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A Promise Kept

With the culmination of the 10 Strikes, in Parashat Bo (Ex.10:1-13:16)God forcefully demonstrated that He alone is the Creator, the very source of everything--including time. By restoring the calendar, the Creator reminded Israel that time is a necessary component of His promises—as noted by verse 12:41 where we learn that the Exodus officially began, “At the end of four hundred and thirty years.”

It was exactly 430 years prior to the Exodus that God told Avraham that his descendants would inherit the Promised Land.

The patriarch boldly asked, “How will I know?” (Gen.15:7) and God’s response was the Covenant Between the Pieces (Brit Bein HaBetarim) in which Avraham is shown that 400 years (starting with Isaac’s birth 30 years later)are required to mold his descendants into God’s Chosen Nation.

The Plagues, of Locusts, Darkness and the most devastating, Death of the First-Born are the final Strikes against Egypt in Parashat Bo. But scholars claim they didn't happen. Yet, there are over 90 ancient textual, literary and hieroglyphic inscriptions from ancient Egypt that reference Exodus-like events. Among the most notable is the Ipuwer Papyrus in which an Egyptian sage records the destruction his nation. The Torah’s description of the last three Plagues are echoed in the words of Ipuwur: “Forsooth, No fruits or herbs are found. Grain has perished on every side." Ipuwer records that , “The Land is in Darkness.”

The commentary MeAm LoEz teaches that the Egyptian first-born were slain in many ways—the most unexpected was a civil war. Fearing for their lives, the first-born Egyptian nobles demanded that pharaoh release the Israelites but when he refused, the sons took up arms against their fathers. The Ipuwer Papyrus seems to reference this battle, “A man looks upon his own son as his enemy.” The extent of the plague is further documented: “He who places his brother in the ground is everywhere….Many dead men are buried in the river…The stream is a tomb and the place of embalmment has become a stream…The offspring of nobility are laid out on the high ground….The residence is overturned in a minute…Behold! A man is slain beside his brother!”

Prior to the 10th Plague, Moses instructed the Children of Israel to slaughter a lamb and spread it’s blood on the lintel and two doorposts. Chizkuni, a mid-13th century commentary on the Torah by Rabbi Hezekiah ben Manoah, taught that the blood on the door frame formed the letter ח (chet), the 8th letter of the alef-bet. The number eight represents the miraculous, as well as the brit, performed on the 8th day. Chet is the first letter in the word “chi” (life).

The blood on their doorposts was the ultimate test for Israel that night. Each household had to choose whether to daub the blood of the Passover lamb—defying the imagined power of the Egyptian gods. According to Rashi, some of the Israelites did not. More importantly, the blood was a sign to the faithful that, in their present sinful state, they were worthy of death, yet they were spared, redeemed that night through God’s mercy and kindness.

The slaughter of the Pesach lamb was also the final strike that destroyed the Egyptian idols. The promise spoken to Avraham 430 years before was fully realized. It's a promise that echoes across the centuries, still impacting our world today. The epic Exodus experience indelibly marks Israel as the heirs of everything promised to Avraham.

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