Sefer Sh’mot opens with the statement that, “These are the names of the children of Israel who were coming to Egypt; with Ya’akov, each man and his household came.” The first phrase of this verse is identical to an earlier clause introducing those who went down to Mizrayim (B’reishit 46:8).
However, while the first phrases of both these declarations match, the latter phrase of the earlier statement differs by immediately recounting by name Reuven, the firstborn, followed by Reuven’s progeny.
For Ramban and R’ Bachiya the two identical opening phrases indicate the continuity of a story; the first introduces the Exile while the second picks up the thread of the narrative. The first description of names includes both children and grandchildren. Now, however, the Torah suffices to recount only the first generation - “Each man and his household” - and will drop the names of the grandchildren.
Is there a sad message here? The S’forno notes that while Ya’akov’s children merited preventing the onset of slavery (cf. v. 6), their children were no longer capable of maintaining their parents’ spiritual status. Perhaps the strange term, “Who were coming to Egypt” to describe the families’ arrival in Mizrayim [lit. “Troubles”] indicates an existential condition that also describes what might lie in store for anyone who is in physical or spiritual exile.
Shabbat Shalom, Menachem Persoff
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