Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Va'era
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Simha Bat Hana

Parashat Vaera

Only Two Men


Rabbi Steven Ettinger

In the opening verses of this week's parasha, God describes the impending redemption from Egypt, using the famous four expressions (Shemot 6: 6 and 7). In the next verse, God adds a fifth expression, the promise to bring the children of Israel to the land of Israel. The Talmud in Sanhedrin (111a) describes the relationship with this fifth declaration in a perplexing way:

Rabbi Simai said: The verse says: "And I will take you unto me as a nation," and it says: "And I will bring you to the land.' This connects their exodus from Egypt with their arrival in Israel. Just as only two men out of 600,000 ultimately arrived in Israel [Yehoshua and Calev], so too their departure from Egypt actually concerned only two out of 600,000.

How can this be correct? We certainly know that more than two Jews were taken out of Egypt?

Rabbi Simai is not rewriting history. Instead, he is telescoping it to teach us a powerful lesson about the merit of Eretz Israel. If the final stage of redemption was the delivery of the Jews to Israel, then technically God performed all of His miracles for only two (out of 600,000) people – the two that left Egypt and actually entered Israel forty years later. God changed the world's natural and political order so that two men would enter the land. Just think then how much He must cherish all those who have chosen to live in Eretz Israel in our day.

Rabbi Steven Ettinger lives with his family in Hashmonaim. He is the author of two recent books: Torah 24/7 and Connecting the Dates [Devorah Publishing]. He made aliyah from Detroit in December 2003. Prior to arriving, he was an Associate Professor and Director of the Graduate Tax Program at The Thomas Cooley Law School. Currently, he is counsel in international tax matters for PWC in Israel and an Adjunct in the law school at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

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