“No flour, no Torah; no Torah, no flour.” – Pirkei Avot 3:21
In the middle of the night, the Lord struck down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sat on the throne to the first-born of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the first-born of the cattle. And Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants, and all the Egyptians – because there was a loud cry in Egypt; for there was no house where there was not someone dead. – Exodus 12:29-30
Now Moses departed Pharaoh’s presence in hot anger (Ex 11: 8), whereupon Pharaoh commanded all of his courtiers to leave and the doors to the throne room shut. The god-king of Egypt needed to be alone and undisturbed. Hours passed as day turned to night. Still, no one in the palace dared to ignore his orders. Thus, Pharaoh was unaware of the preparations that the Israelites were making to protect themselves from the cataclysmic event that within hours would forever alter their place in the world and his.
Pharaoh was still alone and deep in thought when the screaming began rising in violent waves from every corner of Egypt. The chief magician, who looked as if he himself had seen the avenging angel descend, broke the news, “Moses spoke the truth. Even girls who were first-born died” (Ex. Rabbah 18: 3).
In the next moment, a flash of recognition passed between them. “Where is my first-born?” Pharaoh bellowed.
Entering the room, his daughter cried: “Father, Thermutis is dead!”
Thinking that his only child had gone mad upon seeing the carnage, Pharaoh who was simultaneously both relieved and aghast replied, “Thermutis, you and I are still alive. We are safe now. Come, sit here on the golden throne of our glorious ancestors. Together we will decide how the royal house of Egypt will exact retribution from those Hebrew slaves and their blood-thirsty god.”
Pharaoh’s daughter paused to steady herself before addressing her father again. “Listen to me! Your daughter, Thermutis, is dead. In the darkness the LORD appeared to me and said, “Moses was not your child, yet you have treated him as your son. So, too, you are not My child, yet I will treat you as My daughter” (Lev. Rabbah 1:3).
But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Ex 10:28). Reminded of all the trouble that Moses, this son of a Hebrew slave, had caused from the day she had brought him into the royal palace as an infant from the Nile, Pharaoh’s anger again exploded into rage: “Be gone from me! Take care not to see me again for the moment you look upon my face, you shall die” (Ex 10:28).
Having already turned, Bithiah calmly answered from the doorway: “You have spoken rightly. I shall not see your face again”
[There] was a loud cry in Egypt (Ex 12:30). Pharaoh’s anguish was so great that his wail of grief was heard throughout the empire by every living thing. He summoned Moses and Aaron in the night and said: “Up, depart from among my people, you and the Israelites with you! Go worship the LORD as you said! Take also your flocks and your herds, as you said, and be gone! And may you bring a blessing on me also!” (Ex 12:31-32)
Earlier, Bithiah had instructed her servants to provision every one of the Israelites with objects of silver and gold and clothing (Ex 12:35). And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand… on foot, aside from children. A mixed multitude, Bithiah among them, went up with them also, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; since they had been driven out of Egypt and could not delay, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves (Ex 12:37-39).
God remembered Bithiah, whose Hebrew name comes from the words “bat” “Yah,” and kept the promise. There shall be one law for the citizen and for the stranger who dwells among you (Ex 12:37-39). This applies not only to the Pesach offering, but to all of the commandments in the Torah (Rashi).
"The Torah begins and ends with acts of loving kindness."
– Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 14aTake me to the Torah Morsels Archive