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Vayigash: The Hidden Exile

Updated: Jun 23

“You number my wanderings. You put my tears into your bottle. Aren’t they in your Book?” Psalms 56:8

Parashat Vayigash (Genesis 44:18–47:27) speaks about the descent of the children of Israel into Egypt,

“These are the names of the children of Israel, who came into Egypt, Jacob and his sons: Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn…All the souls of the house of Jacob, who came into Egypt, were seventy [1].” Genesis 46:8, 27

There is one slight problem in this verse: There are only 69 individuals named. Genesis 46 enumerates the individuals, not counting Jacob, Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah,

“These are the names of the children of Israel, who came into Egypt, Jacob and his sons: (1) Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn. The sons of Reuben: (2) Hanoch, (3) Pallu, (4) Hezron, and (5) Carmi. The sons of (6) Simeon: (7) Jemuel, (8) Jamin, (9) Ohad, (10) Jachin, (11) Zohar, and (12) Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman. The sons of (13) Levi: (14) Gershon, (15) Kohath, and (16) Merari. The sons of (17) Judah: Er, Onan, (18) Shelah, (19) Perez, and (20) Zerah; but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan. The sons of Perez were (21) Hezron and (22) Hamul. The sons of (23) Issachar: (24) Tola, (25) Puvah, (26) Iob, and (27) Shimron. The sons of (28) Zebulun: (29) Sered, (30) Elon, and (31) Jahleel. These are the sons of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob in Paddan Aram, with his daughter (32) Dinah. All the souls of his sons and his daughters were thirty-three. The sons of (33) Gad: (34) Ziphion, (35) Haggi, (36) Shuni, (37) Ezbon, (38) Eri, (39) Arodi, and (40) Areli. The sons of (41) Asher: (42) Imnah, (43) Ishvah, (44) Ishvi, (45) Beriah, and (46) Serah their sister. The sons of Beriah: (47) Heber and (48) Malchiel. These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to Leah, his daughter, and these she bore to Jacob, even sixteen souls. The sons of Rachel, Jacob’s wife: (49) Joseph and (50) Benjamin. To Joseph in the land of Egypt were born (51) Manasseh and (52) Ephraim, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him. The sons of Benjamin: (53) Bela, (54) Becher, (55) Ashbel, (56) Gera, (57) Naaman, (58) Ehi, (59) Rosh, (60) Muppim, (61) Huppim, and (62) Ard. These are the sons of Rachel, who were born to Jacob: all the souls were fourteen. The son of (63) Dan: (64) Hushim. The sons of (65) Naphtali: (66) Jahzeel,(67) Guni, (68) Jezer, and (69) Shillem. These are the sons of  Bilhah, whom Laban gave to Rachel, his daughter, and these she bore to Jacob: all the souls were seven. All the souls who came with Jacob into Egypt, who were his direct descendants, besides Jacobs son’s wives, all the souls were sixty-six. The sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two souls. All the souls of the house of Jacob, who came into Egypt, were seventy.” Genesis 46:8-27

 The 70th exile [2] is missing! Who is this mysterious person? The missing name is apparently hidden among the sons of Leah, as the text says that her children numbered 33, and only 32 are listed. Pirkei d’Rebbi Eliezer identifies the Hidden Exile: It is HaShem Himself!

“When the children of Yisrael entered Egypt they numbered sixty-six men, and Yosef and his two sons brings the total to sixty-nine. . . What did the Holy One, blessed be He, do? He entered into the count with them, making it seventy, to fulfill His promise, “I will go down to Egypt with you (Bereishis 26:4).” Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer, Chapter 39, translated by Avraham Yaakov Finkel, Yeshivath Beth Moshe, pg. 49

The Talmud says,

“I will go down with you into Egypt; and I will also surely bring you up again” (46:4) Come and see how beloved are Israel in the sight of G-d! To every place to which they were exiled, the Divine Presence went with them. They were exiled to Egypt and the Divine Presence was with them; they were exiled to Babylon, and the Divine Presence was with them; and when they will be redeemed in the future, the Divine Presence will be with them.” Megillah 29a cited at

Deuteronomy says,

“…HaShem your G-d will turn your captivity, and have compassion on you, and will return and gather you from all the peoples, where Hashem your G-d has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of the heavens, from there will HaShem your G-d gather you, and from there he will bring you back.” Deuteronomy 30:3-4

Rashi comments on this passage, revealing that when the Jewish people return, He will return,

“The Hebrew word used here for “he will return” is not veheishiv — which means “he will bring back” – but veshav, which literally means “he will come back.” Our sages learned from this that the Divine presence resides among Israel, as it were, in all the misery of their exile, and when the Jews are redeemed, G-d speaks of it as His own redemption – He Himself returns along with Israel’s exiles.” Rashi on Deuteronomy 30:3, cited in

Messiah in Exile

Shir HaShirim, the Song of Songs, is said to be the Holy of Holies in the Bible. The most wonderful secrets of Redemption are contained within its pages. It speaks of the “Beloved” behind the wall,

“Behold, he stands behind our wall! He looks in at the windows. He glances through the lattice.” Song of Songs 2:9

Numbers Rabbah says,

“R. Jose, son of R. Hanina, said it means ‘to the young of the gazelle’. ‘Behold, he stands behind our wall. ‘Wall’ alludes to the Western Wall of the Temple, which will never be destroyed. Why? Because the Shechinah is in the west. ‘He looks in through the windows ‘ by virtue of the merit of the Patriarchs. ‘ He peers through the lattice’ by virtue of the merit of the Matriarchs.” Numbers Rabbah 11:2, Soncino Press Edition

R’ Menachem Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe comments,

“Moreover, the previous Rebbe has already announced “Forthwith to redemption!” and informed us that the situation is one of “Behold, he [Mashiach] is standing behind our wall, he looks in at the windows, he peers through the lattice.” Mashiach is waiting, looking — and Mashiach’s looking certainly has an effect. Thus every Jew can certainly bring the redemption speedily in our days — not tomorrow or later, but today…” Menachem Schneerson, Sichos in English, Shabbos Parshas Pinchas, 14th Day of Tammuz, 5744 (1984) [3]

Like Yosef, Messiah is on the outside of the Jewish community. He stands outside of the wall, looking in. If he is on the outside of the Jewish community, where is he? It is well known that Mashiach is hidden at the Gates of Rome,

“R. Joshua b. Levi met Elijah standing by the entrance of R. Simeon b. Yohai’s tomb…he asked him, ‘When will the Messiah come?’ ‘Go and ask him himself’, was his reply. ‘Where is he sitting?”At the entrance.’And by what sign may I recognize him? He is sitting among the poor lepers…When will you come Master?’ he asked. ‘Today,’ was his answer. On his returning to Elijah, the latter inquired, What did he say to you?’ ‘He spoke falsely to me’, he rejoined, ‘stating that he would come today, but has not.’ He [Elijah] answered him, ‘This is what he said to you, ‘Today, if you will hear his voice.” Sanhedrin 98a, Soncino Press Edition

The Talmud has the Mashiach sitting at the entrance of the ‘Gate’. The Vilna Gaon emends the text to read apitcha d’Romi (אפתחא דרומי), at the “Gate of Rome.” The Torah speaks about Joseph being imprisoned,

“Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were bound, and he was there in custody.” Genesis 39:20

Yeshua says that when his people are imprisoned, he is imprisoned,

“Then the King will tell those on his right hand, Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘L-rd, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you? The King will answer them, ‘Amein I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:34-40

Sefer Zerubbabel says Mashiach is imprisoned in Rome,

“He said to me, ‘Go to the “house of filth” near the market-district,’ and I went just as he had commanded me. He said to me, ‘Turn this way,’ and so I turned. He touched me, and then I saw a man (who was) despicable, broken down and in pain. That despicable man said to me: ‘Zerubbabel!? What business do you have here? Who has brought you here?’ I responded and said: ‘A wind from the L-rd lifted me up and carried me to this place.’ He said to me: ‘Do not be afraid, for you have been brought here in order that He might show you (and then you in turn might inform the people of Israel about everything which you see).’ When I heard his words, I was consoled and regained my self-composure. I asked him, ‘Sir, what is the name of this place?’ He said to me, ‘This is mighty Rome, wherein I am imprisoned.’ I said to him, ‘Who then are you? What is your name? What do you seek here? What are you doing in this place?’ He said to me, ‘I am the Messiah of the L-rd, the son of Hezekiah confined in prison until the time of the End.’ Sefer Zerubbabel, translated by John C. Reeves [4]

See our commentary on this remarkable passage here. The imprisonment and suffering of the Mashiach is to atone for the sins of Israel and the world,

“In the month of Nisan, the Patriarchs will arise and say to the Messiah: Ephraim, our true Messiah, you are greater than we because you suffered for the iniquities of our children; and terrible ordeals befell thee, such ordeals as did not befall earlier generations or later ones; for the sake of Israel you became a laughingstock and a derision among the nations of the earth, and did sit in darkness, in thick darkness, and your eyes saw no light, And your skin cleaved to your bones, and your body was as dry as a piece of wood; And your eyes grew dim from fasting, and your strength was dried up like a potsherd – All of these afflictions on account of the iniquities of our children…the Holy One, Blessed be He, will lift the Messiah up to the heaven of heavens, and cloak him in something of the splendor of His own glory…” Pesikta Rabbati, Piska 37, Yale University Press, pgs. 685-686

Edom = Rome

Edom links to Rome, based on a prophecy in Psalms that speak of the children of Edom destroying the Temple as Rome did in 70 CE,

“Remember, HaShem, against the children of Edom, the day of Jerusalem; who said, ‘Raze it! Raze it even to its foundation!” Psalms 137:7

In Jewish thought, Rome is synonymous with Christianity, specifically a Roman system that conceals the Jewishness of the Messiah and those who follow its practices. This is where Mashiach is hidden and is a prisoner. The idea of the imprisoned Messiah may be alluded to in Ecclesiastes,

“Better is a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who doesn’t know how to receive admonition any more. For out of prison he came forth to be king, yes, even in his kingdom he was born poor.” Ecclesiastes 4:13-14

Pirkei Avot de-Rabbi Nathan comments on this verse,

“When a man bestirs himself and goes off to some unchastity, all his limbs obey him, For the evil impulse is king over his two hundred and forty eight limbs. When he goes off to some good deed, all his limbs begin to drag. For the evil impulse within a man is monarch over his two hundred  and forty eight limbs, while the good impulse is like a captive in prison, as it is said, For out of prison he came forth to be king (Eccl. 4:14), that is to say, the good impulse. . .  And some say: The verse in Ecclesiastes refers to Joseph the righteous…” Pirkei Avot de Rabbi Natan, translated by Judah Goldin, Yale University Press, pg. 85

In some way, the Mashiach ben Yosef is imprisoned within us, chained by our own choice. When we overcome the temptation to sin, and defeat the yetzer hara, the evil inclination, he is “released from prison.” Personally, when we ‘release Mashiach ben Yosef’ in our lives, he becomes manifest in the world, through us. Collectively, when Israel repents and recognizes the Mashiach ben Yosef, the Redemption will begin. The concealment of the Messiah in Edom (Rome) is the secret of the verse,

“Jacob went near to Isaac his father. He felt him, and said, ‘The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” Genesis 27:22

As Yaakov was cloaked in Esav, Yosef HaTzaddik and even Moshe Rabbeinu were cloaked in Egypt. Messiah is hidden in the antithesis of Israel, but he is not part of the system. From a distance, he appears to be part of Rome, but he is actually on the outside, waiting for Israel to be ready. Isaiah speaks of this day,

“Who is this who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this who is glorious in his clothing, marching in the greatness of his strength? It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” Isaiah 63:1

The Ramchal, R’ Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, comments on this passage,

…ועתה הנני מפרש לך סוד אחד חתום מאד והוא מה שכתוב מי זה בא מאדום וגוי [ישעיה סג, א] וכל זה הוא הצדיק, והוא משיח בן יוסף

“I will explain to you a certain sod which is completely sealed, and it concerns what is written, “Who is this who comes from Edom…’ (Yeshayahu 63:1). This is the Tzadik, and he is Mashiach ben Yosef.” Ramchal, Ma’amar HaGeulah, Secrets of the Redemption, Translated by R’ Mordecai Nissim, Feldheim Press, pg. 118

Tears of Mashiach

“At last Yosef could no longer control his feelings in front of his attendants and cried, “Get everybody away from me!” So no one else was with him when Yosef revealed to his brothers who he was. He wept aloud, and the Egyptians heard, and Pharaoh’s household heard.” Genesis 45:1-2

The shortest verse in the Bible speaks of the Messiah weeping (prior to his resurrection of Elazar in John 11),

“Yeshua wept.” John 11:35

There is a story told of R’ Yehoshua ben Levi,

“Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said, “When I came to the Messiah, he asked me and said, “What is Israel doing in the world from which you came? I said to him, ‘They are waiting for you every day. Instantly, he lifted up his voice and cried.” The Acts of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, cited in Torah Club, Volume Two: Shadows of the Messiah, First Fruits of Zion, pg. 176

Yeshua wept over Jerusalem,

“When he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it.” Luke 19:41

The Zohar speaks of the Messiah weeping before the Redemption,

“The Messiah…lifts up his eyes and beholds the Fathers (Patriarchs) visiting the ruins of G-d’s Sanctuary. He perceives mother Rachel, with tears upon her face; the Holy One, blessed be He, tries to comfort her, but she refuses to be comforted (Jer. 31:14). Then the Messiah lifts up his voice and weeps, and the whole Garden of Eden quakes, and all the righteous and saints who are there break out in crying and lamentation with him…All through the seven days the Messiah shall be crowned on earth. Where shall this be? ‘By the way’, to wit, Rachel’s grave, which is on the cross-road. To mother Rachel he will give glad tidings and comfort her, and now she will let herself be comforted, and will rise and kiss him.” Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 8a-b, Soncino Press Edition

The day is coming when he will no longer be in exile. No longer be hidden “behind the wall.” In that day, every tear will be wiped away, and our exile will end,

“I heard a loud voice out of heaven saying, “Behold, G-d’s dwelling is with people, and he will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and G-d himself will be with them as their G-d. He will wipe away from them every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more. The first things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4



  1. Acts 7 says 75 individuals in agreement with the Septuagint. The Dead Sea Scrolls also say 75. There is no contradiction. The difficulty arises based on who and how you count.

  2. There are alternate opinions of the identity of the 70th exile. Bava Batra 123a identifies the exile as the Yocheved, the mother of Moshe.

  3. Menachem Schneerson, Sichos in English, Shabbos Parshas Pinchas, 14th Day of Tammuz, 5744 (1984)

  4. Sefer Zerubavel, Translated by John C. Reeves

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