Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Bo: See The Ra Is Against You

Hail to the Sun god!
He sure is a fun god!
Ra! Ra! Ra!
         - Ancient Egyptian cheer

There is an interesting Rashi towards the beginning of parshat Bo. The pasuk states {Shemot 10:10-11}:
י וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם, יְהִי כֵן ה עִמָּכֶם, כַּאֲשֶׁר אֲשַׁלַּח אֶתְכֶם, וְאֶת-טַפְּכֶם; רְאוּ, כִּי רָעָה נֶגֶד פְּנֵיכֶם. 10 And he said unto them: 'So be the LORD with you, as I will let you go, and your little ones; see ye that evil is before your face.
יא לֹא כֵן, לְכוּ-נָא הַגְּבָרִים וְעִבְדוּ אֶת-ה--כִּי אֹתָהּ, אַתֶּם מְבַקְשִׁים; וַיְגָרֶשׁ אֹתָם, מֵאֵת פְּנֵי פַרְעֹה. {ס} 11 Not so; go now ye that are men, and serve the LORD; for that is what ye desire.' And they were driven out from Pharaoh's presence. {S}
The words רְאוּ כִּי רָעָה נֶגֶד פְּנֵיכֶם seem to indicate a reason not to send the young ones {sons and daughters} out.

Onkelos translates:
י ואמר להון, יהי כין מימרא דה' בסעדכון, כד אשלח יתכון, וית טפלכון; חזו, ארי בישא אתון סבירין למעבד לית קוביל אפיכון לאסתחרא. יא לא כין, איזילו כען גובריא ופלחו קודם ה'--ארי יתה, אתון בען; ותריך יתהון, מן קודם פרעה. {ס
Thus, that they are planning some foul trick -- presumably, to escape entirely from Egypt, rather than only having this feast and then returning to Egypt.

Rashi adopts this explanation given in Targum as peshat. But then notes an aggada he saw:
See that evil is before your faces [Understand this] as the Targum [Onkelos] renders it. I have [also] heard an Aggadic midrash, however [which explains the passage as follows]: There is a star named Ra’ah [i.e., רָעָה meaning evil]. Pharaoh said to them [Moses and Aaron], “With my astrology I see that star ascending toward you in the desert [where you would like to go], and that is a sign of blood and slaughter.” When the Israelites sinned with the calf, and the Holy One, blessed be He, sought to kill them, Moses said in his prayer, “Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With Ra’ah He took them out…?’” (Exod. 32:12) This is what he [Pharaoh] said to them, “See that Ra’ah [evil] is opposite your faces,” [implying that their blood would be shed in the desert]. Immediately, “The Lord repented of the Ra’ah [the sign of the star]” (Exod. 32:14), and He turned the bloodshed [symbolized by this star] into the blood of the circumcision, for Joshua [in fact] circumcised them. This is the meaning of what is said: “This day I have rolled away the reproach of the Egyptians from you” (Josh. 5:9), for they were saying to you, “We see blood over you in the desert.” -[from Midrash Shir Hashirim, Wertheimer 1:2]
This is perhaps similar to how Rashi explains elsewhere, on II Shmuel 12:30:
ל וַיִּקַּח אֶת-עֲטֶרֶת-מַלְכָּם מֵעַל רֹאשׁוֹ וּמִשְׁקָלָהּ כִּכַּר זָהָב, וְאֶבֶן יְקָרָה, וַתְּהִי, עַל-רֹאשׁ דָּוִד; וּשְׁלַל הָעִיר הוֹצִיא, הַרְבֵּה מְאֹד. 30 And he took the crown of Malcam from off his head; and the weight thereof was a talent of gold, and in it were precious stones; and it was set on David's head. And he brought forth the spoil of the city, exceeding much.
that the idol of the sons of Ammon was named Milkom, and thus that the reference is to the deity (a derasha from Avodah Zara 42). This even though malkam can mean "their king." (Shadal uses this as one of his examples of Rashi pushing off the nikkud to promote a different explanation.)

If we want to, we can take this idea and run with it. Rather than establishing it as a reference to Ra'ah, the sign of a star, with astrological significance, establish it as a reference to Ra, the Egyptian sun god. Thus, his deity is bolstering him, against Hashem.

They seem to know of the Egyptian deity Ra. Thus, note that in Bemidbar 1:15, the Prince of the tribe of Naftali is AchiRa ben Ainan -- לְנַפְתָּלִי, אֲחִירַע בֶּן-עֵינָן. AchiRa can be understood as "Ra is my brother" -- and his father's name is Ainan, perhaps as in עין השמש.

Indeed, for some fun free-association, pasuk 5 states (same perek):
ה וְכִסָּה אֶת-עֵין הָאָרֶץ, וְלֹא יוּכַל לִרְאֹת אֶת-הָאָרֶץ; וְאָכַל אֶת-יֶתֶר הַפְּלֵטָה, הַנִּשְׁאֶרֶת לָכֶם מִן-הַבָּרָד, וְאָכַל אֶת-כָּל-הָעֵץ, הַצֹּמֵחַ לָכֶם מִן-הַשָּׂדֶה. 5 and they shall cover the face of the earth, that one shall not be able to see the earth; and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field;
which Onkelos renders as:
ה ויחפי ית עין שמשא דארעא, ולא ייכול למחזי ית ארעא; וייכול ית שאר שיזבתא, דאשתארת לכון מן ברדא, וייכול ית כל אילנא, דאצמח לכון מן חקלא.
Thus, עֵין הָאָרֶץ becomes עין שמשא דארעא.

Of course, this would be "Locusts to the Sun god," rather than "hail," as per the ancient Egyptian cheer, but it is still good. :)


Anonymous said...

Very interesting, although I think you ran too far with this associations game.

joshwaxman said...

I agree. :)

Levulose said...

Isn't the sun also a star?

Also, I read that the Golden Calf was an Egyptian deity too. Maybe that was some sort of bad calf.


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