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April 06, 1990 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-04-06

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Exodus, Then And Now: Yetziat Mizrayim


Editor Emeritus


new exodus now in
progress traces the
roots of rejecting
enslavement for the quest for
freedom to the original ex-
odus approximately 3,500
years ago. It's a long lapse of
time and is always the un-
forgettable and inerasable
libertarian legacy that makes
the seder the overpowering
occasion for historical
It is this Passover glorifica-
tion that uplifts the present
new exodus from the USSR
into its human commitment
for world Jewry.
The Exodus from Egypt has
always been associated with
Jewish historical texts, with
nearly all prayers, with the
emphasis on tradition. In fact,
the continuity is from the
earliest times in the first com-
mandment. We begin reading
the Decalogue with the
"I am the Lord your God
Who brought you out of the
Land of Egypt."
Now the new exodus is
directly linked with ap-
plicable traditions and the
duty to help end the current
serfdom that threatens basic
rights of some two million
Jews in Russia.
We learn anew the lessons
of time as we prepare for the
Haggadah to be read at the

seder. The figures involved in
the current rescue differ from
those of "yetziat Mizrayim,"
the exodus from Egypt. Then,
as recorded in Exodus 12-37,
"six hundred thousand men
on foot besides women and
children." In the presently
undertaken task there is the
anticipation that perhaps a
hundred thousand Jews will
be helped to escape the Rus-
sian threats to settle in Israel.
The beginnings of the latter
rescue efforts are now in
There is the fascinating
temptation here to be ac-
quainted with the actual cen-
sus taking that arrived at the
number who left Egypt. The
census story is also shared
with our readers on this page.
It is important in view of
the accumulating duties in
the current new exodus to be
fully acquainted with tradi-
tions and the adherence to
them. There are endless
books and interpretations

r.."1:= 787.r

relating to the Passover, in ad-
dition to the Haggadah and
the commentaries, perhaps
more than is read on this por-
tion of our history. There is a
brief yet most impressive
Passover definition in the Pic-
torial History of the Jewish
People by Nathan Ausubel,
one of the most admired an-

And Russia

A Yemenite seder in Israel, with the men in traditional kittels.

thologists and Jewish
historical researchers. In his
story of Passover he provides
us with the following:
The most beloved of all
the Jewish festivals is
Pesach or Passover. It
celebrates, and symbolizes,
freedom, the value most
cherished among Jews for
more than three thousand
years: their longing for
freedom. That is why it is
referred to as "The Festival
of Liberation."
Jewish families on
Pesach night have always
gathered together to relive
in recollection their most

unforgettable historic ex-
perience: their bondage in
Egypt and their liberation.
Passover did not always
hold this significance for
Jews. It had quite a dif-
ferent character in the
days when the Temple in
Jerusalem stood. Then it
was considered as the first
of the year's three great
harvest festivals. It
celebrated the gathering in
of the spring barley from
which most of the bread of
the people was made. It
culminated with a gigantic
pilgrimage to the sanc-
tuary in Jerusalem and

was marked by dramatic
rites of spring.
In preparation for the
Festival each householder
was obliged to slaughter a
lamb or a goat, a yearling
"without blemish," which
he brought as a sacrifice to
the Lord. The blood of the
animal he smeared over
the sideposts and the lintel
of the door in grateful im-
itation of his ancestors in
Egypt when the Lord
passed over the houses of
the Israelites but killed all
the first-born of the Egyp-
tians .. .
Continued on Page 48

9fetziat Mizrayim': Census As A Jewish Legacy


Editor Emeritus


ensus time is always
occasion to learn from
population growth or
with its decline when it oc-
curs with changing neighbor-
hoods and related problems.
Perhaps there was always
attention to the homeless
who are now a major con-

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Vol. XCVII No. 6


April 6, 1990


sideration in the conducted
Bible students know that
the census as a population
count has always been
resorted to.
Scriptures prove, in fact,
that the census is a study of
people and their numbers
from time immemorial.
In the counting of Jews in
the exodus from Egypt, as
they commenced the 40 years
of trekking through the
desert on the way to the Pro-
mised Land, there is the
evidence of the Bible being
among the most important
guidelines in census taking.
The numerical strength of
the Jews that comprised those
who joined in the exodus from
Egypt, as well as the Egyp-
tian rulers, are remarkably
accounted for in The Pictorial
Biblical Encyclopedia: A
Visual Guide to the Old and
New Testaments, edited by
Galyahu Cornfeld, who was
assisted by Bible scholars,
historians and archaeologists.

It was published in 1964 by
Macmillan. In these accounts
there are these figures:
According to parallel
traditions in Numbers
(1:1-54 and 26:1-51, 57-62),
two counts of the Israelites
were held by Moses in the
desert. The first was held
in the 2nd year after the
Exodus, the other in the
40th. The totals produced
were remarkably close.
The first, taken pre-
sumably according to the
procedure described in Ex-
odus, gave literally a figure
of 603,500 males. A special
census of all males aged
one month and over in the
Levi tribe revealed 8,600
"watchers of the sacred
precincts" (Nu. 3:1543). Of
these, an additional count
was made of the Kohatites
of the tribe, aged from
30-50, who did the work in
the Tent of Gathering. The
Gershonites, who were
charged with carrying the
Tabernacle, were also

counted separately (Nu.
The second count, taken
(Nu. 26:1-15) when the peo-
ple were camped in the
steppes of Moab near
Jericho on the eve of the
Conquest, gave a figure of
601,700 males aged 20
years and over, plus 23,000
Levites aged one month
and upwards (Nu. 26:62).
The Cornfeld-edited en-
cyclopedia also dates the ex-
odus and names the

The Bible calls for
a census of the

pharaohs. There is an impor-
tant summary in this en-
cyclopedia. Here is a historic
account worth relating as an
addendum to the Haggadah:
With the accession of "a
new king . . . who did not
know Joseph" (Ex. 1:8) to
the throne of Egypt, the

Israelites were reduced to
slavery. The Bible does not
specify the name of the
king responsible for their
bondage, but it does
describe the nature of their
enslavement. He perse-
cuted the Israelites and
forced them to build "store-
cities for Pharaoh: Pithom
and Ramses" (Ex. 1:11). The
dating of the Exodus is
complicated by the lack of
direct external evidence
regarding the event, with
the exception of a few
sources dealing with the
enslavement of foreigners
in Egypt and the escape of
slaves into the desert.
Biblical tradition provides
several dates which bear
directly or indirectly on
the date of the Exodus: (1)
1 Kings 6:1 states that 480
years elapsed from the Ex-
odus to the construction of
Solomon's Temple in
Jerusalem. Solomon reign-
ed over Israel during the

Continued on Page 48

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