Friday, January 02, 2009

Ramses vs. Raamses

In a comment on a previous post, an anonymous commenter asked an excellent question, where the answer might greatly assist in picturing what exactly occurred in Egypt. So I thought I'd bump the question and answer to its own post.

He asks:
I have a question on the City Ramses One place it says the Jews worked there because everything sank In this week it says Meitav Harretz Which is it?
My answer:
An excellent question! And Baruch shekivanta!

The answer may well be that the *land* of Ramses and the *city* are two separate entities. After all, the king's name was Ramses, so it is not farfetched to name multiple cities after him. How many Caesarias are there?

Indeed, the Karaite scholar Aharon ben Yosef writes (see here) that these are two different locations. And his proof is the vowels. Here in Vayigash, in perek 47, it is the land of רַעְמְסֵס, Rameses, with a patach sheva-nach sheva-na tzerei. In contrast, in parshat Shemot, in perek 1, it is the city of רַעַמְסֵס, which is patach patach sheva-nach tzeirei.

This vowel difference is not convincing to me. But here is an article in the Jewish Encyclopedia (but read it all) describing the difference between them, in greater detail:
1. Egyptian city; one of the "treasure cities" built by the Israelites in their servitude (Ex. i. 11: "Raamses"); the point from which they started on their journey through the wilderness (Ex. xii. 37). Further, the northeast division of Egypt contained a region known as the "land of Rameses" (Gen. xlvii. 11). There the migrating Israelites were settled, "in the land of Goshen" (Gen. xlvi. 34, xlvii. 4, et al.). The addition of the Septuagint to Gen. xlvi. 28—"to the city Heroopolis," preceding the words "into the land of Goshen"—seems to include the city of Pithom (Heropolis, Heroo[n]polis) in this region, while the passages concerning Rameses as the starting-point of the Exodus extend its boundary so far to the east that "land of Goshen" and "land of Rameses" would seem to be synonymous. The latter name seems to be derived from the famous King Rameses II., who, by digging a canal and founding cities, extended the cultivable land of Goshen, formerly limited to the country at the mouth of the modern Wadi Ṭumilat, over the whole valley to the Bitter Lakes. Less probable is it that the "land of Rameses" is to be limited to that part of the region that was newly colonized by Rameses II.


Chana said...

Also note that in Shemos 12:37 and Bamidbar 33:5, the posuk says that the Jews left Egypt from רַעְמְסֵס, the same vowelization from Vayigash, which seems to be the Jewish neighborhood in Goshen. This seems to be a further support to Aharon ben Yosef.

Unknown said...

Man, I wish I still had someone's notes from high school. We had a whole semester on Ma'aseh Yosef, discussing almost everything you've touched on and more the past few weeks.

Anonymous said...

Ibn Exra on Shmos also calls attention to the nikud and says "veeino mekom Yisrael"

joshwaxman said...

that's probably where Aharon ben Yosef got it from, then...


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