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(5736) The prohibition of returning to Egypt in current times

(Vol 19,XIX pg 171)


Note:  There are two principles regarding the doubt of an entity that has become separated from its source: Kavua and Parush.

  • Kavua ("kol kavua k'mechtsah al mechtsah dami"):  Any doubt concerning something or someone while it is “fixed in its place” (kavua) is considered an evenly balanced doubt. This evenly balanced doubt is termed, “k'mechtsah al mechtsah dami" (literally a fifty-fifty doubt).
  • Parush (“kol d'parish me-ruba parish”): Anything or anyone that has separated (parush) from the group in which it or he is normally found  is assumed to have separated from those who form the majority of that group."

This Sicha mentions these terms extensively. Therefore, the Hebrew terms: “Kavua” and “Parush” will be used.


1. From the verse (in our Parsha) (Deut. 17:16):

“(Only, he (a Jewish king) may not acquire many horses for himself), so that he will not bring the people back to Egypt . . for the L-rd said to you, "You shall not return that way any more."

The Halacha is derived that a Yid must not return to settle (to dwell there/ להשתקע) in Egypt. Moreover – in the words of the Sages: “In three places in the Torah Yisroel was warned not to return to the land of Egypt etc.”

Rambam in his Sefer Yad HaChazakah cites the law that one must not live in Egypt (and cites the statement of the Sages “In three places in the Torah Yisroel was warned“).

From the plain language, it implies that the prohibition also applies in our time,

(Therefore, we find in the commentators a great debate, how it was that Rambam allowed himself to land in Egypt. Moreover, – in general – there were many Jewish congregations there).

One must understand:

Regarding the prohibition of marriage with an Egyptian (until the “third generation”) Rambam rules:

“When Sannecheriv, King of Assyria, arose, he confused the identity of all the nations, mixing them together, and exiling them from their place. Those Egyptians that live in the land of Egypt at present are of other nationalities . . Since they were intermingled . . all are permitted. For when anyone of them separates himself from them by converting, his presumptive status is that he separated from the majority” (“Parush”).

Therefore, since in this time, the land of Egypt is a land of “other nationalities”, that do not come from the original Egyptians, why must the prohibition of “returning to Egypt” be in force now?

2. Seemingly, one could answer (as many commentators say) that the prohibition of settling in Egypt is not because of Egyptian people there, but rather because of the land itself. The land of Egypt. (This is so even when Egypt just refers to the land, for there are no actual Egyptians there).

This is also proven from the verse. In addition to this, Rambam cites the following Halacha (Hil. Melachim 5:8):

“It appears to me that if a king of Israel would conquer the land of Egypt with the approval of the court, it would be permissible to settle there. The prohibition against returning was only given to individuals or to dwell there while it is under the rule of the idol-worshippers (עכו״ם) for their behavior is more depraved than that of the other lands”.

From this it implies, that the prohibition is “because the deeds

(of the “land” of Egypt, and not the deeds of the idol-worshippers (עכו״ם))

are depraved”.

This is similar to the words of the Sages: “There are springs that foster growth etc. and there those that are steeped in immorality”. Therefore, if the land of Egypt in “in the hands of the idol-worshippers” – even if it is not in the hands of the Egyptians – its “deeds are depraved” and one must not settle there.

With this, the reason for the Halacha is also understood:

Namely, that only when a king of Israel would conquer the land of Egypt “with the approval of the court”, would it be permissible to settle there:

For, through conquering in such a manner, the land of Egypt becomes “like Eretz Yisroel etc. for all things”. This means that the conquering effects a change in the essence of the land. Therefore, the prohibition against settling there is nullified.

However, it is not straightforward:

In Sefer HaMitzvot, Rambam writes that the reason for the prohibition is so,

“We not learn from their deeds etc.”

This means that the prohibition is in order that we not learn from the Egyptians (the people) – of the land of Egypt. According to this reason, one must explain – why the prohibition in effect in this time, where “Those Egyptians that live in the land of Egypt at present are of other nationalities”?


If it is due to it being a “land that grows” – then even where there is no issue of “learning from their deeds”, similar to the time when it is that “And the land of Egypt shall be desolate . . No foot of man shall pass through it", like it was at the time of Nebuchadnezzar, the prohibition must also be in force.

3. Concerning the prohibition for an Egyptian to join the Jewish people, the Levush writes:

“When do we say this – in the early generations etc. However now, after Sannecheriv arose etc., for he already removed the (previous inhabitants) and placed others in their stead. And even though, certainly, a minority of the original nation remain in their place, and they are “Kavua”, and anything “Kavua” is an evenly balanced doubt (“k'mechtsah al mechtsah dami"). Nevertheless that one who is coming to convert has separated himself from them and we rule that all that separates, separates from the majority (“Parush”), and they are permitted to join the Jewish Nation immediately”.

According to this, that “a minority of the original nation remain in their place“, even after the intermingling of the nations, it is understood why, even now, the prohibition of settling in Egypt is in force. This is because of the Egyptians that remained in Egypt and do not become nullified because of their small numbers. For as long as they do not “separate” (Parush) to convert, they have the law of “Kavua – an evenly balanced doubt”.

One must however understand:

Why does (Rambam plainly, and also) Shulchan Aruch rule that an Egyptian convert is (immediately) permitted today to marry a Jewish woman, because of the reason of “Parush” – separating from the majority? This means that in every manner, there exists the exemption (היתר) of “Parush” etc.

For when a minority of Egyptians remain “in their place” he should have explained and differentiated

  • Whether the marriage is in a manner that the Egyptian convert has indeed separated (“removed”, “left”) from his home (for then the rule that “Parush” etc. applies, or
  • Whether he has not “left” his home. For then he has the law of Kavua - “evenly balanced”.

(This is similar to the aspect of his example, as the Talmud states in tractate Ketubot, as Rashi and Tosafot explain, namely that the law of “Parush” is specifically when the paramour (בועל) separates from his home)?

One could say plainly, that the reason is because at the time of his conversion, he must have separated from his home (like the Levush states, “one who is coming to convert has separated himself from them“). However, this is not a sufficient answer. For in our case, his separating from his home is not sufficient. Rather, he must separate from the entire land of Egypt.

To preface (ובהקדים):

4. The Talmud in tractate Yevamot (16b) states:

“A gentile who betrothed a Jewish woman nowadays, we are concerned that the betrothal might be valid, for perhaps he is from the ten tribes of Israel. (The Talmud raises an objection:) But any item separated is presumed to have been separated from the majority (“Parush”). (The Talmud responds:) This refers to set places. As R’ Abba bar Kahana said that the verse states (regarding the ten tribes): “And he put them in Halah and in Habor etc.”

Rashi explains:

Set places: (where he placed) the ten tribes. And all Kavua is “evenly balanced”. How was it a set place? As it is written “And he put them in Halah, and in Habor etc.”

Tosafot, however, states:

“In these places, the majority are from the ten tribes. (Yet here) It is not like Rashi that all Kavu’a is considered evenly balanced. For if he (the paramour, left his home and) went to her, (we apply the rule that) whenever something separated from a mixture, we assume that it was separated from the majority (“Parush”), as it states in the first chapter of Ketubot”.

It is understood why Rashi does not want to learn like Tosafot’s view (even though Rashi himself explains in tractate Ketubot (as aforementioned) that if “the paramour left his house”, he has the status of “Parush” etc.). For according to Tosafot, the wording of the Talmud “in a set place/בדוכתא דקביעי” is problematic. It should have stated, “in a place where they are a majority (בדוכתא דרובא)”. From the wording “in a set place/בדוכתא דקביעי”, it proves that it is speaking here concerning the law of “Kavua”.

The reasoning of this is:

Since the verse states, “And he put them in Halah etc.” – these very places became the set place (מקום קבוע) of the ten tribes. Therefore, their “establishment” (Kavua) is not limited to their homes, but rather this includes the entire area of Halah etc. This means that as long as they are found there, they have the status of a Kavua, even when they separate from their homes.

(With this, it is understood why Rashi concludes, “How was it a set place? As it is written “And he put them in Halah, and in Habor etc.” For seemingly, what is Rashi adding to what is expressly stated in the Talmud, immediately after this?

However, by stating this, he is explaining why they

including even those that separate from their homes, and especially since this is the norm. As the Sages state: “They make wedding homes for their children”

have, there, the status of Kavua (as he writes) - “How was it a set place? As it is written. “And he put them etc.”)

According to this – in our case:

Since the prohibition is expressed in his being an Egyptian, it must come out that his “permanence/קביעות” is in the entire land of Egypt. Therefore, as long as he does not leave the border of Egypt, even if he separates from his home, he has the status of Kavua – “evenly balanced”.

One could say that the reason that Tosafot does not accept this view, is specifically when it concerns the case of the ten tribes. This is because their being found in that place has no relation to the essential aspect of marriage.

Whereas in our case, where the prohibition to join the Jewish Nation is because he is an Egyptian – from the land of Egypt – even Tosafot would accept that as long as he is within the borders of the land of Egypt, he has the status of a Kavua (with regard to the prohibition of an Egyptian).

According to all the aforementioned, the question returns to its place:

Since there were Egyptians who remained in land of Egypt,

(However, their exemption to come into the Jewish Nation is because of “Parush” etc., (Rambam and) Shulchan Aruch should have differentiated between

  • A convert who left the land of Egypt (who has the status of “Parush” etc.) and
  • A convert who is in the land of Egypt, who has the status of a “Kavua” and is prohibited from entering the Jewish Nation until the “third generation”?

5. One can understand this by prefacing a great puzzlement in this aspect (as the Aruch HaShulchan asks):

The Talmud states in tractate Nazir that a woman “does not move”

(from her home. For “All the honor of the daughter of the King is within” - in the home).

Therefore, she has the status of “Kavua”.

The Talmud continues:

“And if you would say: Here too, she moves, since it is possible to say that she was found in the marketplace and he betrothed her there (so she was not in a fixed location). Nevertheless, she eventually returns to her “place of rest” (i.e., her home)”.

This means that even when she separates from her home (“Parush”) – “found in the marketplace” – nevertheless since she will eventually move and return to a fixed place (she returns to her “place of rest” - her home) she has the status of a Kavua (even when she “is in the marketplace”).

Therefore, how can we say, at all, in our case, that it is considered “Parush”? For even when the Egyptian separates to marry with a Jewish woman, he still has the status of a “Kavua”, if he returns to his set place?

6. The explanation of this is understood from the precise wording of Rambam:

“Whoever separates from them to convert, his presumptive status is that he separated from the majority” (“Parush”).

Why does Rambam add the word “to convert”?

Moreover, even if he did not separate in order to convert, rather for some other reason, the law must be the same?

However, with this Rambam is explaining, that the translation of “separate/Parush” here, in not in the literal sense – separating from a physical place. Rather, through conversion itself, it is a considered a “separation/Parush”.

The scope of “Parush” can be in two manners:

  1. From a physical place. He separates from one place and comes to a second place (and he does not return to his original place (his “place of rest”).
  2. In a condition (מצב). In his place in Torah law (מקום בדין התורה), his being (מציאות) in Torah. He separates/Parush from one condition and goes over to another.

This is like our case, where he separates from his prior condition and status (as a non-Jew, an Egyptian) and transforms himself, through conversion to another condition.

Therefore, it is not applicable that he “returns to his resting place”. For his “separating/Parush” is manifested in that which he converts. Therefore, it is not applicable, afterward, for him to “return”.

Therefore, Rambam and Shulchan Aruch rules that in these times, an Egyptian convert is permitted to marry a Jewish woman, in all manners – even when he still is in Egypt, and even when he does not separate from his home. For through the very act of his converting, he is a “Parush”.


Whereas, the other Egyptians (non-Jewish) who remain in Egypt, even though they are just a minority, have the status of Kavua. Therefore, because of them, the prohibition to settle in land of Egypt is in force, “so that we not learn from their deeds etc.”

(This is especially so since this is such a situation, that one could say that it does not make sense at all to say that the minority should be nullified by the majority (both from the perspective of the minority as well as from to the majority) for –

  1. It is a minority in quantity – the amount of people. However, here the prohibition is only due to the quality –their “depraved deeds”. Due to the multitude (and) greatness of quality it is (similar to an important and inherently significant thing (דבר חשוב) etc. which) does not become nullified.
  2. Here, the majority (the people from the other nations which are found in Egypt) are not opposed to the minority (and nullify them). For even these nations are depraved. It is just that the Egyptians are more depraved. Therefore, the existence of the majority does not have the power to nullify the minority of the Egyptians).

7. According to the aforementioned, that in the land of Egypt, there still remain original Egyptians, there comes out an additional awakening in Avodat HaShem in these times:

To preface:

Even though all aspects of Torah come under the principle that “the Torah is eternal”- in all times and in all places. Nevertheless, there is a difference between

  • The aspects which cannot be fulfilled plainly (כפשוטם), (and their eternality is in spirituality) and
  • The things that physically exist, even now. For this shows that that in these things, the “eternality” has a greater force. They are manifest (דריקט) in this world, for all the nations to see.

The same is in our aspect:

It states in the verse,

“You saw what I did to Egypt. . And now if you listen diligently to My voice, and preserve My covenant; you shall be My special treasure among all the peoples . . You will be to Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation”.

From this, it is understood that, “You saw what I did to Egypt etc.” is a preparation to the aspects that are enumerated in the following verses -

“I . . brought you to Me. . And now if you listen diligently . . and preserve My covenant; you shall be My special treasure”.

When Yidden physically see how G-d shows them miracles by taking the nations that persecuted and oppressed (מעיק) them (אפרעכענען) into account as well as their punishment. This itself awakens Yidden to fortify their covenant with G-d through “listening diligently to My voice etc.”

From this it is also understood that when Yidden see how G-d accounts Himself (רעכנט זיר) with the land of Egypt – which contain the same Egyptians as before – this renews again, in physicality, for all to see, that which “You saw what I did to Egypt” (similar to the way it was the first time).

This must therefore evoke within the Yidden, who see “what I did to Egypt” an additional awakening. That they should “listen diligently . . and preserve My covenant etc.”.

This means that Yidden should strengthen themselves in fulfilling Torah and Mitzvot and conduct themselves as a “treasured nation”, to be a “kingdom of priests, and a holy nation”.

This becomes the immanent preparation (הכנה קרובה) to “Harkening to His voice” which brings “today” (היום) – the day of the coming of Moshiach, like the promise of our righteous Moshiach, soon mamosh.

(Note: This refers to the story of R’ Yehoshua ben Levi who found Moshiach and asked, "Master, when are you coming?" He answered, "Today!" When Rabbi Yehoshua returned to Elijah, the prophet asked him, "What did Moshiach say?" Said Rabbi Yehoshua, "He has deceived me. He told me, 'I am coming today,' and he has not come!" Said Elijah, "What Moshiach had in mind was this verse: 'Today--if you would only listen to His voice.'"

MSichas Shabbat Parshat Behaalotecha 5727




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