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Last days of Succot

by: Rabbi Jeremy Rosen - Last updated: 2003-10-16

The Jerusalem Report has latched onto the laughable story that one Nabil Hilmi, dean of the law school at Egypt's Al Zaqaziq university ( possibly best known for its Shariah approved Sheshbesh tactics) and a Swiss side kick of his, are going to try to claim trillions of dollars from world Jewry for all the gold, silver and clothes the Jews stole when they left Egypt ( notice the 'World Jewry' bit, redolent of the Protocols of The Elders of Zion and other anti Semitic forgeries Egypt with its Nazi refugees and Islamic hate merchants is so well known for).

For some obscure reason the Report decided to ask a biblical scholar Pnina Galpaz-Feller to respond. Her reply focuses on the words used in the Torah to describe what happened according to Exodus when they were about to be 'let go' or driven out after the final plague. God commanded Moses to instruct the Children of Israel to go to their Egyptian neighbours and ask for 'reparations,' call them what you will.

This is what they did and the Torah says that they 'despoiled the Egyptians' according to the St James' version. But the Hebrew word 'Lenatzel' although usually translated 'exploit' in modern Hebrew, really means to take something with the agreement of the other side, in classical Hebrew. And similarly the Hebrew word 'Lishol' which translates 'to borrow' in our normal usage, really means to take something without having to return it in biblical lingo. And the rest of the article is a whole lot of other apologetics. I guess you can't expect academics to know much beyond their restricted area of expertise. But any Yeshiva Bochur in Israel would have been able to refer her to the Gemara in Sanhedrin that dealt precisely with this issue a very long time ago. As King Solomon said 'There is nothing new under the sun.'

Let me quote from Daf 91a. 'It once happened that the Egyptians came before Alexander of Macedon with a claim against the Jews. They said 'It is written (Exodus 12) ' And the Children of Israel did as Moses commanded and they asked of Egypt to borrow vessels of gold and vessels of silver and garments. And God gave the children of Israel favour in the eyes of
the Egyptians who handed it over to them and they removed it from Egypt.' We ask you to demand of the Jews that they give us back the gold and silver that they borrowed from us.'

Gaviyah Ben Passisa (literally a 'blotched skinned hunchback' not a very prepossessing sort of bloke) said to the rabbis 'Allow me to go and argue with them. If I lose then you can say that it was only a simple man who was defeated and if I win you will say that it was only thanks to the
Torah of Moses our teacher that we won. They gave him permission.

He began his case 'What is the source for your claim?' They said 'The Torah.' He said to them 'I too will only bring proof from the Torah. It is written (Exodus 12) 'And the Children of Israel were living in the Land of Egypt for four hundred and thirty years. Give us our wages for the 600,000 who you forced to work for you for four hundred and thirty years (there's a rather complicated way of working out how he calculates who actually worked and for how long, which we'll skip over for the purposes of the main theme of this piece). They replied 'Give us three days to come up with an answer.' They checked and could not find an answer. So (fearing
Alexander's reprisal) they fled, leaving their fields sown and their vineyards planted and that year happened to be the Seventh Year Sabbatical (when the Jews were not able to sow or plant, so it was an added bonus).

Now Alexander lived in the third century BCE, that's well over two thousand years ago. So without even bothering with statutes of limitations I think it can safely be said that this claim was nonsense then and remains nonsense today.

Well it is Simchat Torah this weekend so you might as well have a laugh!

Chag Sameach
Jeremy