that adult males excluded anyone under the age of 21. It also seemingly excluded all the women and teens. So how many left in total? We are not told. Ober, many extrapolated their own calculations based on the superior fertility of the Jewish women and other factors. Some say that at least three million left. Others, avada have differing opinions. Whose numbers are correct? Ver veyst? And what difference do these numbers make? Let’s go veyter, open another window and find out. Halt kup (pay attention).
In the second verse of this week’s parsha (Shemois 13:18), we read azoy: “…..the children of Israel had gone up ‘chamushim (armed) from the land of Mitzrayim.’ Says Rashi and who knew more or better, azoy: the meaning of the word “chamushim” is none other than armed. Shoin. In other words: they left carrying various weapons they might need in order to fend off various enemies that might attack them while traveling. In fact, we will read that Amolake and his band of Amolakites (bad guys) taka did attack the Yiddin from behind, and, it’s for that reason, the RBSO reminds us and commands us, to forever hate and stamp out the memory of Amolake who had the chutzpah to engage the Yiddin who were under the protection of the RBSO. As to why they needed to be armed when under the RBSO’s protection, that’s for another day. Veyter.
Ober, Rashi himself after explaining in great detail that the word ‘chamushim’ taka means armed, offers a second opinion, and avada we all know that when Rashi offers more than one opinion, it’s because he himself has at least a shtikel doubt as to his first explanation. Grada, our dictionaries follow a similar format. In his second choice, Rashi tells us that the word chamushim has a more sinister explanation. Chamushim refers to, or means fifths; in other words only 1/5th, “one out of five,” left Egypt. What about the other four fifths? Did they stay behind? Were they enjoying slave labor? Or, the hot Mitzri shiksas they efsher engaged with while sinking to the 49th level of tumah (impurity) as we will also learn? Were they already so accustomed to being slaves they did not want to leave? Maybe all of the above; ver veyst?! Ober Rashi, based on the Michilta (another medrish) tells us that the 4/5ths of the Yiddin who did not leave, were all dead! Mamish? With the exception of Yoisef’s bones, dead people did not leave. Says he: they died during the three days of darkness. Efsher you recall and zicher you should, that the plague of darkness (plague #9) featured both regular darkness and super-darkness and it was during these three days, that 4/5ths of the Yiddin died. One medrish tells us that they were buried during the next three days when the Egyptians were hit with an even more severe form of darkness: blackout conditions such as (says the medrish) existed before the RBSO created the world we live in today. Why they died is yet another medrish, ober let’s stay on point. And why is this relevant? Let’s find out.
Ober before we do, how many taka died? Shoin, the heylige Toirah told us that 600,000 men left. Our sages assume that each had at least one wife -many had more, some say four per person- yikes- and each of them had kids. Let’s recall that they were fertile, very. Let’s then assume that in total, three million left. And if three million left, seemingly a full twelve million were left behind. Why? Because they were dead. Shoin! As Bishalach opens, the Yiddin are happily traveling from point A to point B and are mistama thinking that their next destination is the Promised Land. Let’s reset: Paroy had seen and endured enough; he chased them out and life was good. The RBSO was accompanying them with His clouds of glory. How many clouds of glory accompanied them? At least two are mentioned ober, according to Reb Yoinoson ben Uziel, there were seven. Whatever the number, they were seemingly well protected. When it comes to protection, more is zicher better than less, if you chap.
Ober a few pisukim later, we will read that the RBSO had one last surprise in mind for Paroy and his legions. Let’s hearken back and recall that He had promised Zeyda Avrohom that when the Yiddin were to finally leave Mitzrayim, they would in fact leave with great wealth. Where was this wealth? Now it’s taka emes that the Yiddin had permanently borrowed (as we discussed last week) some amounts of gold, silver and clothing. Ober did all these borrowings represent the great wealth the RBSO promised? Moreover, it appears that the RBSO made two separate and distinct promises. Back in Parshas Shemois (3:21), the RBSO told Moishe azoy: “I shall grant this people favor in the eyes of the Egyptian so that when they (eventually) leave, they will not leave empty handed.” Ober, back in Bereishis, When the RBSO shared with our Zeyda Avrohom that his descendants would become slaves, He also told him that they would leave with great wealth. Were these two conversations really but one? Is not leaving empty handed considered great wealth? Seemingly not! Seemingly, the gold, silver and clothing they borrowed just prior to leaving was just he fulfillment of the words He spoke to Moishe; the best was yet to come. This week, we will see that the RBSO means what He says. Nu, we all know that if and when the RBSO promises, unlike we mere mortals who make resolutions every Yom Kippur to be good, only to find ourselves sinning all over again but days later, if that long, if you chap, that He delivers. And we all know that the RBSO runs the world mostly through nature. Here and there He throws in an open miracle. In other words: He didn’t just drop millions into their laps in plain sight. Instead, He came up with a new plan and this is how it unfolded.
The RBSO hardened Paroy’s heart one last time. Paroy regretted sending the Jews out; he lost his labor pool. A country without a good labor pool is doomed. Then again, a country with no borders, could also have issues. Shoin, let The Trumpmeister get that sorted out. He decided to give chase and bring them back. After all, didn’t Moishe request but a three day furlough? Grada he did! Nu, to tie this all together, lommer lernin a few pisukim inavaynig (let’s review the text). Says the heylige Toirah (Shemois 14: 5-7), azoy:
|5. It was reported to Pharaoh that the people had fled; and Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart toward the people, and they said, What is this that we have done, that we have released Israel from serving us?||הוַיֻּגַּד֙ לְמֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם כִּ֥י בָרַ֖ח הָעָ֑ם וַיֵּֽ֠הָפֵ֠ךְ לְבַ֨ב פַּרְעֹ֤ה וַֽעֲבָדָיו֙ אֶל־הָעָ֔ם וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ֙ מַה־זֹּ֣את עָשִׂ֔ינוּ כִּֽי־שִׁלַּ֥חְנוּ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מֵֽעָבְדֵֽנוּ:|
|6. So he [Pharaoh] harnessed his chariot, and took his people with him.||ווַיֶּאְסֹ֖ר אֶת־רִכְבּ֑וֹ וְאֶת־עַמּ֖וֹ לָקַ֥ח עִמּֽוֹ:|
|7. He took six hundred select chariots and all the chariots of Egypt, with officers over them all.||זוַיִּקַּ֗ח שֵֽׁשׁ־מֵא֥וֹת רֶ֨כֶב֙ בָּח֔וּר וְכֹ֖ל רֶ֣כֶב מִצְרָ֑יִם וְשָֽׁלִשִׁ֖ם עַל־כֻּלּֽוֹ:|
And let’s look at verse 7 one more time where we read that Paroy harnessed his chariot and took his people with him. He took 600 selected choice chariots, along with every chariot to be found in Mitzrayim, with officers in charge of all of them. Unkilis, a very famous Jewish convert, whose translation of the heylige Toirah is read every shabbis morning by tens of thousands of Yiddin, tells us that the words “v’sholishim al kuloi” mean that each chariot was manned by mighty warriors. So far so good. But how many officers or mighty warriors did Paroy bring along to corral and bring the Yiddin back? Let’s find out.
Ober before we do, efsher you have another shaylo (question): Hey, didn’t all of Paroy’s horses and other animals die during plague #5? Well, yes and no. Yes, many died, that’s what the plague was all about, ober not all. Let’s recall that Moishe told Paroy that all animals left outside would die. Those taka did. Ober there were seemingly a number (maybe a very large number) of people (Mitzrim) who feared the RBSO: they took their animals inside! In is zicher better than out, especially if one is an animal or acts like one, if you chap, and those animals survived the plague. Hence it’s no longer a shaylo as to where Paroy and his chosen crews found animals to harness to their chariots. In any event, though these people were God fearing during the plagues, they seemingly either lost their fear, or had a change of heart. When Paroy called them to action, they were ready. On the other hand, one medrish tells us that Paroy needed to bribe them. He offered to share the wealth to be recovered from the Yiddin with them. Another medrish tells us that he pre-paid them by opening his treasury department: he loaded up all their chariots with gold and other valuables. Suddenly they were paid mercenaries. Whatever, they saddled up and were ready. Veyter.
Ober how many chariots and crews were there? How many people to a chariot? How many to a crew. How many in total gave chase to the Yiddin? And how many Yiddin were they chasing? The plot thickens.
One medrish tells us that Paroy had an exact count of all Yiddin under his tutelage. In order to recapture the Yiddin, he brought along three soldiers for every Yid. The math fun begins here. If in fact a full 3 million (men, women, teens and kids) left Egypt, and if Paroy brought along three soldiers for every Jew on the run, it would appear that Paroy gave chase with an army of 9,000,000. Ober how would we know, or even think, that Paroy gave chase with an army of 9,000,000? So says the medrish; isn’t that good enough for you? What’s his source you ask? This theory is based on three words found in posik 7 above. The words “v’sho’li’shim al kuloi” is exegetically interpreted to mean three for each person (Jewish person), and taka the word ‘shalosh’ is efsher the root of sholi’shim. Givaldig. Another medrish tells us that the word ‘visholishim’ does taka mean three, ober not three soldiers for every Jew. Instead, each soldier came to fight with three weapons. Wait: there’s more.
Another tells us the vi’sho’li’shim means that the pursuing armies came with three different opinions on what to do with the Yiddin once caught. One group said to but take the money and valuables back and head home. Another said to forgo the riches and just kill the Yiddin. And the other suggested to do both: kill the Yiddin and also take back all the valuables (they had borrowed). Yikes! Ober when all is said and done, how many Egyptians gave chase to the barely freed Yiddin?
Some say Paroy gave chase with three soldiers per Jew. Ober some, is not all; another opinion tells us that 30 mitzrim were brought along for every Jew, and yet another, tells us that there were 300 to every Jew. By extension, he chased them with either 9,000,000, 90,000,000, or, 900,000,000. OMG and oy vey givald! Imagine that many armies going after Australia, or even North America on your Risk Board. Game over!
But wait: let’s recall that earlier Rashi told us that but 1/5th of the Jews made their way out, and by extension, 4/5ths died and were buried during the three days of darkness. Did Paroy do his calculations based on the number of Yiddin under his tutelage prior to losing up to 12 million during the plague of darkness? Or, did he do his math already knowing that only 600,000 men were leaving? Did he bring soldiers based on the 600,000 men, or, did he also bring chariots and soldiers based on the total number of three million? Were there still three million who left after 4/5ths died? And if there were, how many Yiddin were there just prior to the mass thinning out of the population. And were so many so bad and deserving of death? Shoin, do you have a headache yet? You are not alone! And what difference does that make? What does that do to our calculations? Could the numbers be the same? Shoin, let’s start again.
Rabaynu Bichaya referencing the medrish and then adding his own color, tells us that there are three different opinions on how many Yiddin there were and how many died. One opinion stated that only 1/5th made it out alive. Another, that only 1 of 50 made it, the other 49, all dead prior to departure. And the third states that only 1 in 500 made it out alive. By extension, these numbers suggest that the population of the Yiddin prior to their untimely deaths totaled either 3,000,000 (since we know that only 600,000 men left), 30,000,000, or, 300,000,000. In every case, there were lots of them. In every event, quite impressive growth over a few hundred years especially when we recall that our Zeyda Yaakov arrived to Mitzraym with but 70 people.
And….if in fact, Paroy gave chase with 3, or 30 or 300 for each Yid, his army of chariots included hundreds of millions of pursuers. Now, let’s recall that Paroy’s entire army was swallowed up by the sea. The Yiddin -now safely on dry land on the other side- watched as the sea spit out all the valuable and riches. Now, it all makes sense.
The RBSO promised Avrohom that his descendants would leave with great wealth. What to do? How to deliver enormous wealth naturally to the Yiddin? Wealth they might need while traversing the Midbar for forty years, and then later in the Promised Land, where they were to become self sufficient. Shoin, the RBSO arranged the world order where Paroy would regret freeing his slaves and give chase. As Paroy’s army of 900,000,000 riding on chariots laden down with valuables, drowned in the sea, the Yiddin were the beneficiaries. The bottom line is azoy: The RBSO can avada, always and at any time, make something good happen to anyone, even to you. He doesn’t always seem to want to. Efsher it’s our collective jobs to convince Him otherwise?! Another bottom line: if the RBSO wants good things to come your way, not even an army of 900,000,000 can prevent them from happening. Sadly, the same is true when bad tidings are in store. Something to ponder over.
A gittin Shabbis!
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv