In the begining of Parshat B'shalach, Rashi says that one p'shat for "Vachamushim" means one fifth, because during Makas Choshech, 4 out of 5 were killed out, and it happened during the time it was dark so that the Egyptians shouldn't see (although, I'm sure once that darkness went away,they would have noticed a HUGE difference in the Jewish population). If you do the math, 600,000 went out of Mitzrayim, which means that four fifths = 2,400,000. My question basically is, why is there no mention of this anywhere? Why were these people killed out? Why are we celebrating the g'ulah of 600,000 while 2.4 million were killed out? This has always bothered me.....

  • @Gershon, I think BFree wants to know whether anyone addresses the enormity of this holocaust or the implications thereof.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jan 10, 2011 at 20:46
  • An otherwise unknown user named Yosef would like everyone to know that 600000 was just the number of males aged 20 and up. The total number that left Mitzrayim was around 2-3 mil.
    – Double AA
    Oct 16, 2012 at 6:11
  • Probably most don't mention it, because a literal interpretation of this Midrash is somewhat difficult for a couple reasons. The first is your very question; if so milliions died, why does the Bible not mention it (instead using a term chamushim which on a pshat level means "armed"). Furthermore, one needs to say that the population growth was even more extraordinary than it was. The Midrash itself suggest that it is not literal as it mentions IIRC a view that only 1 in 5o or one in 500 left! According to the latter count, at least 300 mil. Jews were in Egypt and > 294 mil. would have died!
    – mevaqesh
    Dec 21, 2015 at 4:59
  • It seem inconceivable that there were 300 mil. Jews in Egypt, as the whole world population was probably not even close to that.
    – mevaqesh
    Dec 21, 2015 at 5:02

1 Answer 1


The Jews that died, did not want to leave Mitzrayim.

Because of these problems Rav Shwab says that the Medrash should not be understood literally - rather only a relatively small number died, but had they lived they would have given birth to millions of people over several generations. The three opinions are arguing about how many descendants would have come from those that died. He suggests that perhaps all they disagree about is how to make an accounting of the survivors - one holds that we measure up to a certain point in time such as the building of the Beis HaMikdash, and another measures to a later point and consequently there are more descendants over that longer period.


  • Thank you so much for that article. It touches on all my questions, and is the first real article/drashah I've ever heard on this topic that actually makes sense. I would upvote you twice if I could!
    – BFree
    Jan 11, 2011 at 17:38

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