Up for Debate

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This module contains one key debate amongst the various classical commentaries of Chumash. 

This Parsha sees God punish the Egyptians for enslaving the Jewish people. In Breishit, God promises Avraham that his descendants would be enslaved. Why then were the Egyptians later punished for enslaving the Jews if God always intended for it to happen?

 

The Rambam’s answer to this question is that from the beginning, G-d decreed that the Jews would go into slavery. However, G-d did not decree that any specific person/peoples would be the instrument of G-d’s punishment. Meaning that the Jews were going to go into slavery, but it was up to the people to actually enslave them. The Egyptians chose this, they had the ability to refrain from enslaving the Jews, yet they did not.  The Ramban disagrees with the Rambam saying that if it were the case that the Egyptians chose to be the ones to fulfill this decree, it would not have been a negative thing because they would have been fulfilling the will of God.

The Ramban explains that the reason that the Egyptians were punished was not just that they mistreated the Jews. Rather, they increased the mistreatment of the Jews beyond what they were supposed to do. The Ramban elaborates that they threw the babies into the river, embittered the Jews lives, and tried to eradicate the name of Israel all together. It was the Egyptians wickedness at the end of the day that brought the punishment upon them.