The Birth of Mashiach ben Yosef 34 The Birth Pangs of Mashiach 35
The Resurrection of the Dead 38
In this study I would like to examine the Egyptian exile and exodus in order to see the prophetic significance of the birth of the Jewish people, the Benei Israel (Children of Israel). This birth took place on the seventh day of Pesach, Passover. The Nazarean Codicil declares that the festivals are prophetic of things to come.
Colossians 2:16 Let no (PAGAN) man therefore judge you but the body of Messiah (i.e. the Jewish people) concerning (kosher) meat, or (kosher) drink, or in respect to (the celebration of) a (Biblical) holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: 17 For these (observance of the laws of kashrut and of Biblical festivals) are a shadow (prophecy) of things yet to come.
My teacher, Hakham Dr. Yosef ben Haggai, has made the above comments regarding this amazing passage. From this passage we can see that the seventh day of Pesach contains a prophecy regarding the final Redeemer, The Mashiach. This study seeks to understand the birth process of the Benei Israel (the Children of Israel) in order to understand the prophetic significance of this birth process. Come with me as we examine this fantastic event and its prophetic significance. Let’s start by examining Egypt, that womb which bore the Benei Israel.
The Hebrewword for Egypt, Mitzrayim, means a place of confinement. Mitzrayim is likened to a womb from which the Benei Israel emerged as a single entity. Egypt is a remez, a hint, of what the Jewish people will go through, just before the final redemption. The womb, the place of nourishment and comfort, will become a place of pain and of certain death. The womb was a place where all of our needs were met, yet somehow it has turned against us. The place of comfort has become the place of torture.
This is not torture for the sake of delivering pain. No, this is torture for the sake of revealing new life. Without this torturous birth process, there would be no way we could ever enter the new and better world. Without dying, we would have no chance at eternal life. Egypt, the womb, is the process that brings us to real life!
The mitzva of the Pesach seder is to tell our children about the miracles that HaShem used to deliver us. Yes, we tell the story, but more importantly, we tell the story of the miracles! The birth of the Benei Israel is about miracles. It is a prophecy of our final redemption which will also be miraculous.
The nation of Israel was “born prematurely” – after only 210 years, instead of 400 years. Also, the ten plagues were apparently HaShem’s means of “inducing birth”.
When we left the womb of Egypt, notice what we do as soon as we are out:
Shemot (Exodus) 15:1 Then sang Moshe and the children of Israel this song unto HaShem, and spake, saying, I will sing unto HaShem, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
How do several million people spontaneously sing the exact same words as Moshe? Unless the Benei Israel, the Children of Israel, were a single soul it would be impossible to achieve such a song. When the Benei Israel sang (will sing1) this song, they sang it as Am Israel, the nation of Israel. They sang as only Adam HaRishon could sing, they sang as only Mashiach could sing. This was true unity! Thus we learn that the forging of the unity of the Benei Israel took place in the womb of Mitzrayim!
The imagery of Mitzrayim, during the time of the sojourning of the Benei Israel, is the imagery of a pregnant woman about to give birth. From the days of Avraham until the beginning of the exodus, HaShem weaves the history of the beginning of the nation of Israel within the imagery of pregnancy and birth.
The imagery of pregnancy and birth is reinforced with the constant refrain of the characters who are involved in pregnancy and birth. Thus, for example, we have the story of Shifra (from the same root as shofar) and Puah, two midwives2 who are desperate to save the male children. Shifra and Puah were in fact Yocheved and Miriam, the mother and sister of Moshe Rabeinu (Moses our teacher), respectively.
Shemot (Exodus) 1:15 And the king of Mitzrayim spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the onewas Shifra, and the name of the other Puah: 16 And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live. 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Mitzrayim commanded them, but saved the men children alive. 18 And the king of Mitzrayim called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive? 19 And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. 20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty. 21 And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses. 22 And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.
Chazal, our Sages, have taught that the names “Shifra” and “Puah” indicate different roles midwives play. “Shifra” stems from the Hebrew verb to swaddle or to clean a baby, while Puah comes from the Hebrew word to cry out, because a midwife tries to calm a new mother’s cries by offering her words of encouragement.
Mitzrayim is the picture of galut, the exile – all exiles. When we see this galut through the imagery of the birth process, then we will begin to understand why Chazal explain that the harshest period of galut started in the year in which Miriam was born. That is why she was called Miriam, from the Hebrew word mar meaning bitter. She explained that the harsher the subjugation the closer the redemption. She said it was like childbirth, the closer a woman came to giving birth the more painful the labor pains became.
Chazal compare the passage through the Yam Suf, the Sea of Reeds, and our leaving Mitzrayim, to a birth, with similar stages.
In separating the Benei Israel, the Children of Israel, from Mitzrayim, HaShem took one nation from the midst of another nation. This separation is the separation of a baby from the womb. All of us have experienced the process of childbirth in one way or another so we know that during the birthing process, there is a long period of incubation where the two bodies, mother and child, live as one, sharing a common food supply. Suddenly, with HaShem’s help, the fetus leaves the mother’s womb, hurries down the birth canal, and becomes a separate entity, struggling to breathe on its own. And so it was with the Benei Israel; on that night, HaShem created a people. Am Israel was born. Israel became a nation with its own mitzvot and with its own existence. Finally free of Mitzrayim, in both body and soul, Israel was ready to leave.
The birth process began with plagues, the pains of labor. The divine intervention shook the Benei Israel out of their Egyptian attachment and positioned them for birth.
The birth began when the Benei Israel started leaving Mitzrayim (Egypt), but as long as the Egyptians were alive, and they related to them as their masters, they were not completely detached and the birth was not complete.
As they were going out, the Benei Israel reached a terrible crisis. The Yam Suf, the Reed Sea, was in front of them, the Egyptians were bearing down behind them, and then came the decisive prosecution in Heaven: The Benei Israel worshiped idols just as their oppressors. The birth could not proceed, posing a threat of disaster. The splitting of the Yam Suf was the final, successful birth and that was truly the moment of redemption, and birth. This birth was a picture of creation. Just as the dry land was separated from the waters just before the creation of man, so too were the waters of the Yam Suf separated from the dry land before the resurrection and birth of the Benei Israel.
What makes the birth of Benei Israel in Mitzrayim such a fascinating study is that it is also an accurate picture of the birth of Benei Israel in the days of Mashiach, the Messiah. This suggests that if we carefully study the birthin the days of Moshe, then we will understand the birth pangs of Mashiach. History will repeat itself. Since these birth pangs will be some of the most difficult times that the world has experienced, it makes sense that we would want to understand what we are getting into.
When history repeats itself, our Emunah (faithful obedience) and bitichon (trust) in HaShem are being tested. We are obligated to believe that HaShem will take us out of this galut, this exile, through Mashiach. The righteous will only be gathered as a reward for their Emunah and bitichon in HaShem. But, we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves. Let’s begin our study at the place where all births begin: The intimacy that leads to pregnancy.