ridge-in defense of moses (con't)

  1. 5,748 Posts.
    Aug. 27, 2003
    In defense of Moses, By Moshe Kohn

    The dean of Al-Zaqaziq University's School of Law, Dr. Nabil Hilmi, and a group of Egyptian expatriates in Switzerland are preparing to sue "all the Jews of the world and the Jews of Israel in particular" for compensation for the wealth the Bible says the Jews "stole" when Moses led them out of Egypt 34 centuries ago (Jerusalem Post, August 22).

    Hilmi kindly offered to let us pay in installments over 1,000 years with interest, of course.
    It seems that where it suits Bible-deniers like Muslims who deny that the Jews have a history whose first stages are described in the Torah, those deniers quote that same Torah when the quotation presumably shows our bad side.

    It also seems that where the Jews are concerned, Muslims are prepared to violate Islamic law by taking interest.

    Be that as it may, it is interesting to note the outcome of a similar suit brought by the Egyptians some twenty-three-and-a-half centuries ago, in which the plaintiffs also based themselves on the Torah.

    I will here give a composite of three slightly varying records of that lawsuit, which appear in Megillat Taanit, chapter 3; Talmud tractate Sanhedrin 91a; and Midrash Bereshit Rabba 41:7.

    When the world conqueror Alexander of Macedonia was in our region, the Ishmaelites, Canaanites, and Egyptians appeared before him to challenge the Jewish people's rights.

    The Jewish leaders, fearful of the consequences, were unable to decide who should present the case of the Jews. Finally, one Geviha, son of Pesissa, volunteered, saying: "If I succeed, you will be able to say the case according to the Torah was so clear-cut that even a nobody like Geviha was able to win. If I fail, you will be able to appeal, saying: 'We were badly represented by an ignorant nobody.'" (...Good thinking 97.............Snooker)

    The Ishmaelites were the first to speak: "Your majesty, our suit is based on their Torah, which says (Deuteronomy 21: 15-17), 'If a man has two wives, one of whom he loves and the other he hates, and his firstborn son is the child of the hated wife when the time comes that he assigns his possessions as an inheritance to his sons he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the hated wife, by giving him a double portion of all he possesses ' Accordingly, Abraham's firstborn son Ishmael, son of Hagar, Abraham's hated wife, is nonetheless entitled to a double portion of Abraham's inheritance [including the Promised Land]."

    Alexander told Geviha to respond. He said: "Since the Ishmaelites cite the Torah, I will also do so. Your majesty, isn't it true that while a man still lives he may dispose of his property as he wishes?" Alexander agreed. And Geviha continued: "The Torah reports (Genesis 25: 5-6), 'And Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. But to the sons of the concubines Abraham gave gifts, and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country.' "
    The Ishmaelites had no rebuttal and withdrew shamefacedly.

    NOW THE Canaanites stepped forward and demanded that what the Torah many times refers to as "the Land of Canaan" be returned to them. Geviha responded: "Your majesty, isn't it true that whatever a slave possesses belongs to his master?"
    Alexander and the Canaanite plaintiffs conceded this point [remember: We are in the third century BCE].

    Geviha continued: "Well, the same Torah that the plaintiffs cite also says (Genesis 9: 24-25): 'When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, 'Cursed be Canaan; a slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers.'"

    The Canaanites had no rebuttal and left shamefacedly.
    Now it was the turn of the Egyptians. They said: "According to their Torah, 600,000 people [Exodus 12: 40-41 and 38: 36] left our country loaded with our silver and gold [Exodus 12: 35-36]. 'And the Children of Israel did as Moses had told them, and they asked of the Egyptians jewelry of silver and of gold, and clothing. And God gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked; and they despoiled the Egyptians.' That being so," the Egyptians said, "we demand the return of the silver and gold the Jews took from us."

    Geviha responded: "Your majesty, 600,000 people slaved for the Egyptians for 210 years [Midrash Bereshit Rabba 91:2]. The slaves included silversmiths and goldsmiths, whose standard pay today is one dinar a day. We demand the money due to the Jewish people."

    The Egyptian philosophers calculated that indemnifying the Jews would leave the Egyptians bankrupt in less than 100 years, and the plaintiffs left shamefacedly.

    ALL THIS happened on the 25th day of the month of Sivan, which in talmudic times was marked as a semi-holiday on which all mourning practices were forbidden. So much for Hilmi's suit and for his ancestors' suit of 24 centuries ago.

    Today the Jewish people might sue Egypt and, to use his terminology, "all the Muslims of the world and the Muslims of Egypt in particular" for all the Jewish blood the Egyptians and our other Arab neighbors and their allies have shed in the past 85 years out of sheer hatred, and all the Jewish property they have damaged out of sheer malice.

    But better than these suits and countersuits would be those Arabs and Muslims forsaking their demonology and joining the civilized world, such as it is.

    The writer is a veteran commentator for The Jerusalem Post.

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