Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Masei: The Egyptians, Occupied With Burial

Towards the beginning of Masei, we read
ג וַיִּסְעוּ מֵרַעְמְסֵס בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן, בַּחֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר יוֹם לַחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן: מִמָּחֳרַת הַפֶּסַח, יָצְאוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּיָד רָמָה--לְעֵינֵי, כָּל-מִצְרָיִם. 3 And they journeyed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the morrow after the passover the children of Israel went out with a high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians,
ד וּמִצְרַיִם מְקַבְּרִים, אֵת אֲשֶׁר הִכָּה יְהוָה בָּהֶם--כָּל-בְּכוֹר; וּבֵאלֹהֵיהֶם, עָשָׂה יְהוָה שְׁפָטִים. 4 while the Egyptians were burying them that the LORD had smitten among them, even all their first-born; upon their gods also the LORD executed judgments.
and Rashi explains:
ד) ומצרים מקברים -
טרודים באבלם
that is, occupied with their mourning.

Local to this pasuk, it makes a lot of sense on a peshat level. That is, the second pasuk explains, in part, the taking out of the Israelites with a high hand to the sight of all the Egyptians. They were busy with their burying and mourning.

It struck me that there is a parallel here to parshat Shelach, by the report of the meraglim. In Bemidbar 13:32:

לב וַיֹּצִיאוּ דִּבַּת הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר תָּרוּ אֹתָהּ, אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לֵאמֹר: הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר עָבַרְנוּ בָהּ לָתוּר אֹתָהּ, אֶרֶץ אֹכֶלֶת יוֹשְׁבֶיהָ הִוא, וְכָל-הָעָם אֲשֶׁר-רָאִינוּ בְתוֹכָהּ, אַנְשֵׁי מִדּוֹת. 32 And they spread an evil report of the land which they had spied out unto the children of Israel, saying: 'The land, through which we have passed to spy it out, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature.
where Rashi, citing a derasha from Rava in Sotah, explains:
consumes its inhabitants Wherever we passed, we found them burying dead. The Holy One, blessed is He, intended this for good, to keep them occupied with their mourning so they should not notice them [the spies]. — [Sotah 35a]
It may well be that their entrance into the land was to parallel their exiting of Egypt, and this is where Rava borrowed his idea in this midrash.

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