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5 Facts About Parshat Shemot that You (Maybe) Didn’t Know

Published on Friday February 5th, 2021



וַֽיְהִ֗י כָּל־נֶ֛פֶשׁ יֹצְאֵ֥י יֶֽרֶךְ־יַעֲקֹ֖ב שִׁבְעִ֣ים נָ֑פֶשׁ וְיוֹסֵ֖ף הָיָ֥ה בְמִצְרָֽיִם׃(1:5)

The total number of persons that were of Jacob’s issue came to seventy, Joseph being already in Egypt.

  1. Who was this 70th person, missing from the count?  

  • It is unclear who the 70th person was. The possible candidates include: God, Yocheved, Chushim the son of Dan, Serach the daughter of Asher, Yaakov, Osnat, Yosef’s twin sister, Binyamin’s twin sister, and Dinah’s twin sister.

רְאוּבֵ֣ן שִׁמְע֔וֹן לֵוִ֖י וִיהוּדָֽה׃(1:2)

Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah.

2. How old were Yehudah’s sons when they got married?  

  • Yehudah had 4 sons: Er, Onan, Peretz and Zerach. When Peretz was only 8 years old, he had 2 sons: Chetzron and Chamul. When they went down to Egypt, Chetzron was 2 years old and Chamul was only 1. Nevertheless, they were all married, as per Yaakov’s instructions, so that they wouldn't marry Egyptian women.

וַיָּ֥קָם מֶֽלֶךְ־חָדָ֖שׁ עַל־מִצְרָ֑יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־יָדַ֖ע אֶת־יוֹסֵֽף׃(1:8)

A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph.

3. What was Pharaoh’s favorite game?  

  • One of Pharaoh’s favorite games was playing ball. He would play with his servants every Tuesday and Saturday by the Nile.


וַיְמָרְר֨וּ אֶת־חַיֵּיהֶ֜ם בַּעֲבֹדָ֣ה קָשָׁ֗ה בְּחֹ֙מֶר֙ וּבִלְבֵנִ֔ים וּבְכָל־עֲבֹדָ֖ה בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה אֵ֚ת כָּל־עֲבֹ֣דָתָ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־עָבְד֥וּ בָהֶ֖ם בְּפָֽרֶךְ׃(1:14)

The various labors that they made them perform. Ruthlessly they made life bitter for them with harsh labor at mortar and bricks and with all sorts of tasks in the field.

4. How were Israelis babies miraculously saved under Egyptian slavery?  

  • God ensured that when the women would go to the river to draw water, they would also draw small fish along with the water. They would heat the water and cook the fish and then go to the fields to bathe and feed their husbands. They would then be intimate together.

  • When the time for giving birth would arrive, the women would go to the apple orchards and give birth under the trees. God would send an angel who would clean and prepare the newborns just as a midwife would. The babies would nurse from stones that would miraculously produce oil and honey.

  • The Egyptians would come to the orchards to kill the newborn boys but a miracle occurred and the babies would be absorbed into the earth. When the Egyptians saw this, they would bring oxen to plow up the earth and retrieve the babies, but to no avail. When the Egyptians would finally give up and leave, the babies would re-emerge from the ground. It was these babies who later said the words “This is my God, and I will glorify Him” (Exodus 15:2) at the Red Sea when they realized it was He, who performed all these miracles for them.

וְלֹא־יָכְלָ֣ה עוֹד֮ הַצְּפִינוֹ֒ וַתִּֽקַּֽח־לוֹ֙ תֵּ֣בַת גֹּ֔מֶא וַתַּחְמְרָ֥ה בַחֵמָ֖ר וּבַזָּ֑פֶת וַתָּ֤שֶׂם בָּהּ֙ אֶת־הַיֶּ֔לֶד וַתָּ֥שֶׂם בַּסּ֖וּף עַל־שְׂפַ֥ת הַיְאֹֽר׃(2:3)

When she could hide him no longer, she got a wicker basket for him and caulked it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child into it and placed it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.

5. What holiday custom is derived from the episode with Moshe’s basket?  

  • Moshe was born on the 7th of Adar. After hiding him for three months, they put him in a basket and placed the basket in the Nile to “float among the reeds.” The day they put the basket in the Nile, became the holiday of Shavuot 80 years later. This is another reason why we decorate our homes and synagogue with greenery on Shavuot.

Eytan Yéhouda DZIKOWSKI - © Torah-Box Account

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