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Past Weekly Shabbat Message
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Jewish Heritage
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Rabbi Dovid Saks
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rabbi@jewishheritage
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(Torah Portion Vayigash) Sextuplets!

After our forefather Yaacov received the heartwarming and wonderful news that his son Yosef was still alive, he along with his family moved from Israel to settle in Egypt. He moved in order that Yosef could support his family during the remaining five years that were predicted for the famine.

Amazingly, due to the righteousness and holiness of Yaacov, as soon as he stepped foot into Egypt, the famine stopped. The Pharoh recognized this phenomenon and when Yaacov met him he requested a blessing from Yaakov.

Interestingly, although Yaacov realized that the famine had stopped, he did not return to the Land of Israel. This was because Yaacov knew that G-d planned for the Jews to spend a set time in the land of Egypt as foretold to Avraham. With Yaacov's arrival in Egypt the Jews' 210 year sojourn in Egypt began.

The Torah details the names of the 70 members of Yaacov's family that settled in Egypt. What is astounding is that when they were counted after just 210 years, the males alone aging from 20-60, numbered 600,000. If we would take into account the women and the other age groups, the total Jewish population emerging from Egypt would be over 2 million! This miraculous phenomenon came about through multiple births; in fact, sextuplets were the norm.

The Torah says that the family of Yaakov numbered 70 Nefesh - Nefesh is the singular form of the word soul. The question raised is why doesn't the Torah use the plural word for souls - Nefoshos, as it does when it lists the family of Aisav?

An answer offered is that the Torah considers Yaacov's family as a single soul, because his entire family had a common purpose - to serve G-d. This blended them into one homogeneous unit - one soul! On the other hand, Aisav's family consisted of individuals with disparate self serving interests, this caused disharmony among them and each one was his own entity, therefore they are called souls.

What is surprising is while the Torah tells us that Yaacov came to Egypt with 70 family members, if you actually count the names of those included in this count, you will find only 69 names. So who remained nameless? There are a few possibilities offered to explain this discrepancy: One is that it was Moshe's mother Yocheved who was born just as they were entering into the borders of Egypt. Since she wasn't born until after their travels from Israel to Egypt, she is not mentioned by name among those who left Israel with Yaacov, however, she is included in the actual number of the family members who entered into Egypt.

What emerges is something fascinating. Yocheved was born when Yaacov came to Egypt, and her children, Miriam, Aaron and Moshe were in their Eighties when the Jews left Egypt 210 years later. It follows that Yocheved gave birth to Moshe when she was 130 years old! It is interesting that the Torah openly points out that Sarah was 90 years old when she gave birth to Yitzchok, yet it keeps quiet about the miracle of Yocheved bearing children at an even older age - a fact that it is only known through our Oral Tradition.

One of the most warming explanations as to the identity of the hidden 70th member, is that G-d Himself included and counted Himself together with the family of Yaacov as they headed to Egypt. G-d went into exile together with them, and He was there for them throughout. The Torah relates that G-d began expediting the process of their exodus as soon as the Jews began to cry out to G-d for help. G-d was waiting for this moment.

The Rivah quotes a Medrash that when the Jews left Egypt, there were actually 599,999 males and G-d added Himself to the count completing the number of 600,000! G-d came with them, stayed with them, and left with them!

This is the message of love that G-d continuously gives the Jews. Whether they find themselves in exile or they are experiencing challenges or pain, and of course when they receive His abundant and continuous blessings, G-d says "I will always be there with you and will never neglect you. Just call out to Me and I will answer."

Wishing you a most enjoyable & uplifting Shabbos, Rabbi Dovid Saks