Does the Torah know how to count?

It might not seem so, as Parshas VaYigash lists the 69 people in Yaakov’s family who came down to Egypt and then refers to them as “the 70 people” (B’reishis 46:27). Rashi (v. 15) explains that the 70th person in Yaakov’s family was Levi’s daughter Yocheved, future mother of Moshe Rabbeinu. She is not listed by name among the other 69 travelers, as she was not yet born when Yaakov began the journey down south(west). It was only as they passed through the gates of Egypt that Yocheved was born, bringing the grand total to 70 people.

My rebbe, Rav Zvi Sobolofsky shlita, pointed out that this short comment by Rashi has great significance (in addition to helping the Torah tally properly). As B’nei Yisrael were crossing the border into Egypt to begin a galus (exile) that would last hundreds of years, Hashem was already planting the seeds of redemption. Immediately before stepping foot into the nation that would later enslave and torture them, Yaakov’s family was already blessed with the birth of Yocheved, whose son would perform miracles and lead them back to Eretz Yisrael!

Rabbi Baruch HaLevi Epstein (known as the Torah T’mimah, d. 1941) has a similar comment in his sefer Tosefes Brachah. In last week’s parshah, the Torah interrupts the narrative of Yosef with the story of Yehudah and Tamar. Wedged in between the sale of Yosef (chapter 37) and his arrival in Egypt (chapter 39), the Torah interjects an entire perek (chapter 38) discussing the marriages and children of Yehudah. What, about Yehudah’s episode, is so urgent that it preempts the ongoing story of Yosef? Rabbi Epstein explained that immediately before describing Yosef’s descent to Egypt – the beginning of the first galus in Jewish history – the Torah interjects with the ultimate solution to all Jewish exiles. The incident of Yehudah concludes with the birth of his son Peretz, the ancestor of David HaMelech, and later, Mashiach ben David. Before delving into the details of slavery, oppression, and anti-Semitism – the first round of many – the Torah pauses to describe the lineage of the Mashiach. In effect, Hashem is saying: Before you read about Jewish suffering, you need to know that I already have laid the groundwork for Jewish redemption.

Chazal refer to this concept as r’fuah lifnei ha’makah – Hashem does not strike the Jewish people until He first prepares the ultimate cure (Megillah 13b). To provide us with encouragement and reassurance, Hashem ensures that the solution is in place before even introducing the problem. Even when times seem rough, we can take solace in the knowledge that Hashem has a plan for us, and already has the salvation ready to go!

Rabbi Yaakov Abramovitz is Assistant to the Rabbi at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, while also pursuing a Psy.D. in School and Clinical Child Psychology at the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..