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How long were Jews slaves in Egypt?

By

Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner

Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner

Question: How long were Jews slaves in Egypt?

Dear Rabbi,
Were the Hebrew enslaved in Egypt for 210 or 420 years of slavery? Did the angel of death pass over all Jewish homes or only the homes with lambs' blood on the door sill?
Thank you, David

Answer: Dear David,

The Targum Yonatan offers a midrash that explains how the Jews who were to have originally serve 400 years in slavery had 190 years subtracted because of the joint ages of Abraham and Sara when Isaac was born, leaving the 210 years the Jews served. Exactly how many I leave to the many and various commentaries as there is no other historical evidence available.

Interesting second question. There are a few midrashim who hold that not all Jews were ready to leave Egypt and slavery, and that darkness continued to hide the homes so that the Egyptians wouldn't see which Jews were also punished with the death of the first-born because they didn't perform the sacrifice and ready themselves to leave slavery. The lesson is that in order to be redeemed, one has to act, to choose to be redeemed. The same is true today of our readiness to be part of the solution or part of the problem.

You can find more helpful information about Passover in my Jewish Freeware Site.

Best wishes,
Rabbi Dov

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