BO (Exodus, 10:1-13:16) — “Time Off for Bad Behavior”

The numbers don’t add up.

The habitation of the Israelites during which they dwelled in Egypt was four hundred thirty years.  It was at the end of four hundred thirty years, on that very day, the legions of G-d left the land of Egypt.  (Exodus, 12:40-41)

There’s a problem with the math.

Moses’ grandfather Kehoth was one of the original Israelites who came to Egypt with Jacob.  Kehoth lived until age 133 (ibid, 6:18) His son Amram lived until age 137. (ibid, verse 20)  His son Moses was 80 when he met Pharaoh shortly before the Exodus. (ibid, 7:7)

Even without the obvious overlap of fathers’ and sons’ lives, the very maximum possible number of years from the birth of Kehoth — which was before we went to Egypt — until we left, was 133+137+80=350.  Obviously, our stay in Egypt must have been considerably shorter.  In fact, says Rashi, we were only there for 210 years.

Let’s go back several centuries to Abraham:

“…Be aware that your descendants will be aliens in a land that is not theirs; and they will serve them; and they will oppress them for four hundred years.  But I will judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterwards they will leave with great wealth…  (Genesis, 15:13)

It was already declared by G-d that Abraham’s children would spend 400 years as slaves.  If Rashi is correct, that the total was really 210 years, what happened to the other 190?

In reality, the 400 years are counted from the birth of Isaac, which took place 30 years after that prediction that G-d told to Abraham.  The 430 years mentioned in the Torah are counting from the time of Abraham’s prophecy until we actually left.

Isaac was 60 years old when Jacob was born.  Jacob arrived in Egypt at the age of 130.  Those 190 years from the birth of Isaac until Jacob came to Egypt, were included as part of the 400 years.


At the Passover Seder we praise G-d Who calculated the end of the slavery to do as he said to Abraham … “…Be aware that your descendants will be aliens in a land that is not theirs; and they will serve them; and they will oppress them for four hundred years…

What is meant by the phrase “…calculated the end… mean?

Some commentaries point out that the Hebrew word end is קֵץ.  The numerical value of the letters ק and ץ totals 190.

In other words, G-d calculated the 190…to do as He said to Abraham.  G-d included the 190 years from Isaac’s birth till Jacob arrived in Egypt as part of the 400 total years of slavery.

But why did He do that?  We weren’t slaves when Isaac was born.  We certainly weren’t slaves when Jacob came to Egypt.  In fact, we were honored guests!  Why should those 190 years be included as part of the four hundred years of slavery??!!

One reason that is that the Egyptians overdid it.

Yes, we were supposed to be servants to the Egyptians.  That was G-d’s will.  But the beatings?  The murders?  When did G-d tell Abraham that the Pharaoh had permission to bathe in the blood of Jewish babies?  When did He say that it was ok to throw Jewish boys into the Nile?

G-d told Abraham that “… they will oppress them for four hundred years.”  Oppression is not fun.  He never promised us a rose garden.  But He never said that the Egyptians were authorized to take away our humanity.

We couldn’t take it anymore.  We suffered 400 years worth of oppression compacted into 210 years.  G-d calculated the end/ קֵץ /190.  He took into account how much we had suffered and “credited” us those other 190 years.


 We may sometimes get the feeling that the discomfort of other people is no big deal.  G-d made it very clear that He pays attention to everything.  If I cause pain to another person, G-d notices.  The Egyptians caused more pain than they were permitted to do.  And for that reason, they were severely punished.

If I say something hurtful to another person, G-d notices.  That is why we need to always be cognizant of how our actions affect those around us.  We don’t want to be called to task some day for being less than totally kind to our fellows.


Another thought.

We’ve been in exile for a long time.  We’ve been persecuted.  We’ve been tortured.  Our People have endured pogroms, holocausts, and terrorism.

How much longer will we wait for our redemption? G-d calculated the end of slavery in Egypt and redeemed our nation.  Surely He will take into account all the suffering our People have endured and will send the Messiah to finally rebuild the Temple and bring peace in the world.

Let us pray that it will be soon.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.


From the Archives 

“How Many Plagues Does It Take to Punish a Pharaoh?”, or,

“A Plague on TEN of Your Houses?” (2012)

… G-d told Moses to tell Pharaoh, “G-d said, ‘My firstborn son is  Israel…You have refused to release him…I will kill your firstborn son.’”

As we all know, he refused to release G-d’s “firstborn”, and eventually he sustained the loss of the Egyptian firstborn in the Tenth Plague.  Based upon this original warning, it appears that the only punishment necessary for refusing to release the slaves was the tenth Plague.  Why the other nine?…

Read more.


“Time Off for Bad Behavior” (2010) 

The numbers don’t add up.

The habitation of the Israelites during which they dwelled in  Egypt was four hundred thirty years.  It was at the end of four hundred thirty years, on that very day, the legions of G-d left the  land of Egypt.  (Exodus, 12:40-41)

There’s a problem with the math.

…  Obviously, our stay in  Egypt must have been considerably shorter.  In fact, says Rashi, we were only there for 210 years.

… what happened to the other 190? 

Read more.


“Just Desserts” (2009)

…The lamb was sacred to the ancient Egyptians.  …Now the Egyptians would suffer the anguish of seeing their god made into a schwarma sandwich…

This is difficult to understand.  Our People were enslaved.  We were beaten.  Jewish children were murdered so the Pharaoh could bathe in their blood.  In the major scheme of things, not getting the beef seems to be an almost insignificant addition of insult to injury.  G-d brought ten plagues against the Egyptians.  He devastated their country.  He shattered their economy.  The god-roasting of the Passover Lamb seems to be an inconsequential supplementary slap at an already chastised sinner…

Read more.


“Double Dating” (2007)

A few weeks ago we opened up our new calendars and re-taught ourselves how to write checks … 

There are authorities who rule… that one is not permitted to abbreviate the secular months of January, February, etc., as 1, 2, etc.  …  Other authorities … argue against the use of the secular months entirely!…

Read more.


“Pharaoh’s Brother” (2006)

One of the unsung heroes of the Exodus from  Egypt is the Pharaoh’s older brother.  He was the one who finally brought the Pharaoh to his senses.

What’s that?  You’ve never heard of the Pharaoh’s older brother?  Well, I did tell you he was an UNSUNG hero!…

Pharaoh lost it.

Get outta here!” he screamed.  And don’t ever come back!  If you dare come to see me again, you’re a dead man!”  (Loose translation of Exodus,10:27)…

Read more.


“Lox, Cream Cheese, and … UNLEAVENED BAGELS??!!!” (2005)

You don’t have to be religious to feel Jewish…

Pharaoh no longer refused to let the Israelites leave.  Not only did he permit them to leave, he INSISTED that they leave.  Immediately!

… we have been in exile for close to two thousand years  … How is it that our ancestors would not have been able to withstand a moment more than 190 years of exile, while we continue to exist into our third millennium?

… there is a very big difference between our generation and that generation…

Read more.


“The Dog Days of Egypt” (2004)

… He’s doing it again… That obnoxious know-it-all at the office who always manages to grate on your nerves.  He “knows” who’s going to win the primaries and who’s going to win the Super Bowl.  He’s got an opinion about everything, and he’s consistently full of baloney.

You really want to put him in his place.  You’d love to tell him, just this once, exactly what you think of him and his crazy notions.  Still better, you’d just love to punch him in the nose! …

Read more.


“If I Could Only Be Like ___” (2003)

… G-d said to Moses, …”Go to Pharaoh, because I have made his heart stubborn …

Was this fair?  It looks like a set-up!  It looks like G-d is forcing Pharaoh to stubbornly refuse to release the Israelites, and then He plans to punish Pharaoh for being stubborn!

Why should Pharaoh be punished?  He should plead “Not Guilty, by reason of Divine Coercion!”  …

Read more.


“Nissan Maximum” (2002)

… How can we celebrate the first of Tishrei in the fall as the New Year, when the Torah tells us very clearly that year really begins on the first of Nissan in the spring? …

Read more.


“Don’t Confuse Me with the Facts…I’ve Already Made Up My Mind!”  (2001)

…Egypt is in shambles. The king’s own advisors have begged him to wake up and smell the coffee and realize that he is destroying his own country by continuing to disregard G-d’s demands.

Now it’s time to take off the kid gloves and get tough! …

Read more.


This is the weekly message at   Copyright © 2000-2012 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.


Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (  and chaplain in  Monsey,  New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.


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Published in: on January 21, 2010 at 7:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

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