Shortly after Avram and Sarai arrive in the Land of C’naan, there is a famine so Avram takes Sarai down to Egypt. Avram tells Sarai to act as his sister so that the Egyptians won’t kill him in order to take her. Pharaoh’s officials take Sarai to Pharaoh. God then afflicts Pharaoh and his household with severe plagues. Pharaoh figures out that Sarai is really Avram’s wife and he sends them and all of their possessions out of Egypt.
Professor Rabbi Moshe David Cassuto points out that there are many similarities between the story of Avram and Sarai going down to Egypt during the famine in Parshat Lech Lecha, the account of the twelve tribes going down to Egypt due to a famine at the end of the Book of Breisheet and the description of the Exodus in the Book of Shmot.
Below are a few similarities which especially stand out:
In Breisheet 12:10: “There was a famine in the land. Avram went down to Egypt to live there temporarily, for the famine was severe in the land.”
In Breisheet 43:1: “The famine was severe in the land.”
In Breisheet 47:4: “They (Yosef’s brothers) said to Pharaoh: ‘We have come to live in the land temporarily, since there is no pasture for your servant’s flocks, because the famine is severe in the land of C’naan…”
When Avram left Egypt (Breisheet 13:1-2) “Avram went up from Egypt, he, his wife and all he had, together with Lot in the south. Avram was very wealthy in livestock, silver and gold.”
When B’nai Yisrael left Egypt, they received silver and gold as well.
B’nai Yisrael also went through the Negev.
In addition, we can’t ignore the fact that there were plagues in each story which pushed Pharaoh to let them leave.
B’nai Yisrael’s enslavement in Egypt was not a coincidence. It was already part of God’s plan in the days of Avraham.
Cassuto explains that the fact that Avram and Sarai were saved and that B’nai Yisrael were eventually redeemed from Egypt teaches us that God is ready to protect us from danger. This gives hope to future generations when they will be in similar situations.
It is important to note that while Cassuto made aliya in 1939 and many of his family members were saved from dangerous situations, his son, Nathan, a rabbi in Florence went into hiding until he was betrayed and killed in the Nazi death camps in 1943. Three of Nathan’s children were saved by family and were able to make aliya. Nathan’s wife survived the concentration camps but was killed in Israel in the Hadassah medical convoy massacre in 1948.
Although Cassuto did not have an easy life, he continued writing and his works made a tremendous contribution to Biblical scholarship. Cassuto had faith that God’s plans would fall into place and he hoped that God would continue to rescue us from our enemies just as He rescued our ancestors from Egypt.