After the plague of hail Paroh exclaimed: “I have sinned this time. Hashem is righteous, and I and my nation are the wicked ones” That is quite a change from Paroh’s normal approach, but is it what it seems to be?
Humility – A Basic Character Trait of a Jewish Leader
Moshe Rabbeinu, who grew up as a prince in Paroh’s house, as the adopted son of the king’s daughter, and engaged in negotiations with Paroh, reached a new high in our parasha. The Torah describes him as having a lofty perch, both among his Jewish brethren and among the Egyptian nobility (see Shemot 11:3). Despite this, Moshe remained the most humble of men, as the following gemara highlights: “The pasuk says: ‘Not due to your great numbers amongst the nations did Hashem desire you…’ – Hashem said to Israel: ‘I have desired you because even when I bestow greatness upon you, you make yourselves small before Me; I gave greatness to Moshe and Aharon, and they said “What are we?”’” (Chulin 89a). Moshe did not consider himself a “gadol.”
As the Torah describes the preparations for the Exodus, the Torah writes that Bnei Yisrael lived in Egypt for 430 years (Shemot 12:40-41). Chazal ask that this seems to contradict the prophecy to Avraham that his descendants would be in a foreign land in which they would be enslaved and tortured for 400 years (Bereishit 15:13). They further contrasted it with a few hints that, from the time that Yaakov went down to Egypt, only 210 years passed until the Exodus, which is even less than half of the 430 that are mentioned.
One of the matters from our parasha that drew much attention by our great commentators over history is the statement that Bnei Yisrael were in Egypt for 430 years (Shemot 12:40). This is in apparent contradiction to the 400 years promised in Brit Bein Habetarim (Bereishit 15:13). Less famously, Bereishit 15:16 states that Bnei Yisrael would return after the sin of the Emorites is complete, after four generations. We will focus now on the interplay between the dating of 400 years in comparison with or as opposed to four generations. The Ramban explains that the timing of four generations does not relate to Bnei Yisrael’s exile but to the sin of Emorites. The midrash (Mechilta D’Rabbi Yishmael, Bo 14) says that the two possibilities are … two possibilities. If Bnei Yisrael would repent, they would return after four generations. If not, they would be redeemed after the appropriate number of years.