Commemorating the Exodus
||God spoke to Moses, saying,
||'Sanctify to Me every first-born that initiates the womb among the Israelites. Among both man and beast, it is Mine.'
||Moses said to the people: Remember this day as [the time] you left Egypt, the place of slavery, when God brought you out of here with a show of force. No leaven may be eaten.
||You left this day, in the month of standing grain.
||There will come a time when God will bring you to the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites and Yebusites.
||Eat matzahs for seven days, and make the seventh day a festival to God.
||Since matzahs must be eaten for [these] seven days, no leaven may be seen in your possession. No leaven may be seen in all your territories.
||On that day, you must tell your child, 'It is because of this that God acted for me when I left Egypt.'
||[These words] must also be a sign on your arm and a reminder in the center of your head.
God's Torah will then be on your tongue. It was with a show of strength that God brought you out of Egypt.
||This law must therefore be kept at its designated time from year to year.
Consecration of the First-Born
||There will come a time when God will have brought you to the land of the Canaanites, which he promised you and your ancestors, and he will have given it to you.
||You will then bring to God every [first-born] that initiates the womb. Whenever you have a young firstling animal, the males belong to God.
||Every firstling donkey must be redeemed with a sheep. If it is not redeemed, you must decapitate it.
You must [also] redeem every first-born among your sons.
||Your child may later ask you, 'What is this?' You must answer him, 'With a show of power, God brought us out of Egypt, the place of slavery.
||When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us leave, God killed all the first-born in Egypt, man and beast alike. I therefore sacrifice to God all male firstling [animals], and redeem all the first-born of my sons.'
||[These words] shall [also] be a sign on your arm and an insignia in the center of your head.
[All this] is because God brought us out of Egypt with a show of strength.
The Route from Egypt
||When Pharaoh let the people leave, God did not lead them along the Philistine Highway, although it was the shorter route. God's consideration was that if the people encountered armed resistance, they would lose heart and return to Egypt.
||God therefore made the people take a roundabout path, by way of the desert to the Red Sea. The Israelites were well prepared when they left Egypt.
||Moses took Joseph's remains with him. Joseph had bound the Israelites by an oath: 'God will grant you special providence, and you must then bring my remains out of here with you.'
||[The Israelites] moved on from Sukkoth, and they camped in Etham, at the edge of the desert.
||God went before them by day with a pillar of cloud, to guide them along the way. By night it appeared as a pillar of fire, providing them with light. They could thus travel day and night.
||The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire at night never left [their position] in front of the people.
|show of force|
Literally, 'a strong hand.' See Exodus 6:1.
|month of standing grain|
(Rashbam; see Exodus 9:31). Some say that Aviv was the original name of this month. See Exodus 23:15, 34:18, Deuteronomy 16:1. Later, the Babylonian name, Nissan, was used for this month (Esther 3:7, Nehemiah 2:1; Yerushalmi, Rosh HaShanah 1:2).
See note on Exodus 3:8. Only the nations whose lands were considered to be 'flowing with milk and honey' are mentioned here (Mekhilta; Ramban).
This indicates that this Hebrew chapter must be included in the Tefillin, which are worn on the arm and head. The other three sections are mentioned in Exodus 13:16, Deuteronomy 6:8, and 11:18. Hence, there are four chapters of the Torah, written on parchment, in the Tefillin.
|center of your head|
Literally, 'between your eyes,' an idiom denoting the center of the head, just above the hairline (cf. Deuteronomy 14:1; Radak, s.v. Tataf). See Exodus 13:16.
|on your tongue|
Literally, 'in your mouth.'
Sheger in Hebrew. Cf. Deuteronomy 7:13 (Rashbam; Radak, Sherashim). See Ecclesiasticus 40:19.
|the males belong to God|
See Exodus 34:19, 20, Leviticus 27:26, Deuteronomy 15:19.
(Rashi; Ibn Ezra; Bertenoro on Bekhoroth 1:7). The word araf here apparently means to sever the spinal column. The animal is struck on the back of the neck with a cleaver (Bekhoroth 10b, 13a) with enough force to sever the spinal column, the gullet and the windpipe (Yerushalmi, Sotah 9:5, 43a; cf. Sotah 46b). See Exodus 34:20. Also see Deuteronomy 21:4, Isaiah 66:3, Hosea 10:2.
|redeem every first-born...|
For five shekels; Numbers 3:47, 18:15. See Exodus 22:28, Leviticus 8:16.
According to Talmudic tradition, the weak arm, that is, the left arm (Menachoth 37a).
Or, 'frontlets' (Ibn Janach, Radak, s.v. Tataf; cf. Targum on 2 Samuel 1:10; Shabbath 57a,b; Tosafoth, Menachoth 34b; Ramban). Totafoth in Hebrew. The Targum renders this word as Tefillin, having the connotation of prayer, judgment and testimony (Tosafoth, Menachoth 34b, s.v. LeTotafoth). In Greek they were also known as phylacteries, from the root phylassin, meaning to watch or to guard. (See Josephus, Antiquities 4:8:13 commentaries on Ezekiel 24:17).
According to Talmudic tradition, the word totafoth alludes to the four boxes in the head Tefillin, since tot in a Caspian dialect is two and foth or poth is two in African or Phrygian (see note on Genesis 10:2; Menachoth 34b). The word tot appears to be cognate to 'two,' and possibly also to the Latin totas, and hence the English 'total.' Poth is cognate to the Gothic bothe, the English 'both,' and the Sanscrit botto.
Significantly in ancient Egyptian, ftu or fot means four, while tot can denote a gathering, resemblance, divine, or hard leather. Hence, totafoth may have had the connotation of a fourfold amulet, made of leather, as the Tefillin indeed are. Others note that in Egyptian, tot or otat denotes the brain, where the head Tefillin are placed (Abarbanel).
Literally, 'Way of the land of the Philistines.' Josephus refers to this as the 'Palestine Highway' (Antiquities 2:15:3). This is the usual route to Egypt, along the Mediterranean coast through Philistine territory (cf. Herodotus 3:5). There was an ancient enmity between the Israelites and the Philistines (Targum Yonathan; Mekhilta; Rashi; Josephus 2:15:3). See Genesis 10:14, 21:32, 26:14; 1 Chronicles 7:21, Targum ad loc..
|by way of the desert|
(Targum; Saadia; Rashi). Or, 'by way of the Red Sea desert' (Targum Yonathan; Ibn Ezra).
See note on Exodus 10:19 that this was most probably the Gulf of Suez. Literally, however, Yom Suf is the Sea of Reeds (Rashi), and not necessarily identified with the Red Sea. Some sources seem to indicate that it was at the mouth of the Nile (Sotah 12a, Rabbi Yoshia Pinto [Riph in Eyn Yaakov] ad loc.; Sh'moth Rabbah 1:21; Radak on Pirkey Rabbi Eliezer 48:41). The 'Sea of Reeds' would then be Lake Manzaleh at the eastern mouth of the Nile. This would also agree with the opinion that 'Freedom Valley,' the site of the crossing, was Tanis (see note on Exodus 14:2), a city just off Lake Manzaleh. Others maintain that the crossing occurred at Lake Sirbonis (see Avraham Corman, Yetziath Mitzraim U'Mattan Torah, p. 334).
Significantly, in ancient Egyptian, Sufi or Thufi is the word for the swampy districts of the Delta. However, there was also an area known as Sau, which was a district west of the Red Sea (cf. Ibn Ezra here).
Or 'provisioned' (Ibn Ezra; see Genesis 41:34). Or 'with eagerness' or 'with enthusiasm' (Targum; Mekhilta); 'well-armed' (Mekhilta; Rashi; Rashbam; Ramban; but see Josephus 2:15:3); or 'the fifth generation' (Midrash HaGadol; Septuagint; see Genesis 15:16); 'in five groups' (Targum Yonathan); or 'one out of five' (Mekhilta; Rashi; cf. Demetrius in Eusbius, Prepatoria Evengelica 9:29).
|God will grant you|
See Genesis 50:25.
See Exodus 12:37.
See Numbers 33:6,7. In Numbers 33:8, we see that after crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites were again in Etham. If we say that the 'Red Sea' is the Gulf of Suez, this would indicate that Etham was to the north-east of the gulf. The Israelites went into this area, and then turned back (see Exodus 14:1) and went along the west coast of the gulf, crossing the sea back to Etham. Some identify Etham with the Shur Desert (Ibn Ezra; see Exodus 15:22). Significantly, in ancient Egyptian, etam means 'seashore.' Some identify Etham with the Egyptian Chetem, which denotes a fortress. There was a Chetem near Pelusium, just west of Lake Sirbonis.