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Are We There Yet? (Bo)

The following is a partial write-up of ideas that will hopefully be developed further in the future, אי”ה. For a summary of the Parshah, please click here. For the article on Parshat Bo from our last cycle, “Three Approaches to Pharaoh’s Heavy Heart,” please click here. For more on the new “short thoughts” format, please click here


Why do we eat matzah on Pesach?

The simple answer, which many of us probably encountered as children, is that we do so to commemorate the unleavened bread that Bnei Yisrael found themselves eating upon leaving Egypt, because they did not have enough time to let their dough rise. To that end, the Torah tells us, in this week’s Parshah:

They baked the dough that they had taken out of Egypt as unleavened cakes, for it had not leavened, for they were driven out of Egypt, and they could not tarry, and also, they had not made provisions for themselves (Exod. 12:39).

It would seem, then, that this is the source for the mitzvah of matzah.[i]

Yet that can’t possibly be, for earlier in the same chapter we read:

And on this night [the fourteenth of the first month] they shall eat the flesh [of the Pascal sacrifice], roasted over the fire, and unleavened cakes [=matzot]; with bitter herbs they shall eat it (Exod. 12:8).

And this day shall be for you as a memorial, and you shall celebrate it as a festival for the Lord; throughout your generations, you shall celebrate it as an everlasting statute. For seven days you shall eat unleavened cakes, but on the preceding day you shall clear away all leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leaven from the first day until the seventh day that soul shall be cut off from Israel… You shall not eat any leavening; throughout all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened cakes (Exod. 12:15-20).

Hashem issued these instructions on the first of Nissan. Bnei Yisrael offered the Paschal sacrifice on the fourteenth of Nissan. Pharaoh freed Bnei Yisrael on the fifteenth of Nissan. In other words: Bnei Yisrael partook of unleavened bread, at Hashem’s behest, before their own bread failed to leaven. Why? If the meaning of matzah is connected with the contingencies of a particular historical event—namely, the exodus from Egypt—what sense did it make for Hashem to ritualize matzah before that historical event had actually occurred? Or, to put it differently: What exactly was running through the heads of Bnei Yisrael—or what was supposed to be running through their heads—as they feasted on matzot within the land of Egypt?

We weren’t the first to pose these questions,[ii] but let’s see if we can develop an original solution together.

Take a closer look at that passage we cited at the beginning:

They baked the dough that they had taken out of Egypt as unleavened cakes, for it had not leavened, for they were driven out of Egypt, and they could not tarry, and also, they had not made provisions for themselves (Exod. 12:39).

imagesDoes any of the information we’re being provided with here sound odd? “They could not tarry, and also, they had not made provisions for themselves.” That’s actually quite strange, when we pause to think about it. Sure, Bnei Yisrael were in a rush, and so their dough didn’t rise—but then again, they wouldn’t have needed that dough had they simply “made provisions.” Why didn’t they make provisions? Why didn’t they plan ahead? They’d watched the Egyptians suffer plague after plague and had heard Moshe promise for months that it would all culminate in their redemption. Shouldn’t somebody have prepared for that moment?

Once we analyze the scenario in these terms, perhaps we can begin to understand the logic underlying Hashem’s command to eat matzah on the fourteenth  of Nissan. True, the exodus was at this point still a day away. Yet the conditions that would make it necessary for Bnei Yisrael to subsist on matzah during the exodus were already in place; it was clear, as early as then, that Bnei Yisrael were fated to feast on matzah in the desert, because nobody had shown any intention of packing alternatives. So in fact, the significance of this matzah—the matzah of the fourteenth of Nissan—was entirely accessible to Bnei Yisrael, even on that very night. To discern that significance would not have required divine foreknowledge. It would only have required human foresight.

II.

By this point, we have outlined a general orientation as to what the pre-Pesach matzah might have meant for Bnei Yisrael in Egypt. In some way, we are suggesting, the meaning of this matzah may derive from the fact that the people didn’t prepare provisions. That’s why it was relevant to introduce the matzah on the fouteenth of Nissan: because it was by that time, or around it, that—had they fully internalized the reality of the impending exodus—the people would have had to prepare their provisions, if they were to be ready to go when the time came to leave.

So did Hashem include matzah in the Paschal sacrifice as a way of tacitly rebuking the people for not preparing provisions? Was it, on the contrary, a gentle warning to prepare those very provisions? Was it linked to the issue of provisions in some other way? These are details that remain to be worked out under this approach, but we’re not going to delve into them at present.

Instead, let’s take our next step forward by taking a step backward. Here we have a group of Bnei Yisrael travelling from Egypt to the land of Canaan, and the Torah appears to pay close attention to what provisions they’ve made for their trip. Does that remind us of anything?

Well, let’s return to the Parshiyot from a few weeks ago:

Joseph commanded that they fill their vessels with grain, and each one’s money be returned to his sack, and that they be given provisions for the way [צדה לדרך], and so he did for them (Gen. 42:25).

…and Joseph gave them wagons by Pharaoh’s word, and he gave them provisions for the way [צדה לדרך] (Gen. 45:21).[iii]

Way back in Sefer Bereshit, as famine ravaged their native Canaan, Yaakov’s children traveled to Egypt, where they had heard that there was food to be purchased. Unbeknownst to them, their brother Yosef was then functioning as the Egyptian viceroy. Few episodes are as dramatic or as poignant as that which ensues as a result of this providential encounter. Yet tucked away within this episode—twice, in fact—we find reference to a curious logistical detail which, prima facie, doesn’t seem to contribute much to the development of our plot: on both occasions that the brothers return to Canaan, Yosef takes care to provide them with “provisions for the way.”

Perhaps it is only in hindsight that we can appreciate the meaning of this gesture. At the end of Sefer Bereshit, Yosef lays the groundwork for his people’s descent into Egypt; even as he does so, however, he is busy arranging for their eventual homecoming (see for instance Gen. 50:24-25). At the simplest level, then, Yosef’s insistence that his brothers take “provisions” for “the way” back to Canaan may serve to foreshadow the provisions that his descendants will be responsible for preparing when the time for their own return finally arrives.

III.

Let’s now move past the “simplest level.”

Beyond the mere literary aesthetics involved, there is also, it seems, a way in which Yosef’s focus on provisions communicates an important philosophical message. That message, to phrase it most succinctly, is that “things take time.” Rome was not built in a day and the desert separating Egypt and Canaan shall not be traversed in a day, either. So prepare for the long haul.[iv]

If this indeed is part of what Yosef is communicating—consciously or otherwise—by packing provisions for his brothers, then he is in fact directly challenging some of their own assumptions about how long their journey ought to take. To wit, recall the palpable impatience with which Yehudah had protested to his father, Yaakov, back in Canaan:

Send the lad [i.e. Benjamin] with me, and let us arise and go, so we will live and not die—we, as well as you, as well as our children… For had we not tarried, by now we could have returned twice! (Gen. 43:8-10).

Yehudah delivers this plea as the supplies that he and his brothers had procured from Egypt begin to dwindle. Yosef, the Egyptian viceroy, had warned the brothers not to return to him unless they brought with them their youngest brother, Binyamin, whom Yaakov was keeping behind in Canaan. Now Yehudah begs his father to release the boy, but Yaakov resists, worried that “a disaster might befall him along the way [דרך]” (Gen. 42:38). But Yehudah sees no reason to expect the unexpected. In his view, there will be no obstacles; indeed, he maintains, he and his brothers could have “made it twice by now,” had only they “not tarried.”

Ultimately, of course, Yehudah does run into obstacles as a result of Binyamin accompanying him to Egypt (see Gen. 44); by the time all is said and done, he and his family actually wind up settling in Egypt permanently. So the great irony is that from the time he utters those fateful words until his death, Yehudah never makes it “to Egypt and back twice;” he gets sidetracked in Egypt, and it takes several centuries before his descendants finally resume on their way.[v]

All of which brings us back to the verse with which we began:

They baked the dough that they had taken out of Egypt as unleavened cakes, for it had not leavened, for they were driven out of Egypt, and they could not tarry, and also, they had not made provisions for themselves (Exod. 12:39).

In Sefer Bereshit, Yehudah boldly claimed that had the brothers not “tarried” [התמהמנו] unnecessarily, their passage to Egypt and back would have been swift and easy. In some ways, the rest of the Torah—beginning with our Parshah, in Sefer Shemot, and continuing well into Sefer Devarim—constitutes one long refutation of that claim. When Bnei Yisrael left Egypt, they had not “tarried” [להתמהמה]—indeed, they could not have done so even had they wanted to, for the Egyptians were pressing them to get a move on.[vi] Yet contrary to the convictions of their ancestor Yehudah, their passage to Canaan was not swift and easy. It was beset with detours from the very beginning:

It came to pass when Pharaoh let the people go, that God did not lead them by way [דרך] of the land of the Philistines, though it was closer, because God said, “Lest the people reconsider when they see war and return to Egypt.” So God led the people roundabout, by way [דרך] of the Red Sea, and the children of Israel were armed when they went up out of Egypt (Exod. 13:7-8).

This is the first of many “roundabout routes” Bnei Yisrael will take on their way to Canaan. In the end, that “way”—which was only supposed to be a “way [דרך] of three days” (Exod. 5:3)—lasts a full forty years before all is said and done.

IV.

From what we have said until now, it emerges that there is a theme of “deferred destinations,” developed over the final four books of the Torah, which begins all the way back at the end of Sefer Bereshit, in the story of Yosef and his brothers in Egypt.

If we take yet another step backwards, however, we will discover that this theme permeates the entirety of Sefer Bereshit. Indeed, the zeal with which Yosef and Yaakov implore the rest of the brothers to consider the possibility of unforeseen hindrances delaying or derailing them from their destination likely stems from the fact that both Yosef and Yaakov had themselves been thrown off course by such complications earlier in their lives. As a teenager, Yosef had been sent by his father on a routine errand to check on the welfare of his brothers in Shechem; twenty-two years later, Yosef, who had been beaten, sold into slavery, and transported to Egypt on the day of his dispatch, had yet to make it back to his father. Yaakov, likewise, had left his father for what was supposed to be a period of no more than “a few days” (Gen. 27:44), and had promised to build an altar to Hashem upon his return in exchange for protection “along the way” [בדרך] (Gen. 28:20); those “few days” evolved into decades before Yaakov was finally able to return home.

And there are “deferred destinations” even before these. When Sodom is destroyed—an episode which, we have noted in the past, bears uncanny parallels to that of the exodus from Egypt—Lot is too frightened to flee the region entirely, as per the original plan, so he settles in one of the nearby cities instead (see Gen. 19). More notably, Lot’s uncle, Avraham, is beckoned by Hashem to “go… to a land that I will show you, and I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, and it shall be a blessing” (Gen. 12:1-2). Avraham heeds this call and initiates the journey, but the journey never seems to reach its end; instead of settling down upon his arrival in Canaan and establishing the mighty nation Hashem had promised him, he spends decades as a wandering nomad, constantly relocating from one place to the next as he chases Hashem’s elusive blessings.[vii]

All of this brings us back to the very first of the Torah’s “deferred destinations”—Eden itself. Thus, in the third chapter of Sefer Bereshit:

God banished man, and stationed the cherubim and a revolving sword of fire to the east of Eden, to guard the way [דרך] to the Tree of Life (Gen. 3:24).

In the aftermath of Adam and Eve’s sin, the “way” to Eden—the very first “way,” דרך, we read about in the Torah—is blocked off. The destination, Eden, has been deferred, prefiguring the many “deferred destinations” that will follow in the Sefer, and in the Torah more generally.

V.

exodusmap

Map of Israel’s travels in the wilderness.

So, in a way, the five books of the Torah can be read as a treatise about what it means to be a human on a דרך, a journey. In the perfect world, represented by Genesis 1-2, man arrives at עץ החיים, the Tree of Life, without obstruction. Thereafter, however, the paths we take as we grope our way back to Eden, back to הארץ אשר אראך, “the land that I will show you,” back to הארץ אשר נשבעתי, “the Promised Land,” are seldom straightforward. It is indeed, as Mandela put it, a “long walk to freedom,” one that is fraught with challenges along the way. And our first step towards overcoming these challenges is to anticipate them—to anticipate them, and to pre-empt them, by preparing צדה לדרך: provisions for the way.

That was Yosef’s message to his brothers at the end of Bereshit. Neither those brothers, nor their descendants, had fully grasped that message by the end of Sefer Devarim. But, centuries later, Yehoshua—appropriately, a descendant of Yosef—made it his first order of business to instill that very message within the members of the next generation. Thus we read, in the first chapter of Sefer Yehoshua:

And Joshua commanded the officers of the nation, saying: Go through the midst of the camp and command the nation saying: Prepare provisions [צדה][viii] for yourselves, for in another three days[ix] you will cross this Jordan to come and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you to inherit (Josh. 1:11).[x]

 What Bnei Yisrael had overlooked as they set out for the Promised Land forty years prior, their children, on the eve of their entry into that land, realized right away. There are no shortcuts to redemption—only pit-stops, detours, and the occasional U-turn. So הכינו לכם צדה: pack provisions.

That is the only way.

Shabbat shalom!


Notes

[i] This is also the explicit claim of Deut. 16:3: “You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread [מצות], the bread of affliction; for in haste did you come forth out of the land of Egypt; that you may remember the day when you came forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life.” Similarly, in the Haggadah: “This matzah that we eat—for what is it? For the dough of our forefathers that did not have time to rise…”

[ii] See, for instance, Deut. 16:3 with the commentary of Abrabanel, among others, and Maharal, Gevurot Hashem 36. See also R. Asher Friedman’s approach, here.

[iii] In Gen. 45:23, it is specifically bread, לחם, that Yosef prepares for his father’s דרך, journey to Egypt.

[iv] See, in this vein, Gen. 45:24 and Rashi’s commentary ad. loc, where it becomes evident that the chief consideration motivating Yosef’s behavior throughout this passage is his concern that the brothers might run into unforeseen obstacles on their way home.

[v] As we have seen on multiple occasions in the past, the longstanding conflict between Yosef and Yehudah is one that surfaces throughout Tanach. It is tempting to view the contrast between Yosef’s penchant for preparation and Yehudah’s relative impatience as symptomatic of yet another flashpoint in this conflict, but I am not sure if there is enough textual data available to make that case. (That said: It is interesting to note that according to tradition, the arrival of “Mashiach ben David” (=the Judean Messiah) is to be preceded by “Mashiach ben Yosef” (=the Josephean Messiah). Perhaps part of this has to do with the fact that, Yehudah’s leadership qualities notwithstanding, Yosef is better suited to prepare Israel for the long road to redemption…)

[vi] See also Gen. 19:16, where Lot “tarried” [התמהמה] to leave Sodom, and last year’s article on Parshat Vayera, where we discussed in detail the connection between that story and the story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, and touched upon themes similar to the ones being developed here.

[vii] It is instructive to note, in this regard, the way in which Avraham (in passing) describes his journey to Avimelech after his wife, Sarah, is abducted by the Philistine king:  “And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her: This is your kindness, which you shall do with me: whither we come, say about me, ‘He is my brother’” (Gen. 20:13). Though we don’t usually pay much attention to it—our attention is being pulled by the more immediate conflict in this scene—Avraham’s weariness here is unusually transparent.

[viii] The connection between the צדה in Sefer Yehoshua and the lack of צדה in Sefer Shemot is also noted by R. Michael Hattin in Joshua: The Challenge of the Promised Land.

[ix] Interestingly, the combination of “provisions” and “three days” reappears in Joshua 9. The Giveonites, seeking to form an alliance with Bnei Yisrael, trick Yehoshua and the elders into believing that they are from a faraway country. They do so by donning worn clothes and presenting “dry and moldy provisions” and announcing: “this our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we set out to go to you; but now, behold, it is dry, and has become mouldy.” The ruse works—“the men took [their word because] of their provisions”—and only later does Bnei Yisrael discover the truth: “and it was at the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, that they heard that they were their neighbors, and that they dwelt among them.” If indeed the concept of צדה is as significant as we are making it out to be—both throughout the Torah, and particularly in Joshua 1:11—then the focus on צדה in Joshua 9 is quite attractive, literarily: the very symbol which is associated with Yehoshua’s visionary leadership ends up being used against him in a moment when he displays lack of foresight.

[x] For the root דרך in this context see Josh. 1:3, 8.

*Please note: The korban Pesach (Paschal sacrifice) was offered on the fourteenth of Nissan. An earlier version of this article mistakenly listed a different date.


9 Comments

  1. Simon Italiaander says:

    Alas!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. Shalom Carmy says:

    Basic idea– comparison with Joseph–is worthwhile. SC ________________________________________

  3. Wonderful thread! Hope to touch on some of this at our seder!!

  4. EWZS says:

    Thanks for the very insightful analysis, Alex. The detour/provisions theme across Breshit and Shmot is quite intriguing. A few quick notes:

    * The story of Yaakov’s funeral procession would seem to be another story that fits the pattern. Very odd that the procession crossed the Jordan to go to Hebron from Egypt, foreshadowing the Israelites’ eventual path home.

    * It’s also interesting to consider the story of the banishment of Hagar and Ishmael, where they were sent out with just a bit of bread and insufficient water. R. David Fohrman argues that Avraham did this deliberately (only ‘sending’ rather than ‘banishing’ them because he couldn’t bear to part with Ishmael) in the hope that they’d come back once the provisions ran out just as Hagar had previously done when she ran off the first time. R.Fohrman also sees this story as foreshadowing Yaakov’s sending out of Yosef (another example you discuss) arguing that Yaakov too thought Yosef would return when he got to Shechem and saw they weren’t there (he suggests that Yaakov was testing Yosef to see if he was even willing to risk checking on his brothers). In both cases, the sender’s plans go awry because he doesn’t properly recognize their inability to forecast and control events– in both cases punctuated by the sendee’s decision to go wandering
    (ותלך ותתע״ ״תעה בשדה״”).

    * Yaakov’s sojourn in Charan would also seem to fit this theme. Was supposed to be for ימים אחדים but twenty years later, we have “עם לבן גרתי ואחר עד עתה”.

    Now a few niggling points:

    * I’m not sure you can really argue they should have prepared provisions. They were explicitly told to be ready to go but never told to prepare any provisions. Maybe they– with slave mentality– were waiting to be told what to do?

    * I find it a little awkward to suggest that Yosef was anticipating a long journey when he also tells them אל תרגזו בדרך״”

    • alexmaged says:

      My pleasure Ezra! Thank you very much for your extensive feedback and insights. In particular, I hadn’t thought carefully about the logistics of Yaakov’s funeral procession before, and appreciate your bringing them to my attention. (Also, if we’re already discussing R. David Fohrman and the Hagar story—have you seen his video on the connection between that episode and Yetzias Mitzrayim? I think you’d really enjoy it).

      Re: if they should have prepared provisions—aside from the suggestive editorial aside (“they did not prepare provisions”), at least two principles would seem to indicate that they should have: (a) “צפית לישועה?”—the imperative to “anticipate redemption,” and to actively prepare for it; (b) אין סומכין על הנס—“we don’t rely on miracles.” A population of 3,000,000+ that wanders into the wilderness without any food (or water! see next week’s Parshah…) is certainly relying on miracles. (There is, however, a Midrash which seems to suggest that Chazal viewed favorably Bnei Yisrael’s reliance upon miracles in this instance. To cite a footnote from this week’s upcoming article: “Rashi, citing the Midrash, explains as follows how the women of Bnei Yisrael came to possess the “timbrels” with which they followed Miriam in song: “The righteous women of that generation were so certain that the Holy One, blessed be He, would perform miracles for them, they took timbrels out of Egypt.” Actually, there is a second question that this Midrash answers as well—one that should occur to us if we have been carefully following the progression of events since the exodus—namely: How is it that the same Israelites who failed to pack either bread or water for their journey into the desert nevertheless thought to bring along “timbrels?” At the level of peshat, this is a real challenge; but if, following the Midrash, we understand that Bnei Yisrael were “certain that the Holy One, blessed be He, would perform miracles for them,” then the issue is neatly resolved”).

      Re: אל תרגזו בדרך: the suggestion is simply that Yosef wishes to prevent any unnecessary delays. That certainly seems to be the thrust of 45:9, “Hasten and go up to my father, and say to him, ‘So said your son, Joseph: “God has made me a lord over all the Egyptians. Come down to me, do not tarry.” Thus, too, 45:13: “hasten and bring my father down here.” And it is apparently along these lines that Rashi understands our verse as well:

      “Do not quarrel on the way:” Do not engage in a halachic discussion lest the way cause you to stray. Another explanation: Do not walk with large steps, and enter the city while the sun is shining (Ta’anith 10b). According to the simple meaning of the verse, we can say that since they were ashamed, he (Joseph) was concerned that they would perhaps quarrel on the way about his being sold, debating with one another, and saying, “Because of you he was sold. You slandered him and caused us to hate him.”

      Ask yourself: Why couldn’t Yosef simply have said אל תרגזו, “Don’t quarrel?” Why add בדרך, “On the way?” Of course Yosef would prefer that the brothers not quarrel, period. But what motivates his comment in this particular context is a specific concern that quarrelling will delay his father’s arrival in Egypt. [And, remember, Yaakov is quite old at this point, and Yosef is aware of this. Thus, the very first words out of his mouth after announcing “I am Joseph” (45:3)—one gets the sense that they arrive in the same breath—are “Is my father still alive?” (ibid.)]

      • EWZS says:

        Thanks for the interesting reply, Alex. Quick replies:

        * Sure, I’d be grateful for a link to R. Fohrman’s analysis of the connection between the banishment of Hagar/Ishmael and the exodus

        * I hear you re Yosef; it just seems like there’s a bit of a tension between his apparent desire that they not tarry and your suggestion that he sensed they’d be going on a surprisingly *long* journey

        * I hear you that it seems like they should have prepared and that the text is calling them out for it. It just seems a bit ambiguous to see it as a straightforward pshat (cf., Rashi there).

        * I’m not sure why the timbrels are so surprising. Given the materials they apparently had to donate for the building of the mishkan a couple of months later, the only possibility would seem to be that this was all stuff they had ‘liberated’ from the Egyptians. (I realize this only reinforces your point that they should have taken food)

        * a final note: it’s interesting to consider that there’s actually a long running theme whereby bnei yisrael seem to neglect arranging food for themselves and/or to rely on others to provide for them. Ever since the moment after the sale of Yosef, here’s how they get food:

        — Famine causes them to go down and get food from Egypt
        — Food runs out and same thing
        — Yosef treats them to meal
        — Yosef sends them back with provisions
        — Yosef feeds them לחם לפי הטף even while ולחם אין בכל בארץ
        — G-d orders them to prepare korban pesach
        — They prepare dough but it doesn’t rise, and no other provisions
        — G-d provides שלו (do they eat it!?) and manna after they complain they have no food and it would have been better to starve

        It’s an interesting pattern. Other than the korban pesach when they were explicitly ordered to prepare food, they seem to always be expecting it to be provided for them. The manna seems to be a great antidote for this in that each person must go out every morning and collect it (using the same לקט) as Yosef. On the one hand, it is rained down by G-d. On the other hand, they have to do something to get it (on His schedule of course)

      • alexmaged says:

        My pleasure! To offer a quick reply:
        *Here’s the link: https://www.alephbeta.org/course/lecture/vayeira-abram-sara
        *It’s not that Yosef sensed that they *would* definitely tarry as much as that they *could* tarry, and so took steps to avoid the possibility.
        *Granted. As indicated in the article, I don’t feel that I’ve fully worked out the exact mechanics of this interpretation (“Was it a tacit rebuke? Was it a gentle warning?”). The connection to the provisions issue seems compelling to me for several reasons (if had more time, I’d like to spell this out more fully)—(1) Torah makes the connection explicitly (2) theme of provisions appears in earlier (Bereshit) and later (Yehoshua) sefarim, so it seems to be significant (3) it allows us to maintain that the reason for matzah is indeed, as per Haggadah and Deut. 16:3, the lack of time for dough to rise, without going down the route of [a] having to invent independent reasons for the matzah of the 14th of Nissan (reasons which are not mentioned in any text, in which case עיקר חסר מן הספר); or, alternatively [b] conceding that the meaning of the matzah of the 14th of Nissan was, as far as Bnei Yisrael was concerned, entirely inaccessible and unintelligible.
        On the other hand, I grant that the approach presented in this article doesn’t do as much to move us away from this direction (future-oriented mitzvah) as I would like it to. At best, I think, it allows us to say that the meaning of the matzah *was* connected to Bnei Yisrael’s present situation—because they had not by then prepared provisions, and matzah is connected to issue of provisions—so we do avoid saying that it was a mitzvah entirely predicated upon future events then-unknown to its practitioners. Yet can we really expect Bnei Yisrael to have looked at the matzah, put the pieces together, and think to pack provisions? Not sure that’s plausible; in which case, we’re back to saying that the full meaning of the matzah would indeed have only been understood to them the next day. But again: at least we get to say that the matzah of the fourteenth of Nissan *was* relevant to the events of fourteenth of Nissan—it’s just that it would take another day for that relevance to become manifest. The distinction is significant, I think, but perhaps not to the degree that I would like it to be.)
        *Timbrels are not surprising in and of themselves. What’s surprising (as you indicate) is the contrast between packing non-essentials (timbrels) but not packing essentials (food and water). Midrashim, including the Rashi on 12:39 you cited, seem sensitive to this issue and provide a consistent answer.
        *Re: the pattern of food arrangements—very interesting! [On the other hand, it could be argued that what we’re dealing with here is really no more than two causes (famine in Canaan, leaving Egypt as slaves) with a number of effects.]
        Thank you as always for your stimulating comments and insights, Ezra!

  5. Mike Shriqui says:

    Thanks for the superb analysis Alex, hope you’re doing great! 🙂

  6. Hi, I am new to your blog but not new to derech pshat and parshanut.

    In regards to “deferred destinations” and particularly the parallels between the travels of Yaakov (Canaan to Charan and back to Canaan) and the travels of B’nay Yisrael (Canaan to Egypt and eventually back to Canaan) I have a source sheet tracking 33 parallels, which I can share with you via email if you’d like.

    Thank you.

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