Raboyseyee and Ladies,
Do you pee in the pool? In the shower? Do worse? What could be worse? Does anyone? Everyone? Why are questions about reliving oneself leading off our review of Parshas Vo’eiro? We begin with them davka because a Rashi we will be exploring shortly will tell us that Paroy went down the Nile River daily to relieve himself. Is that bad? Shoin, before we get to Rashi and because the question about peeing in the pool or shower was raised, let’s share what was found on the heylige internet regarding these questions.
Seemingly, people are mamish peeing in the pool. About one in five American adults admitted in a survey to having peed in the pool. U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps even confessed back in 2012 that peeing in the pool is an acceptable thing to do. “I think everybody pees in the pool,” Phelps told the Wall Street Journal. A team of researchers in Canada seemed to confirm the notion that “everybody” does it. Moreover, a question about peeing in the shower was posed in a AskReddit thread and the survey said azoy: Overwhelmingly, people said it’s acceptable to go ahead and relieve yourself while showering because it’s easier and saves water. “There are two types of people: People who pee in the shower [and] liars,” the Redditor wrote.
Shoin, if that introduction blows your mind, and has you thinking that the Ois is off the reservation -it’s taka emes that he’s infected with the omicron (but is otherwise ok)- wait until you read what else -according to some- the Mitzrim used to do in the Nile. Stay tuned; you will not want to miss it. Let’s begin.
Last week: the RBSO introduced Himself to Moishe at the burning bush, and let’s get real: who wouldn’t be impressed by such an encounter? In hyntige tzeytin (today’s times) it’s quite rear to encounter any bush; one that burns and is never extinguished, is mamish a neys! Shoin, we shall skip the low hanging, if you chap, jokes and go veyter. Also last week: while many contemplate retirement, or actually do so, in their seventies, we also learned that Moishe was 80 years old when hired to lead the Yiddin out of Mitzrayim. He will hold onto that job until his dying day; impressive.
Welcome to Parsha Vo’eiro where the RBSO has fully developed a plan to free the Yiddin. He will visit ten plagues upon the Mitzrim and by the end of next week’s parsha, the Yiddin -after having some presence in Egypt for 430 years- will be chased out. The Yiddin, as is well known, will go on to be chased out of other countries in the years to come; who knows what awaits us in hyntige tzeytin?
We have previously discussed the discrepancy between the 400 years the RBSO foretold to Avrohom, the 430 years mentioned in next week’s parsha and the 210 years of actual slavery. Find those in the archives at https://oisvorfer.com/.
As kids in yeshiva, we very much enjoyed learning about the Makos and they remain an integral part of the Pesach Seder. We were of course fascinated to read of the tricks Moishe was to play with his staff. Most men continue this tradition ad hayoim hazeh, if you chap. In our times, playtime has been elongated and extended by various aids, if you chap. This year and brand new we shall shine a shtikel light on the very interesting and somewhat puzzling instructions the RBSO gave Moishe about where to meet Paroy and make freedom demands. Let us read Posik 15 (Shmois 7). Says the heylige Toirah:
לֵךְ אֶל־פַּרְעֹה בַּבֹּקֶר הִנֵּה יֹצֵא הַמַּיְמָה וְנִצַּבְתָּ לִקְרָאתוֹ עַל־שְׂפַת הַיְאֹר.
“Go to Paroy in the morning, as he is going out to the water; wait for him by the river’s brink.” Let’s set the scene: Before makas dam (plague of blood), the RBSO instructs Moishe to meet with Paroy, King of Egypt, by the Nile early in the morning. The purpose of this meeting is to order Paroy to allow the Yiddin to leave Mitzrayim and to warn him of the harsh plagues to be inflicted upon him and his people should he not respond favorably. A similar instruction -same place and time- is also stated before the plague of wild beasts (Shmois 8:20): “Then the LORD said to Moishe, ‘Rise up early in the morning and wait for Paroy, as he goes out to the water.'”
Efsher you’re wondering why the RBSO chose the bank of the Nile as a meeting place? Why not meet him in the King’s palace where most meetings would logically have taken place? Why would Paroy be at the Nile so early in the morning? Vus epes (why) did the RBSO want Moishe davka to meet Paroy at the river bank? Moreover, we know from the heylige Toirah that Moishe and Aharoin previously met with Paroy twice and both meetings were at the palace. What’s happening at the river bank? And why so early in the morning? As mentioned above, in both cases, the heylige Toirah is silent on why the RBSO chose that time and location. On the other hand, just last week we read how Paroy’s choshovah daughter Bisya went down to the Nile and just why: the heylige Toirah told us she went to the Nile to bathe (Shmois 2:5). So why did the RBSO decide that this meeting would take place at the Nile, rather than at the palace?
We don’t know because the heylige Toirah does not share its rational for the choice of venue. Ober this odd instruction and location did not escape inquiring minds of the medrish, the heylige Gemora and others. Our exegetes were all over it. An initial logical and even compelling reason is that preference was given to the place where the plague was to be inflicted in order to lend the threatening message greater credence. Avada we recall that the plague of blood was inflicted upon the water of the Nile. That’s good but why was the plague of wild beasts also foretold at the river bank? More on that efsher later.
Let us begin with Rashi who (based on the medrish) amusingly tells us azoy: הנה יצא המימה – לנקביו, שהיה עושה עצמו אלוה ואומר שאינו צריך לנקביו ומשכים ויוצא לנילוס ועושה שם צרכיו.
“Behold, he goes out to the water” (this means) to relieve himself. He made himself out to be a god and (so) he said that he had no need to relieve himself. Therefore, he woke early and he went out to the Nile and accomplished his needs (secretly). Paroy pretended to be a god; one manifestation of his godliness was that he did not have to relieve himself, a physical act that indicates the inferiority of human beings. In order to conceal his human nature from his servants in the royal palace and from his people, he would get up early and relieve himself secretly in the Nile or among the vegetation by the riverside. Paroy peed or worse in the river; fartig! If nothing else, this pshat offers a rather farcical image of an egomaniac so bent on claiming divine status that he must go to great lengths to hide his humanity. Ober, is this pshat? Ver veyst? It’s certainly the only one they taught us in yeshiva and anyone who went through the yeshiva system is familiar with this Rashi. Paroy played make-believe god. Moreover, Rashi’s understanding remains popular until this very day.
Ober do all agree? Seemingly not and Rashi’s own grandson, the Rashbam does not; he says azoy:
כדרך השרים לטייל בבקר ולרכוב אנה ואנה.
“As is the custom of princes, in order to take a stroll in the morning or to ride (a horse) hither and thither.” In other words: Paroy simply had gone down to the water on a stroll. More on horse-riding below. And says the Ibn Ezra that Paroy went down to the Nile because that was his job. “Go to Paroy in the morning.” The custom of the king of Egypt to this day is to go out in the months of Tammuz and Av, because it is then the Nile rises, (and he goes) to see how much it has risen. It’s that simple: He went there to record the Nile’s height during the annual inundation.
לך אל פרעה בבקר. מנהג מלך מצרים עד היום לצאת בתמוז ואב כי אז יגדל היאור לראות כמה מעלות
Wait! The heylige Ois dug up additional rationales for the river bank venue. Interestingly, not a one agrees with Rashi‘s view that Paroy went down to relieve himself. Oib azoy, if there are more logical answers proffered what would compel Rashi to suggest that Paroy peed in the Nile? Was Rashi ahead of his time and aware that most men pee in the shower, in , and certainly in the river and or the ocean? It’s taka universally accepted that Rashi was a genius, ober why offer that single pshat where Paroy is a god in his own mind and needed to relive himself only privately?
Shoin, before we tackle Rashi, let’s read a few other explanations proffered: Says Targum Neofiti (Admission: the heylige Ois never heard of this Targum before this week but did find out that he dates back to early to mid-1st millennium C.E.), azoy: why was Paroy at the river bank so early in the morning? It’s simple: he used the river to escape the desert heat: הוא נפק מתקוררה על נהרא
He went down to cool himself at the river. Ober, let us check in with Targum Yoinoson ben Uziel -he known for his wild imagination- who says azoy:
הא נפיק למפטור קוסמין עילוי מיא הי כאמגושא ותיתעתד לקדמותיה על גיף נהרא
Behold, he comes forth to observe divinations at the water as a magician (lit. as a magus); prepare yourself to meet him on the bank of the river. And says the Gemora (Moied Koton 18a): Avitul the scribe said in the name of Rav <Pappa>: “The Paroy in the days of Moishe was a magician (lit. a magus) as it is said (Shmois 7:15): ‘Behold, he goes out to the water, etc.”
ואמר אביטול ספרא משמיה דרב <פפא> פרעה שהיה בימי משה אמגושי היה שנאמר (שמות ז) הנה יוצא המימה וגו
Shoin, Paroy was a sorcerer and he ventured out to the Nile early in the morning for purposes of sorcery. Ober does the heylige Toirah tell us that Paroy was a sorcerer? It does not? Why would the heylige Gemora conclude otherwise? Because he is cited as taken counsel with his sorcerers and using their magic knowledge (Shmois 7:11-12; 7:22; 8:3). Says Targum Yoinoson (Shmois 1:15; 7:11). that Jannes and Jambres were Paroy’s chief sorcerers, and they contended with Moishe and Aharoin. Exactly what that means, ver veyst? Ober says the heylige Gemora Yirushalmi, the Targum Yerushalmi II and the Targum Neofiti that Paroy went to the river to cool himself. That’s it? Yes! He would bathe in the river in the early morning when the water was cool and pleasant. Paroy was there for morning ablutions. And why not? Isn’t that why his daughter went? Seemingly, the Nile may have been the family pool. And if that’s the case, we can also chap why Rashi suggests he peed in the family pool; doesn’t everyone? Settled? Not yet because says the medrish (Shekel Ṭov Bereishis 41), azoy: Paroy went to the Nile to worship it: From whence (do we know) that the Nile was his (Paroy’s) god? Because it says “He goes out to the water, and you (Moishe) shall stand on the bank of the Nile.
ומנין שהיאור הוא אלהיו,
שנא’ הנה יוצא המימה ונצבת לקראתו על שפת היאור
Says the Medrish (Shmois Rabbah 9:9) azoy: Paroy worshiped the Nile and because he did so, the RBSO first struck his deity; take that!
לָמָּה לָקוּ הַמַּיִם תְּחִלָּה בְּדָם, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁפַּרְעֹה וְהַמִּצְרִיִּים עוֹבְדִים לַיְאוֹר.
Ober listen to this amusing pshat offered by Ibn Caspi who proposes that Moishe was asked to meet Paroy by the Nile, where he was accustomed to playing ball with his entourage. Ball? In Tiras Kesef (Silver Castle – Interpretation of the Torah’s Secrets) he writes: Notably, the King of Egypt only left his house on Tuesdays and Shabbis, when he would go in the morning to a known spacious area by the Nile to play with a little ball with his horsemen and ministers. Polo? And thus it was said: “Confront him on the bank of the Nile”, because in my opinion Moishe came to him on a small ship on the Nile and spoke to him, as Paroy was standing by the riverside, and when he finished speaking he went his way.
And say the Bechor Shor and Chizkuni that Paroy would get up early to go hunting using birds of prey. Hunting with birds was a common professional sport among the nobility in medieval times.
Let’s try another simple pshat offered by the Medrish Lekach Tov (also called Pesikta Zutra), who brings additional explanations concerning the time of the encounter. According to one explanation, the reason for meeting in this way was technical: “Since [Paroy] would say to Moishe: I do not have the time to listen to you, the Holy One Blessed be He said to him: When he goes to the river catch him and confront him, where he cannot avoid you.” In other words: Moishe taka had intended to meet Paroy at his palace, but Paroy avoided him claiming he had no time to meet. The RBSO gave Moishe inside information on his daily routine and shoin. According to another medrish, no one had free access to the monarch. Says the medrish (Yalkut Shimoni) that the Egyptian palace had four hundred entrances, each one of them guarded by beasts of prey, such as lions or bears. Hence, the RBSO tipped Moishe off that during the mornings Paroy leaves the palace and heads out to the Nile; Moishe should avoid confrontation at the palace gates and meet him privately. Medrish tells us that riverside, Paroy could not avoid Moishe and was forced to listen to his demands.
According to another explanation offered by the medrish, Paroy would go down to the Nile in the early morning hours to “instruct his servants and his people on repairing the Nile.” As part of the preparations for the flooding of the Nile, one of Paroy’s responsibilities was to urge Egyptian farmers to make sure that the canals were in working order so that the water would reach the distant plots and the crops would grow well. The role and duty of the Egyptian ruler to feed his people is deduced from the story of the seven-year period of drought and famine. During the seven years of abundance, Yoisef collected all the food grown in the fields surrounding the cities and stored up huge quantities of grain. Want more?
Let’s try this next idea: R. Avrohom ben Yaakov Saba claims that Paroy went to the Nile in association with ritual ceremonies held by Egyptian kings at the riverside. He writes: In the book of royal etiquette on Egyptian conduct, in the fourth part, it says that Egypt’s kings would go to the Nile twice a month -at the beginning of the moon and when it was full- to offer the monthly sacrifices and [Paroy] would leave before the sun rose […] and about this it is written “early in the morning.”
Have we have previously come across celebrations and other ritual ceremonies of the Nile? Indeed so, and let us harken back to Yoisef and Mrs. Potiphar, she the seductress who wanted Yoisef but yelled rape after he rebuffed her advances. And? Says the medrish (Shmois Rabbah), azoy: Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce Yoisef when Potiphar’s household went to the Nile celebrations and she found herself alone with her love interest. Other Egyptian writings confirm (in their own exegeses) that the Nile was worshiped as a god, or as a fertility ritual to pray for sufficient water. Fertility? The ritual was conducted by Paroy in the early morning, at the beginning and middle of the month (full moon). It makes sense that Moishe was instructed to meet Paroy during this ritual in order to express the RBSO’s reservations regarding the divine status awarded to the Nile.
Speaking of fertility and Paroy’s role in such festivities, in researching what may have gone down at the Nile the heylige Ois found this. It’s not a medrish or even a Jewish site, but, very entertaining nonetheless -and perhaps just as logical as offered by others. Some historians believe that ancient Egyptians held a festival around masturbating into their most famous body of water, the Nile River. The source of all creation -according to this approach- was believed to have come from Atum’s (some mythical god) ejaculation. Ancient Egyptians were giving thanks and appeasing the gods by reenacting the story of life. They knew very well of the life-giving properties of semen; seemingly they used their own as a parallel for the life-giving properties of the Nile. The masturbation ceremony involved the pharaohs and other males. Each year, during the feast of Min (the annual festival to celebrate the continued rule of a pharaoh), the general public would accompany the pharaoh to the shores of the River Nile where the ceremony was to take place. On reaching the river Nile, the pharaoh was required to take off his robe and begin to masturbate. While pleasuring himself by the river bank, he had to ensure that the semen from his ejaculation poured directly into the river. During the process, the rest of the men with the pharaoh would join in on the masturbation and ejaculate into the river as well. Because of this mythology, the inhabitants of the land were convinced that the masturbation ceremony was the source of their livelihood. They believed that as the semen dropped on the waters and flowed along with the waves, so would the land flow with an abundance of life and a great harvest for the people of the land. Well, blow me down and let’s chazir that last pshat one more time: according to this source, Paroy did not necessarily make his way to the river early mornings to pee, but to donate other liquids from the same member: to ejaculate into the Nile: Shoin, no wonder -that according to a source we mentioned above- he went to check on the Nile’s growth. Why did the Paroy masturbate into the river? To keep the waters, life itself, and prosperity coming. Nu, mistama you think the heylige Ois is in-gantzin mishugah (crazy) and that the omicron affected his brain cells, but this is what he found and feel free to check it out here https://medium.com/lessons-from-history/why-did-the-pharaoh-masturbate-into-the-river-65adb08cd0ff. If you’re really bold check it out here too: early Egyptian myth goes and a number of other links on this very topic. The bottom line: in ancient Egypt, masturbation was a holy ritual that was believed to bring good fortune to the land. WARNING: you’ll need to be very convincing if chapped b’shas myseh (in the act).
And now Raboyseyee, you chap why the RBSO commanded the Yiddin (Vayikro 18:3) as follows: “You shall not copy the practices of the land of Egypt where you dwelt, or of the land of Canaan to which I am taking you; nor shall you follow their laws.”
The bottom line on why Paroy went to the Nile and what do we know with certainty? Not much! Why did Paroy go down to the Nile? Why did the RBSO instruct Moishe to surprise him there? Ver veyst? We know this: Various exegetical explanations for Paroy’s morning presence at the Nile fit into broad categories: 1) mundane purposes (relieving himself, bathing, performing daily ablutions, leisure, measuring (and pleasuring the Nile), 2) religious purposes (magic, divination, worshiping the Nile), or 3) literary reasons. Some of these are polemical in nature, others merely explanatory. Different sages had varying opinions; pick the pshat that talks to you.
A gittin Shabbis and Choidesh Shvat!
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv