In this week’s parsha, Parshas Bo, we see the first great moment in the history of the Jewish nation as the Bnei Yisrael finally leave Mitzrayim. A phrasing appears in the pesukim that is found rarely throughout the Torah to describe how the Nation left exactly. The pasuk says, “וַיְהִ֕י בְּעֶ֖צֶם הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה הוֹצִ֨יא יְהֹוָ֜ה אֶת־בְּנֵ֧י יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרַ֖יִם עַל־צִבְאֹתָֽם” “It happened on that very day: Hashem took the Children of Yisrael out of the land of Egypt, in their legions.” (Shemos 12:51). Interestingly, this same exact phrasing appears only ten pesukim earlier! “…וַיְהִ֗י בְּעֶ֨צֶם֙ הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה יָֽצְא֛וּ כָּל־צִבְא֥וֹת יְהֹוָ֖ה מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם” “…and it was on this very day that all the legions of Hashem left the land of Egypt.” (ibid: 41). Pasuk 41 is clearly referring to the actual exit from Egypt; in that case, what is Pasuk 51 referring to?
The Ramban gives an explanation which I believe is based on the larger meaning of the phrase, “בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה”. Rashi on Devarim 32:48 explains that the Torah uses the phrase “בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה” in situations where a group of people were attempting to resist the will of Hashem. The three examples he brings are: when the people said they would stop Noach from entering the Ark by the Flood, by the death of Moshe, and by Yetzias Mitzrayim. The Egyptians said they would do everything in their power to prevent the Bnei Yisrael from leaving, so Hashem said not only would the Bnei Yisrael leave, but they would leave right in the middle of the day with everyone watching, and remain powerless to stop them.
Returning to the explanation of the Ramban; immediately following the Bnei Yisrael’s exodus in Pasuk 41, Pasuk 42 says, “לֵ֣יל שִׁמֻּרִ֥ים הוּא֙ לַֽיהֹוָ֔ה לְהֽוֹצִיאָ֖ם מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם” “It is a night of keepings for Hashem to take them out of the land of Egypt.” Based on this pasuk, we might assume that the previous pasuk’s description of the Nation having left in the middle of the day means something different than the simple translation. The proper explanation is while Pasuk 41 teaches us Rashi’s explanation, Pasuk 51 teaches us they didn’t slink out of Mitzrayim while their Egyptian masters were sleeping. Rather, while they received permission to leave already the night before, they waited until the morning so the full affect of the entire nation leaving would be felt.
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