Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The abomination of Egypt?

Summary: If so, how could Moshe Rabbenu say this to Pharaoh?

Post: In Vaera, we read {8:22}:

22. But Moses said, "It is improper to do that, for we will sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to our God. Will we sacrifice the deity of the Egyptians before their eyes, and they will not stone us?כב. וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה לֹא נָכוֹן לַעֲשׂוֹת כֵּן כִּי תּוֹעֲבַת מִצְרַיִם נִזְבַּח לַי־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֵינוּ הֵן נִזְבַּח אֶת תּוֹעֲבַת מִצְרַיִם לְעֵינֵיהֶם וְלֹא יִסְקְלֻנוּ:

This is Moshe's response to Pharaoh. Would he really insult the Egyptian deity to the Egyptian king's face? There are various answers, and ways to translate this pasuk, but the following is cited by Ibn Ezra:
ח, כב]
ויאמר -
א"ר ישועה:
כי פירוש תועבת מצרים משה כתב כן לגנות ע"ז. כי לא אמר לפרעה רק אלהי מצרים והוא אמר, כי היה אלהיהם על צורת טלה. כי היו חושבים על מזל טלה שהוא מושל בארצם. ובעבור זה לא היו אוכלים בשר. 
That is, he cited Rabbi Yehua that while Moshe wrote 'the abomination of Egypt', he write it in order to mock the idol, but naturally, he said to Pharaoh 'the god of Egypt'. This because their god was in the form of a lamb, for they believed that the zodiac sign of Aries (sheep) ruled over their land, and because of this, they did not eat meat.

Ibn Ezra then proceeds to attack this position -- see inside -- but despite this, the Baal HaTurim offers this as peshat. Besides this, in terms of Egyptian deities:
The ram was sacred to Banebdjedet, ram-god of Mendes, and Khnum the god who created men on his pottery wheel. Amun also had a ram form, though this was a different species of sheep. Rams were a symbol of fertility, and as such, the fertility god Heryshef took the form of a ram or a ram-headed man.
While this may or may not be peshat in the pasuk, it is an interesting data point in favor of the idea that dialogue as it

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