Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pesach Point to Ponder

Greetings and Baruch Mechayeh Meisim. I have come to various crossroads and have lost a little time and a lot of focus. I just wanted to poke my head back up and offer up a little something.

If your like me at some point you may have heard this, as well. When I was a kid growing up, like everyone else I learned about the Jews being enslaved in Egypt. I remember some of alte kakkers in the community who offered as fact that the Jews must have been responsible for the architectural wonders that are the pyramids of Egypt (because Jews are better at everything, of course).
Now, as I got older I tossed this aside as some sort of Modern Orthodox historical urban legend. However, enters our old friend Josephus:

And having, in length of time, forgotten the benefits they had
received from Joseph, particularly the crown being now come into
another family, they became very abusive to the Israelites, and
contrived many ways of afflicting them; for they enjoined them to
cut a great number of channels for the river, and to build walls
for their cities and ramparts, that they might restrain the
river, and hinder its waters from stagnating, upon its running
over its own banks: they set them also to build pyramids, and by all this wore them out;
[Antiquities of the Jews; 9:1]

Certainly interesting as it does seem to lend some source-based substantiation to this speculation.
In fairness, though, one of the footnotes raises an interesting objection

וַיְמָרְרוּ אֶת-חַיֵּיהֶם בַּעֲבֹדָה קָשָׁה, בְּחֹמֶר וּבִלְבֵנִים, וּבְכָל-עֲבֹדָה, בַּשָּׂדֶה--אֵת, כָּל-עֲבֹדָתָם, אֲשֶׁר-עָבְדוּ בָהֶם, בְּפָרֶךְ [Exodus 1:14]

The biblical account of Jewish slave labor only mentions work done with brick, while the pyramids were works of stone. Still, there seems to be more here than I would have ever thought.


  1. someone at my seder translated ערי מסכנות as "pathetic cities"

  2. "set them also to build pyramids,"

    Could very well be. However, just because he mentions that they built pyramids (of which there are many and must have been many more) this does not mean that they built THE Pyramids (i.e. Giza).

  3. the footnotes point out that chronologically that would be difficult to say, but that it is possibly referring to the smaller pyramids which were built later