Chain Migration: Circa 2448
Chain migration is a term used by scholars to refer to the social process by which migrants from a particular town follow others from that town to a particular destination. The destination may be in another country, or a new location within the same country. Welcome to Parshas Boi where the first ever case of chain migration is recounted. It may have involved as many as 2.6 million people or more nuchschleppers. OMG! What the hec is a nuchschlepper? More on that below.
Though parshas Bishalach has been anointed as the shabbis most associated with the Yiddin finally leaving Mitzrayim (Egypt), perhaps because that parsha contain the famous “Shira” – the hit single Moishe, and then the Yiddin, spontaneously began singing following their successful crossing of the (split) Reed Sea, it’s in parshas Boi, this week’s parsha where the heylige Toirah recounts their exodus. Let’s begin by reading the very words of the heylige Toirah (Shemois 12: 37-38) which tell us 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:|
|38. And also, a great mixed multitude went up with them, and flocks and cattle, very much livestock.||לחוְגַם־עֵ֥רֶב רַ֖ב עָלָ֣ה אִתָּ֑ם וְצֹ֣אן וּבָקָ֔ר מִקְנֶ֖ה כָּבֵ֥ד מְאֹֽד:|
And though we were always taught that the Yiddin left Mitzrayim three million strong, the heylige Toirah tells us that only “about six hundred thousand adult men on foot, besides the children” left Mitzrayim. How did 600,000 morph into three million? Taka an excellent question. Grada when it comes to math, two other pisukim in our parsha also had our rabbis of yore scratching their heads, pulling on their beards, and praying for the invention of the calculator. Lets’ quickly take a look at pisukim 39 and 40 of the same perek which tell us azoy.
|39. They baked the dough that they had taken out of Egypt as unleavened cakes, for it had not leavened, for they were driven out of Egypt, and they could not tarry, and also, they had not made provisions for themselves.||לטוַיֹּאפ֨וּ אֶת־הַבָּצֵ֜ק אֲשֶׁ֨ר הוֹצִ֧יאוּ מִמִּצְרַ֛יִם עֻגֹ֥ת מַצּ֖וֹת כִּ֣י לֹ֣א חָמֵ֑ץ כִּי־גֹֽרְשׁ֣וּ מִמִּצְרַ֗יִם וְלֹ֤א יָֽכְלוּ֙ לְהִתְמַהְמֵ֔הַּ וְגַם־צֵדָ֖ה לֹֽא־עָשׂ֥וּ לָהֶֽם:|
|40. And the habitation of the children of Israel, that they dwelled in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.||מוּמוֹשַׁב֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָֽשְׁב֖וּ בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם שְׁלשִׁ֣ים שָׁנָ֔ה וְאַרְבַּ֥ע מֵא֖וֹת שָׁנָֽה:|
We have previously mentioned and discussed the fuzzy math behind the shrinking of 430 years into 210 years, the actual number of years the Yiddin were in Mitzrayim. We have also mentioned various calculations which allowed our sages to reconcile the 400 years the RBSO forecasted to our Zeyda Avrohom, to the 430 years as written in our parsha, and the 210 years of actual slavery. The bottom line: there are enough interpretations of these numbers to make one dizzy, ober if the RBSO specifically mentioned 400 years to Avrohom, but had Moishe write down 430 years in this week’s parsha, zicher He knew what He was saying both times. And if the actual number turned out to be reduced from 430, or 400, to but 210, mistama that too has rationale. Where is it written that we mortals need to, or deserve to, understand His cheshboinis (calculations)? Let’s get real: myriad rabbis spent time pontificating on each of these numbers and why they all work in unison. Which one of them got it right? Ver veyst?
Let’s instead focus on pisukim 37 and 38 where we learned that “about 600,000 men on foot” left Mitzrayim. And let’s ask these questions. Ershtens: what’s pshat “about 600,000 men? And what’s pshat “on foot?” Was there another mode of transportation then available? And how did our rabbis discern that these 600,000 men on foot, then somehow totaled three million who were present on -the bottom of- Har Sinai for Matan Toirah (Revelation)? Who did this math and how? What sources were there? Who counted the men not on foot? Who counted the women and children? Moreover, what about that other group of people mentioned in posik 38, the “erev rav,” the mixed multitude? Who were these guys? How many of them were there? Men only? Men, women and children? Were there more of them than of us?
Moreover, didn’t we learn that the Israelite women were multiplying at alarming rates? We did! And didn’t we also learn that the Yiddishe veyber were delivering six at a time -at a minimum, with others suggesting as many as sixty were born from one gestation? We did! Moreover, is it farfetched to believe that each Israelite had at least one wife, perhaps a second, and then a number of pilagshim (concubines) on the side? Not at all! Nu, believe it or not, not much is written on these mathematical questions, ober let’s try piecing together what a few have said.
Rashi, who typically comments on kimat everything including, according to the famous Rashi and Mrs. Rashi joke, even the color of Mrs. Rashi’s dress, tells us only that the approximately 600,000 men included only men above the age of 20 years old and only up to sixty. And Rashi knew this how? Says the Mizrachi azoy: Rashi deduced this fact from the fact that six months later when the Yiddin were counted after Yom Kippur, the number of adult men between the age of 20 and 60, was taka 600,000. And if the number of adult men mentioned in our parsha would have included those past their bar mitzvah, those 13 and older, it would be highly unlikely that six months later, those 20 and over would already number 600,000.
Says the Michilta: when the heylige Toirah told us that the approximately 600,000 men left Mitzrayim aside from the children, this number was also meant to exclude women, children, and the elderly. Seemingly, according to the Michilta, when these groups were added back, the real number who showed up for Revelation was closer to, or exactly three million.
And says the Ibn Ezra: there was no reason to mention the women because the number of women matched up to the number of men, or perhaps even more. Perhaps many more because let’s keep in mind that this event took place before Matan Toirah when it was efsher normative practice for a man to have at least one, and mistama two or more women. This pshat makes good sense because we will find -just after the Yiddin heard the Ten Commandments- of a group of Yiddin complaining, and Rashi and others will teach us they were complaining when they heard that certain familial relationships were -on a going forward basis- verboten.
Ober says Rabaynu Bichaya that when the Toirah tells us that there were “about 600,000” it’s for a reason. The number was off by one. In fact, only 599,999 left Mitzrayim. And since the heylige Toirah was not very specific and avada we all know that the RBSO knew the exact number, there must be a reason. And that reason is: one was missing from the 600,000 count. And since one was missing, the Toirah did not want to give us an exact number. Ober who missing? Says Pirkei D’rebbe Eleizer so gishmak azoy: when the Yiddin left Mitzrayim, they totaled taka 600,000 -1, or 599,999. What did the RBSO do? He put Himself, His Essence (the Shichina), into the mix and into the count. Shoin, the total was now 600,000. The RBSO was counted among the 600,000? And Rebbe Eliezer knew this how and from where? From another posik in Bereishis, one we have quoted in the past. We hearken back to a conversation the RBSO had with our forefather and zeyda Yaakov Ovenu while Yaakov was experiencing a night vision. There the RBSO told Yaakov not to worry about moving himself and his entire family over to Mitzrayim. Said the RBSO (Bereishis 46:4), azoy:
Says the medrish azoy: the RBSO was assuring Yaakov that He too was going down to Mitzrayim with him and that He would also bring him out. Nu, once He was there with the Yiddin, avada He could be counted among the 600,000 who came out. Gishmak! Shoin, if the RBSO promises, zicher He delivers and from these words, we now know that 600,000 went up. As an aside, the heylige Gemora (Migilah 29A) tells us that the RBSO’s Divine Presence is with us throughout any the duration of our exiles. When we leave, It leaves with us. And one! Gishmak.
Ober, what about those “erev rav” people who used some early form of chain migration to tag along? Were they illegal immigrants, efsher the first group of illegals? Shoin, whether it was 599,999 or 600,000, or any number that approximates those numbers, it was quite large when compared to the 70 people who came down to Mitzrayim with Yaakov back in parshas Vayigash. And says the heylige Zoihar azoy: the number 600,000 was not at all haphazard; the number represents the 600,000 letters that are found in the entire heylige Toirah. Gishmak!
Ober, if the Yiddin alone -men between 20 and 60- women, teens, elderly, and those under 20 made up three million strong, what about the erev rav? How many of them came along? Says Targum Yoinoson: there were “240 myriads of them.” How many comprise a myriad? And the answer is that each myriad totaled 10,000. In other words: 240 x 10,000, and that my friends comes to 2,400,000. Did mamish 2.4 million erev rav tag along? Shoin, it’s no wonder then that the ‘crossing the river’ scene in Exodus (the movie) took so long. If these numbers hold up, over 5.4 million people needed to cross.
Shoin, earlier we asked how many “erev rav” tagged along (schlepped along) with the Yiddin. As an aside, those who schlep along are referred to as nuchschleppers. And the answer is azoy: it depends on which rebbe you follow. Says the Michilta azoy: Rebbe Yishmoale says the erev rav consisted of 120 x 10,000 equaling 1.2 million of them. Ober says rebbe Akiva no! The real number was 240 x 10,000 which amounts to 2.4 million. Rebbe Noson says that both numbers are wrong and that the nuchschlpeers totaled 260 x 10000, or 2,600,000.
Ober who were they? Rashi tells us that the erev rav were a mixture of people of various nations who were converts. Mizrachi tells us that the erev rav consisted of Mitzrim (Egyptians) and people from other nations. In other words: they were a mixed multitude. Why they schlepped along, ver veyst? A number of exegetes tell us that the erev rav, having witnessed the RBSO’s greatness, decided to switch teams and join the Yiddin. Some say they were all Egyptians, some say they were the best of the Mitzrim. Medrish (Shemois Rabba) tells us that the RBSO counseled Moishe not to accept them as converts, ober Moishe argued on their behalf. Seemingly, the RBSO acquiesced and the heylige Torah does record that not just did they join, they did so in great numbers. Moreover, even their sheep and cattle came along and were included in the miracles the Yiddin experienced at sea. One medrish tells us that the erev rav included at least one famous personality. Says the medrish that Bisay (aka: Basay), she the famous and righteous Egyptian princess who scooped baby Moishe out of the water and also named him, not just accompanied the Yiddin as part of the erev rav, she made it all the into the Promised Land. Moreover, for her good deed, she was only one of nine people to be taken directly -alive- into Gan Eden (Paradise). Nu, is there any reason not to love medrish? Not!
In the end, there are two things about them, the erev rav, we know with certainty. Ershtens (firstly), they were -at least a great number of them- troublemakers. They seem to have been involved in the idea, and creation of the eygel (golden calf). As well, they were troublemaker rabble-rousers over the next forty years. While the Yiddin were traversing the midbar and committing various transgressions, all recounted in Sefer Bamidbar, members of the erev rav, were, according to many a famous exegetes, involved front and center in all such activity. Secondly, the RBSO was not very happy with Moishe for allowing them to come along. Why he so acquiesced, ver veyst? Perhaps He sent them along to continuously test the Yiddin’s resolve. Sadly, many Yiddin flunked; they were part of the group of men (women did not partake in any midbar sins) between the ages of 20 and 60 were doomed to die in the midbar. As to the erev rav, they were not properly vetted and should have stayed put. Seemingly when it comes to immigration and policies, perhaps our leaders should hearken back to the heylige Toirah and familiarize themselves with the lessons learned from the erev rav.
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv