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There is a well known idea that when the Jews left Egypt during the Exodus, they were on the "forty-ninth level of tumah". Many explanations are given for this and it is expounded upon at length by a number of great commentators and other writers.

However, whenever I've seen this concept brought up, it is always with a vague reference or none at all. I've seen it introduced with "...ידוע הוא" or "...אמרו חכמינו ז"ל" or "...נכתב בספרים הקדושים" or the like, without any direct quote as to where this comes from. A search on Bar Ilan doesn't find anything earlier than around the 17th century that talks about this idea; certainly not any midrashic sources.

Where does this concept come from? I'm looking for its earliest source, preferably a midrashic or Talmudic one.

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I Googled it and came up with this page (see top left). It says to look at Zohar Chadash Yisro 31a.

In the Zohar, it is referred to as ארבעים ותשע חילי דמסאבותא

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enter image description here Here is a picture of the Zohar with the perush masok midvash on bottom. It is zohar charash yisro on daf lamed tes amud aleph in the original Zohar print.

  • Thank you. We hope you stick around and continue to contribute to Mi Yodeya. – LN6595 Mar 19 '18 at 22:02

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