Category Archives: Moses

Drinks at The Hungry Crocodile

Exodus: Va’era

Drinks at The Hungry Crocodile

The hieroglyphics on the wall announced the day’s menu. The menu however, had not changed in over two months; and most of the menu was not available. An old toothless priestess played a melancholy tune on her harp in a dark corner of the hall. Rumor had it that her older brother was killed during the attack of the wild beasts, and she had not played a happy tune ever since.

The tables of the tavern were filled with groups of the higher echelons of Egyptian society talking quietly to themselves, or loners commiserating with their drinks.

One table was filled with muscle-bound black eunuchs from Pharaoh’s palace.

“I was there, I tell you,” big Leras, Royal Eunuch, whispered in his high-pitched voice to his audience around the circular table. “I was there when Moses announced the next plague.”

“So what did he say?” bulky Doigo asked in an equally high voice. “What will the next plague be?”

“Hailstones,” Leras intoned as he scratched the scabs from his receding boils. “Moses said that whoever or whatever will be out in the fields tomorrow, will die from the hailstones. If you are indoors, you will be spared.”

“And you believe that charlatan, Leras?” Fanir, the Priest of Ra, asked from the adjacent table, sitting with other priests. “Have you, and your fellow eunuchs lost faith in the gods of Egypt?”

“I did not realize you were eavesdropping, Fanir,” Leras accused. “Besides, your faith in your gods has blinded you to reality. The god of the Hebrews has proven himself to be more powerful, and there is nothing they or Pharaoh have been able to do to stop him.”

“Be careful, Leras,” Fanir warned. “You speak both blasphemy and treason. Not even your position of Royal Eunuch may save you from punishment.”

“You are a fool, Fanir,” Leras grinned and made a pushing and slicing motion with his hands towards Doigo and the rest of the eunuchs at his table. “Egypt is crumbling before our very eyes and I for one intend to be on the winning side. This Moses is masterful. His presence alone is impressive and the way he stands up to Pharaoh is most inspiring.”

“What? You wish to join with him in their worship in the desert?” Fanir asked.

“You are truly brainless,” Leras grinned even wider. “Do you for a moment believe his god is going through all this trouble merely for a day of worship? They mean to be free and to leave Egypt. Any fool can see that. But you, it seems, are not even a fool!”

Fanir glanced around the tavern, his face turning red from embarrassment. He looked meaningfully at his fellow priests. “I shall not allow such an insult to go unanswered,” Fanir declared to his tablemates. The five priests rose from their chairs as one, and faced the eunuch’s table.

At that moment, the door to the tavern opened and silence reigned throughout the hall. Even the old harpist stopped her playing. Two strangers walked in. Two Hebrews! Their skins were unblemished, with no scars or boils on them. They had the happy demeanor of men who had eaten well – something no Egyptian had experienced for months. They swaggered into the tavern carrying a fresh side of beef between them.

“Ho! Innkeeper!” the taller Hebrew, Datan, called out. “We heard you Egyptians have not had fresh meat for some time.”

“What is that to you, slave?” Parnet, innkeeper of The Hungry Crocodile responded, all eyes watching the exchange.

“Oh, we just thought, you might enjoy something other than the blood-soaked fish you seem to enjoy so much,” Datan teased.

“Yes,” the shorter Hebrew, Aviram, added, “we also heard how popular frogs became on your menu. Boiled frogs, baked frogs, grilled frogs, frog pie, and what was our favorite, Datan? Oh yes! Stuffed frog – with frog stuffing! If the plagues were not enough, your menu would kill you!” Datan and Aviram laughed unkindly.

“You Hebrews think you are funny,” Fanir, the priest called out from his table. “Laugh now, but do not forget that you are still slaves.”

“Slaves?” Datan asked mockingly. “You are behind the times, priest. We will soon be rid of Egyptian taskmasters, assuming there are any left after our God is through with you.”

“Enough talk, Hebrew,” Parnet interrupted. “How much do you want for the meat?”

“200 shekel,” Datan answered slowly.

“200 shekel!?” Parnet shouted. “Are you out of your mind? Why I used to pay no more than 20 shekel for an entire cow, let alone one side.”

“Of course you did,” Aviram responded loudly, “but that was before the wild animals ravaged the herds, and the pestilence decimated them. It is no problem. We are sure that The Wet Hippopotamus down the road would love to offer fresh meat to their more esteemed clientele.”

“Now, now, now, my dear Hebrews,” Parnet put out his hands in appeasement, “there is no need to drive such a hard bargain. Let us sit in the back room and reach an equitable price, without disturbing the customers.”

“Lead the way, good innkeeper,” Datan replied and winked at Aviram. They followed Parnet behind the counter and into the kitchen still carrying their fresh meat. The eyes of all the Egyptians followed the carcass hungrily.

“You see, Finar,” Leras snickered, pointing at the exiting Hebrews. “This is just the beginning. At the end Egypt may be begging from the Hebrews for more than just some fresh meat. You priests are such a wretched lot. I can not believe you still pray to your pathetic gods for help.”

“Your intransigence is outrageous,” Finar answered, pounding his fist on the table. “The Hebrews may have the upper hand right now, but your rebelliousness is inexcusable. I shall report you to Pharaoh personally and I will be happy to supervise your execution.”

Leras motioned to the other eunuchs. Doigo got up smoothly, turned around and suddenly pushed the priest closest to him. “Hey! Watch it you clumsy fool!” Doigo yelled at him.

The startled priest pushed Doigo back. “What are you doing? I did nothing.”

“Nothing!? You call this nothing!?” Doigo’s shout reverberated throughout the tavern. Doigo then smashed his beefy fist into the priest’s confused face. The impact made a satisfying ‘crunch’ sound as Doigo broke the priest’s nose. A second later a loud crash announced the priest flying into the table.

“Fight!” some customer yelled and the entire tavern was on its feet.

Leras picked up his table and threw it, plates, cups and all towards the priests. Then the fighting started in earnest. Chairs were broken on people’s heads; bodies went flying through the air. There was a high concentration of white priest robes mixed with muscular black bodies in the center of the melee.

Excited by the action and showing more life than she had since her brother’s death, the old priestess played a merry tune.

In the midst of the chaos Leras closed in on Finar. He grabbed Finar by the collar and in his other hand he discretely pulled out a knife. “Say your prayers quickly, priest. You can no longer threaten a man and expect to get away with it.”

“You dare not harm me, eunuch. I am a sanctified priest of the mighty god Ra. You will suffer eternal damnation in the underworld if you harm me.”

“I doubt it,” Leras whispered as he quietly thrust his blade between the priest’s ribs.

Finar crumpled to the floor joining other unconscious priests.

Parnet, followed closely by Datan and Aviram ran out of the kitchen into the main hall.

“What is going on here?” Parnet wailed.

“This is truly pleasant. To see the Egyptians fighting with each other,” Datan commented.

“Yeah, we should come here more often,” Aviram approved. “Perhaps we can even sell tickets for viewing?”

Leras gave a piercing whistle. As quickly as it started, the fighting stopped.

The priestess returned to playing a more subdued tune.

One of the conscious priests examined the wounded.

“He is dead! Fanir is dead! He has been stabbed!”

“I think perhaps he just tripped during the fighting,” Leras explained, showing the blood on his hand. “If anyone wants to make an issue of it,” Leras looked menacingly at the priests, “they may find themselves tripping as well.”

“N-No Leras,” the priest stuttered and took a step back. “This was just an unfortunate accident. Your theological arguments are very persuasive.”

“Ah. So there is some wisdom in the priesthood after all,” Leras nodded.

Datan and Aviram looked apprehensively at the dead priest and Leras standing over him.

“This Leras is dangerous,” Datan whispered. “We have our money. Let us leave this zoo.”

Datan and Aviram made their way to the door, stepping over debris from the fight.

Leras noticing the movement, called out to them. “Hebrews!”

Datan and Aviram turned around before the entrance.

“We – we do not want any trouble,” Datan stammered. “We did not see anything.”

“I have a message for your Moses.”

“And what would that be then,” Aviram breathed out, turning back to the entrance.

“Tell Moses that the palace eunuchs are with him. We support his struggle and will follow him,” Leras raised his bloody hand. “Whether he likes it or not.”

* * * * * *

Sources:

Exodus, Chapter 9

18 Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the day it was founded even until now.

19 Now therefore send, hasten in thy cattle and all that thou hast in the field; for every man and beast that shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die.’

20 He that feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses;

21 and he that regarded not the word of the Lord left his servants and his cattle in the field.

Exodus, Chapter 12

37 And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, beside children.

38 And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.

Mixed multitude: an assembly of idol worshipers from different nations that converted. Rashi, Exodus 12:38

Caring Spectators

Exodus: Va’era

Caring Spectators

When the world was young and cable-less, people were not troubled overmuch by distressing news from far reaches. It was just an item of interest – almost like the weather. Even today though, with an overload of images of misery, violence, poverty and war, we have often become uncaring spectators. We watch more out of curiosity than any deep sense of helping the plight of the needy.

However, for many volunteers, there has been that intersection of seeing the plight of a downtrodden, suffering people that moves them to action. I recall an interview years ago with a photojournalist covering a famine in Africa. His goal in filming the starving miserable children was to generate awareness and action. He succeeded. Donations and volunteers poured in from all over the world.

Rabbi Hizkiyahu ben Manoach (Hizkuni) claims that seeing the distress of another is a prerequisite for successful action. Knowing or hearing about the distress is apparently not as powerful.

After Pharaoh cries for mercy from the plague of the hailstones, Moses announces that he will go out of the city in order to stop the hail. Many commentators think it strange – why doesn’t Moses just stop the hail where he’s standing?

Hizkuni explains that the devastation of the hailstones was mostly on the crops, in the field, outside the city. Moses needed to see the damage and destruction firsthand in order to pray for relief. He wouldn’t be as effective praying from afar.

May we be willing (and able, when appropriate) to get up close and personal when we need to relieve the distress of others. Apparently, it’s the best way.

Shabbat Shalom,

Bentzi

Dedication

To Haiti and all those affected by this week’s natural disaster. For some reason, God seems to be giving this country a particularly hard time over the years.

And to the staff and crew of El Al’s Sao Paulo flight. I was pleasantly surprised – even amazed, by the gracious service. May this spread to all their routes.

Harbinger of Light

Exodus: Shmot

Harbinger of Light

Pharaoh's Daughter retrieves baby Moses from the Nile

“638 male babies have been thrown in to the Nile,” the Captain read from his papyrus scroll, “18 male babies have been absconded by their families to further districts, and one male baby is unaccounted for.”

“What does ‘unaccounted for’ mean?” Pharaoh asked in irritation from his throne.

“We have searched every crevice of the family’s home,” the Captain explained apologetically, “and that of their neighbors, their relatives and anyone they are in regular contact with. We have searched behind every bush and under every stone, but the baby is nowhere to be found.”

“What does the family claim?” Pharaoh demanded. “What do they say happened to the baby?”

“They claim the infant has already been thrown in to the Nile, but there is no mention of this in our records.”

“Are you sure?”

“We are certain, O Pharaoh. Our records are impeccable. Our forces have not supervised the throwing of the Amram child into the Nile.”

“Amram, you say,” Pharaoh nodded pensively. “It would have to be his child. He is the leader of the Hebrews. His child would certainly be a candidate to be the destined Redeemer. Where can he be?”

“I can answer that, Father,” a striking young woman declared as she strode into Pharaoh’s audience chamber.

“Daughter, what is the meaning of this?” Pharaoh asked in surprise and annoyance.

“I can report on the unaccounted child that you have not managed to drown yet.”

“Daughter, I know that you disapprove of our activities, however bear in mind that this is for the greater good of Egypt.”

“Pfah,” the daughter made a spitting motion, “you would slaughter innocent babes and still call yourself a hero? You put too much weight in your astrologers’ omens.”

“Daughter, beware of that tongue of yours or we can have the offensive organ removed, even from you, my precious jewel.”

“You would silence the only one who tells you the truth? You are surrounded by these sycophantic mongrels who have twisted your mind with superstition and half-truths. They will lead you and Egypt to nothing but misery.”

“Captain,” Pharaoh turned away from his daughter, “leave us, and on your way out, call for the Royal Executioner, and my advisors.”

The daughter took a step back at mention of the executioner.

“Daughter,” Pharaoh returned his gaze, “do not joust with me in such a tone, and certainly not in front of my underlings. I think perhaps a lesson in respect is in order.”

“How can I respect a cold-blooded murderer?”

“I will show you.”

Moments later the Royal Executioner walked in, followed by Pharaohs advisors, Jeinis and Jimbrei.

“Executioner. What temporary ways do you have to silence a person?” Pharaoh looked meaningfully at his daughter, “I know that tongues do not grow back, but is there something short of cutting a tongue that may teach a long-lasting lesson in etiquette to the Princess?”

“Irons, Pharaoh. Irons are the way.”

“You would close her mouth with irons? While I am tempted by the notion, I would like something less unseemly.”

“No, Pharaoh. I meant hot irons. If we poke her tongue or the inside of her mouth with hot irons, she will not talk for a while, but eventually it will heal.”

“How long will she be silent for?”

“I am not sure. The few times I tried it, the subject died from their wounds, but I would be very careful with the princess. It would take perhaps several months to heal, maybe even a year.”

“A year is very good then. Be careful her beautiful features should not be marred. And if she does not speak again in a year, Executioner, you will lose more than your tongue.”

“But, Father,” the daughter exclaimed in alarm, “I thought you would want to know about the unaccounted child?”

“Yes then. Tell me.”

“Only if you do not unleash your henchman on me.”

“That, my dear, will depend on the nature of your answer.”

“I have the baby.”

“You do? Good work. Hand him to the Executioner and we shall dispose of him presently.”

“No.”

“What do you mean ‘No’?”

“I shall not hand him over. He is my son.”

“Your son? Your son!?” Pharaoh got off his throne and started shouting. “What in the name of Ra are you talking about!”

“I found him in the river. I have adopted him to be my son. By all the ancient laws, he is mine. You can not have him.”

“Have him? I do not want to have him! I want to kill him! He may be the most dangerous thing to the Egyptian empire and you are protecting him?”

“Yes. And if I could, I would protect every single one of those innocent babes who you believe are so dangerous.”

“Daughter! You go too far!!”

“No! I do not go far enough! I will never hand him over. If I could save even one child, I will have done my duty.”

“You would dare? You would dare rebel against your own father’s command? This is treason. I would not spare even you from punishment.”

“I dare. I should have done this long ago.”

“So be it. Executioner! We shall execute the Princess right here and now without delay. I cannot stand even a moment further with this rebellious child. Do it now!”

The executioner hastily grabbed the Princess and a cushioned bench and prepared her for beheading. He forced her kneel on the floor, and then firmly tied her torso to the bench leaving space for her head to hang over the side of the bench. He tied the Princess’ hands behind her back and placed a pan on the floor where her head would fall. Pharaoh paced back and forth seething in anger, yet holding back tears. The executioner then removed his sword and ran his fingernail over its edge to check its sharpness. He spread his legs and raised his sword. He lowered the sword slowly to the Princess’ neck to make sure of the angle and distance needed to make a quick clean cut. He then raised the sword again and tensed his powerful muscles, getting ready to bring it down again, strongly and rapidly.

“O Pharaoh,” Jeinis bowed down, “if I may be so bold as to interrupt.”

“Proceed Jeinis,” Pharaoh raised his hand to the executioner in a halting sign, happy for the reprieve and hoping Jeinis would provide a different solution. The executioner in the meantime slowly lowered his sword.

“From the most recent signs, it seems that the latest crisis is over,” Jeinis continued.

“What do you mean?”

“He means, O Pharaoh,” Jimbrei interjected, “that according to the stars, the Redeemer has already been thrown into the Nile.”

“Already thrown? That is a relief. Is the danger over then?”

“Um, not exactly,” Jeinis mumbled.

“Well is there danger or is there not?”

“Pharaoh knows how difficult it is to read the stars,” Jimbrei intoned. “It seems the need to throw the children into the Nile has passed. The danger from the destined Redeemer is still out there, but it is vague and hard to read. We must remain on watch.”

“But you can stop your drowning of the children?” the Princess interjected, from her tied and kneeling position by the bench.

“Yes, Princess,” Jimbrei answered reluctantly.

“Then there is no reason I cannot keep my son, Father.”

“If it will stop your incessant bickering, blasphemy and rebelliousness, I will let you keep this child – but on one further condition.”

“And what would that condition be?”

“You shall not adopt another one of the Hebrews again. This shall be your one and only child from that people. You shall not afford them protection in this fashion. And if I sense that this child is a threat in any way, it will be the executioners block for him.”

“It is agreed then. Congratulations Father, you are now a grandfather.”

“Spare me the melodrama. Release the Princess,” Pharaoh motioned to the Executioner. “Let us examine this child then.”

“Oh Father, you will love him. He is such a precious child,” the Princess chirped as the executioner untied her and helped her up.

“I shall be the judge of that.”

“I shall bring the baby,” the Princess said as she proudly strode out the hall.

Pharaoh sat back on his throne, relieved. How did I deserve such a difficult daughter? He thought to himself. Though I wish my soldiers were half as brave as she is – then the entire world would be terrified of us, he thought of her with fatherly pride.

“Is it wise to let her keep the child?” Jeinis inquired of Pharaoh.

“If it will appease my judgmental daughter; than it will be worth it.”

“If this is indeed the child of Amram,” Jimbrei added, “it could have curious ramifications.”

“Hmm. Do I want my enemies’ son in my house? If he were a hostage it would be one thing, but as an adopted child, I am less sure.”

“It is good to keep one’s friends close, Pharaoh,” Jimbrei quoted, “but it is better to keep one’s enemies closer.”

“Yes, we shall keep a close eye on the son of Amram. He may yet be of use to us.”

Pharaoh’s daughter, beaming with joy, walked back into the hall with a baby bundled in her arms.

“Here Father, is my son.”

“He, he is beautiful!” Pharaoh stuttered.

“I told you he was special.”

“What is on his skin? He seems to be shinning or glowing. Is this sorcery?”

Jeinis and Jimbrei peered at the baby as well and made various arcane hand motions.

“Get your paws away from my baby!” the Princess embraced the baby defensively.

“We do not sense any magic around the baby – he is truly an outstanding specimen,” Jimbrei concluded.

“Let me have another look at him, daughter.”

“Just move your minions back.”

“Jeinis, Jimbrei, please give the princess some space.” The advisors backed away obediently, though still peering at the child with open curiosity.

The Princess again showed Pharaoh the baby. Pharaoh drank in the sight of the baby and seemed to calm down and even enjoy looking at him. “He is truly beautiful. What is his name?”

“I have called him Moses, for from the water I drew him out.”

Moses. A chill went up Pharaoh’s spine at the mention of the name. Egypt may yet rue this day, Pharaoh thought to himself quietly. The day that we let Moses live and brought him into my house.

* * * * * *

Sources:

The Egyptians were worshipers of the god Ra. In Hebrew “Ra” means evil. The name PhaRAoh, includes the name “Ra”. It could be that the source of the word “Ra” in Hebrew comes from the complete abhorrence of the Egyptian worship of this false god and their intrinsic evil. The Egyptians set the benchmark as far as the Jewish people are concerned for the concept of Evil. From class by David Nativ.

The daughter of Pharaoh went down to bathe in the river. Exodus 2:5. She went down to immerse (i.e., cleanse) herself from the idols of her father (i.e., she immersed for the sake of converting to Judaism). Tractate Sotah 12b

“This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Exodus 2:6. How did she know? She saw that he was circumcised. Said R’ Yochanan: She prophesied unknowingly: this one alone is cast into the Nile; no others will be cast. The Egyptian sorcerers had divined that the redeemer of Israel would be punished by means of water. After Moses had been cast into the water, they no longer saw that sign, and the decree was cancelled. Tractate Sotah 12b

Said Pharaoh, “I dreamt that all of Egypt was on one pan of the balance, and a lamb was on the other, and the pan with the lamb outweighed all of Egypt.” At once he sent for all the sorcerers of Egypt and told them his dream. Jeinis and Jimbrei, the chief sorcerers, said to Pharaoh, “A male child will be born in the congregation of Israel, by whose hand the whole land of Egypt will be laid waste.” Targum Yonatan, Shemot 1:15

Amram was the head of the Sanhedrin. Shemot Rabbah 1:13

It came to pass when Pharaoh had sent the people out. Exodus 13:17. Said the Holy One, Blessed is He, “You sent out the fathers, but my sons you cast into the Nile. In retribution, I shall cast you into the sea and destroy you, but I will take your daughter and let her inherit the Garden of Eden. Shemot Rabbah 20:4

These are the sons of Bithiah daughter of Pharaoh whom Mered took. Chronicles I 4:18. Mered is Caleb. He rebelled (“mered”) against the counsel of the Spies; she rebelled against the counsel of her father. Let the rebel come and marry the rebel. And one Sage says: He saved the flock; she saved the shepherd. Vayikra Rabbah 1:3

Said the Holy One, Blessed is He, to Bithiah daughter of Pharaoh, “Moses was not your son, yet you called him your son. You, too, are not My daughter, but I shall call you My daughter.” (Bithiah=Daughter of God). Vayikra Rabbah 1:3

* * * * * *

Notes:

This story came out of an attempt to answer a question in my mind:

In the text, Moses’ mother is afraid that her son will be drowned in the Nile together with all the other newborn males. She makes a desperate gambit by hiding him in the Nile itself. As fate would have it, Moses is discovered by the Princess, who then returns the baby to the mother for nursing and who is subsequently returned to the Princess once he is weaned, perhaps even years later.

How could Moses have returned home without danger of being taken by Egyptian forces?

The answer in my mind is that there must have been some special dispensation with royal approval. The midrash points out that the edict was revoked after Moses had been placed in the Nile by his mother as this confused the Egyptian astrologers. However, there must have been a period of time between the hunt for Hebrew babies and the revocation of the edict. Hence the scene of the Pharaoh’s daughter attempting to protect Moses, which is also supported by the midrash.

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Exodus: Shmot

Harbinger of Light

“638 male babies have been thrown in to the Nile,” the Captain read from his papyrus scroll, “18 male babies have been absconded by their families to further districts, and one male baby is unaccounted for.”

“What does ‘unaccounted for’ mean?” Pharaoh asked in irritation from his throne.

“We have searched every crevice of the family’s home,” the Captain explained apologetically, “and that of their neighbors, their relatives and anyone they are in regular contact with. We have searched behind every bush and under every stone, but the baby is nowhere to be found.”

“What does the family claim?” Pharaoh demanded. “What do they say happened to the baby?”

“They claim the infant has already been thrown in to the Nile, but there is no mention of this in our records.”

“Are you sure?”

“We are certain, O Pharaoh. Our records are impeccable. Our forces have not supervised the throwing of the Amram child into the Nile.”

“Amram, you say,” Pharaoh nodded pensively. “It would have to be his child. He is the leader of the Hebrews. His child would certainly be a candidate to be the destined Redeemer. Where can he be?”

“I can answer that, Father,” a striking young woman declared as she strode into Pharaoh’s audience chamber.

“Daughter, what is the meaning of this?” Pharaoh asked in surprise and annoyance.

“I can report on the unaccounted child that you have not managed to drown yet.”

“Daughter, I know that you disapprove of our activities, however bear in mind that this is for the greater good of Egypt.”

“Pfah,” the daughter made a spitting motion, “you would slaughter innocent babes and still call yourself a hero? You put too much weight in your astrologers’ omens.”

“Daughter, beware of that tongue of yours or we can have the offensive organ removed, even from you, my precious jewel.”

“You would silence the only one who tells you the truth? You are surrounded by these sycophantic mongrels who have twisted your mind with superstition and half-truths. They will lead you and Egypt to nothing but misery.”

“Captain,” Pharaoh turned away from his daughter, “leave us, and on your way out, call for the Royal Executioner, and my advisors.”

The daughter took a step back at mention of the executioner.

“Daughter,” Pharaoh returned his gaze, “do not joust with me in such a tone, and certainly not in front of my underlings. I think perhaps a lesson in respect is in order.”

“How can I respect a cold-blooded murderer?”

“I will show you.”

Moments later the Royal Executioner walked in, followed by Pharaohs advisors, Jeinis and Jimbrei.

“Executioner. What temporary ways do you have to silence a person?” Pharaoh looked meaningfully at his daughter, “I know that tongues do not grow back, but is there something short of cutting a tongue that may teach a long-lasting lesson in etiquette to the Princess?”

“Irons, Pharaoh. Irons are the way.”

“You would close her mouth with irons? While I am tempted by the notion, I would like something less unseemly.”

“No, Pharaoh. I meant hot irons. If we poke her tongue or the inside of her mouth with hot irons, she will not talk for a while, but eventually it will heal.”

“How long will she be silent for?”

“I am not sure. The few times I tried it, the subject died from their wounds, but I would be very careful with the princess. It would take perhaps several months to heal, maybe even a year.”

“A year is very good then. Be careful her beautiful features should not be marred. And if she does not speak again in a year, Executioner, you will lose more than your tongue.”

“But, Father,” the daughter exclaimed in alarm, “I thought you would want to know about the unaccounted child?”

“Yes then. Tell me.”

“Only if you do not unleash your henchman on me.”

“That, my dear, will depend on the nature of your answer.”

“I have the baby.”

“You do? Good work. Hand him to the Executioner and we shall dispose of him presently.”

“No.”

“What do you mean ‘No’?”

“I shall not hand him over. He is my son.”

“Your son? Your son!?” Pharaoh got off his throne and started shouting. “What in the name of Ra are you talking about!”

“I found him in the river. I have adopted him to be my son. By all the ancient laws, he is mine. You can not have him.”

“Have him? I do not want to have him! I want to kill him! He may be the most dangerous thing to the Egyptian empire and you are protecting him?”

“Yes. And if I could, I would protect every single one of those innocent babes who you believe are so dangerous.”

“Daughter! You go too far!!”

“No! I do not go far enough! I will never hand him over. If I could save even one child, I will have done my duty.”

“You would dare? You would dare rebel against your own father’s command? This is treason. I would not spare even you from punishment.”

“I dare. I should have done this long ago.”

“So be it. Executioner! We shall execute the Princess right here and now without delay. I cannot stand even a moment further with this rebellious child. Do it now!”

The executioner hastily grabbed the Princess and a cushioned bench and prepared her for beheading. He forced her kneel on the floor, and then firmly tied her torso to the bench leaving space for her head to hang over the side of the bench. He tied the Princess’ hands behind her back and placed a pan on the floor where her head would fall. Pharaoh paced back and forth seething in anger, yet holding back tears. The executioner then removed his sword and ran his fingernail over its edge to check its sharpness. He spread his legs and raised his sword. He lowered the sword slowly to the Princess’ neck to make sure of the angle and distance needed to make a quick clean cut. He then raised the sword again and tensed his powerful muscles, getting ready to bring it down again, strongly and rapidly.

“O Pharaoh,” Jeinis bowed down, “if I may be so bold as to interrupt.”

“Proceed Jeinis,” Pharaoh raised his hand to the executioner in a halting sign, happy for the reprieve and hoping Jeinis would provide a different solution. The executioner in the meantime slowly lowered his sword.

“From the most recent signs, it seems that the latest crisis is over,” Jeinis continued.

“What do you mean?”

“He means, O Pharaoh,” Jimbrei interjected, “that according to the stars, the Redeemer has already been thrown into the Nile.”

“Already thrown? That is a relief. Is the danger over then?”

“Um, not exactly,” Jeinis mumbled.

“Well is there danger or is there not?”

“Pharaoh knows how difficult it is to read the stars,” Jimbrei intoned. “It seems the need to throw the children into the Nile has passed. The danger from the destined Redeemer is still out there, but it is vague and hard to read. We must remain on watch.”

“But you can stop your drowning of the children?” the Princess interjected, from her tied and kneeling position by the bench.

“Yes, Princess,” Jimbrei answered reluctantly.

“Then there is no reason I cannot keep my son, Father.”

“If it will stop your incessant bickering, blasphemy and rebelliousness, I will let you keep this child – but on one further condition.”

“And what would that condition be?”

“You shall not adopt another one of the Hebrews again. This shall be your one and only child from that people. You shall not afford them protection in this fashion. And if I sense that this child is a threat in any way, it will be the executioners block for him.”

“It is agreed then. Congratulations Father, you are now a grandfather.”

“Spare me the melodrama. Release the Princess,” Pharaoh motioned to the Executioner. “Let us examine this child then.”

“Oh Father, you will love him. He is such a precious child,” the Princess chirped as the executioner untied her and helped her up.

“I shall be the judge of that.”

“I shall bring the baby,” the Princess said as she proudly strode out the hall.

Pharaoh sat back on his throne, relieved. How did I deserve such a difficult daughter? He thought to himself. Though I wish my soldiers were half as brave as she is – then the entire world would be terrified of us, he thought of her with fatherly pride.

“Is it wise to let her keep the child?” Jeinis inquired of Pharaoh.

“If it will appease my judgmental daughter; than it will be worth it.”

“If this is indeed the child of Amram,” Jimbrei added, “it could have curious ramifications.”

“Hmm. Do I want my enemies’ son in my house? If he were a hostage it would be one thing, but as an adopted child, I am less sure.”

“It is good to keep one’s friends close, Pharaoh,” Jimbrei quoted, “but it is better to keep one’s enemies closer.”

“Yes, we shall keep a close eye on the son of Amram. He may yet be of use to us.”

Pharaoh’s daughter, beaming with joy, walked back into the hall with a baby bundled in her arms.

“Here Father, is my son.”

“He, he is beautiful!” Pharaoh stuttered.

“I told you he was special.”

“What is on his skin? He seems to be shinning or glowing. Is this sorcery?”

Jeinis and Jimbrei peered at the baby as well and made various arcane hand motions.

“Get your paws away from my baby!” the Princess embraced the baby defensively.

“We do not sense any magic around the baby – he is truly an outstanding specimen,” Jimbrei concluded.

“Let me have another look at him, daughter.”

“Just move your minions back.”

“Jeinis, Jimbrei, please give the princess some space.” The advisors backed away obediently, though still peering at the child with open curiosity.

The Princess again showed Pharaoh the baby. Pharaoh drank in the sight of the baby and seemed to calm down and even enjoy looking at him. “He is truly beautiful. What is his name?”

“I have called him Moses, for from the water I drew him out.”

Moses. A chill went up Pharaoh’s spine at the mention of the name. Egypt may yet rue this day, Pharaoh thought to himself quietly. The day that we let Moses live and brought him into my house.

* * * * * *

Sources:

The Egyptians were worshipers of the god Ra. In Hebrew “Ra” means evil. The name PhaRAoh, includes the name “Ra”. It could be that the source of the word “Ra” in Hebrew comes from the complete abhorrence of the Egyptian worship of this false god and their intrinsic evil. The Egyptians set the benchmark as far as the Jewish people are concerned for the concept of Evil. From class by David Nativ.

The daughter of Pharaoh went down to bathe in the river. Exodus 2:5. She went down to immerse (i.e., cleanse) herself from the idols of her father (i.e., she immersed for the sake of converting to Judaism). Tractate Sotah 12b

“This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Exodus 2:6. How did she know? She saw that he was circumcised. Said R’ Yochanan: She prophesied unknowingly: this one alone is cast into the Nile; no others will be cast. The Egyptian sorcerers had divined that the redeemer of Israel would be punished by means of water. After Moses had been cast into the water, they no longer saw that sign, and the decree was cancelled. Tractate Sotah 12b

Said Pharaoh, “I dreamt that all of Egypt was on one pan of the balance, and a lamb was on the other, and the pan with the lamb outweighed all of Egypt.” At once he sent for all the sorcerers of Egypt and told them his dream. Jeinis and Jimbrei, the chief sorcerers, said to Pharaoh, “A male child will be born in the congregation of Israel, by whose hand the whole land of Egypt will be laid waste.” Targum Yonatan, Shemot 1:15

Amram was the head of the Sanhedrin. Shemot Rabbah 1:13

It came to pass when Pharaoh had sent the people out. Exodus 13:17. Said the Holy One, Blessed is He, “You sent out the fathers, but my sons you cast into the Nile. In retribution, I shall cast you into the sea and destroy you, but I will take your daughter and let her inherit the Garden of Eden. Shemot Rabbah 20:4

These are the sons of Bithiah daughter of Pharaoh whom Mered took. Chronicles I 4:18. Mered is Caleb. He rebelled (“mered”) against the counsel of the Spies; she rebelled against the counsel of her father. Let the rebel come and marry the rebel. And one Sage says: He saved the flock; she saved the shepherd. Vayikra Rabbah 1:3

Said the Holy One, Blessed is He, to Bithiah daughter of Pharaoh, “Moses was not your son, yet you called him your son. You, too, are not My daughter, but I shall call you My daughter.” (Bithiah=Daughter of God). Vayikra Rabbah 1:3

* * * * * *

Notes:

This story came out of an attempt to answer a question in my mind:

In the text, Moses’ mother is afraid that her son will be drowned in the Nile together with all the other newborn males. She makes a desperate gambit by hiding him in the Nile itself. As fate would have it, Moses is discovered by the Princess, who then returns the baby to the mother for nursing and who is subsequently returned to the Princess once he is weaned, perhaps even years later.

How could Moses have returned home without danger of being taken by Egyptian forces?

The answer in my mind is that there must have been some special dispensation with royal approval. The midrash points out that the edict was revoked after Moses had been placed in the Nile by his mother as this confused the Egyptian astrologers. However, there must have been a period of time between the hunt for Hebrew babies and the revocation of the edict. Hence the scene of the Pharaoh’s daughter attempting to protect Moses, which is also supported by the midrash.

“Elementary, My Dear Watson”

Exodus: Shmot

“Elementary, My Dear Watson”

“…when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “Sherlock Holmes”

As Moses gets ready to return to Egypt and start the process of Redemption, God advises him:

“Return to Egypt, for all the men that were seeking your soul have died.” Exodus 4:19

The prime rabbinic commentator, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi), explains that God is referring to the dangerous duo of Datan and Aviram of the tribe of Reuben. They plagued Moses from his first foray in Egypt and through the desert, until their unnatural demise during the story of Korach. The obvious question is why does God refer to them as dead, if they are still very much alive? Rashi answers that they had become impoverished and according to the Torah, someone who is penniless has the status of the deceased.

Rabbi Hizkiyahu ben Manoach (Hizkuni) is not satisfied with the curt answer and proceeds to investigate in detail how Rashi came to such a conclusion. He starts by referencing the relevant Talmudic passage (Tractate Nedarim 64b):

“There are four that are considered as if they are dead:

–          the pauper,

–          the leper,

–          the blind,

–          and one without any children.”

Hizkuni then combs through the biblical text to determine which of the above situations might apply to Datan and Aviram:

In Number 16:14 they tease Moses and say: “Will you poke out our eyes (i.e. do you think we are blind),” ergo – they are not blind.

In Numbers 16:27 it refers to their “wives and sons and children,” ergo – they have children.

And one cannot say that they were lepers, as they were found within the Israelite camp, where lepers were not permitted, ergo – they are not lepers.

So if you eliminate leprosy, blindness and childlessness, and they are still walking around, the only category of “death” that Datan and Aviram can possible fit, though one might think improbable – is poverty.

May God spare us from all forms of “death” and instead give us the opposite: health, vision, children and wealth and may we enjoy “life” with them.

Shabbat Shalom,

Bentzi

Dedication

In memory of Dr. Sherman Weidenbaum, Shlomo Zalman ben Chava, of Waterford, CT., the father of our friend and neighbor, Abby Dishi.

He was a man who combined chesed, creativity, strength, and integrity. He was a master educator, communicator, and friend to the world. For just a little bit about this wonderful man, who lived life to the fullest, click here.