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Monday, February 14, 2011

Are Egyptians the Same Egyptians as in Biblical Times?

Anonymous commented on my previous post: "the Egypt the Torah is saying is gone forever, the actual egyptians are completely a different race of people."

Are Egyptians the same Egyptians as in Biblical times or are they completely different?

It seems to be a Mahloket Tana'im and a Mahloket Rishonim.
Tosefta Kiddushin 5:4 quotes Ribbi Akiva who (unlike Ribbi Yehuda) says that they are not the same, and they were dispersed by Sanheiriv (really, Nevuchadnetzar - see Tosafot Megilla 12b ד"ה זיל).  And since the majority of the world is non-Mitzri, we'll apply the law כל דפריש מרובא פריש and allow them.
On the other hand, Tosefta Yadayim 2:8, which talks about the Mitzri side of the Mishna Yadayim 4:4 (see Tiferet Yisrael there), says that since the Egyptians were given a set time to return (40 years - see Yehezkel 29:13), they are different than Ammon, which were given an indefinite return date.  Therefore, they returned already.
The Tur (Even Ha'ezer 4) brings down the Rambam, who agrees with Ribbi Akiva, but also brings down his father, the Rosh, who says that the Egyptians are the same.  The Magid Mishneh says that the Ramban agrees with the Rosh.  (At issue is whether one may marry a first- or second-generation Egyptian convert nowadays.)  The Ba"h agrees with the Rambam.
The Shulhan Aruch (Even Ha'ezer 4:10) also brings down both opinions.  See the Ba"sh and the Gr"a there.

I welcome comments from those who have more halachic knowledge about this subject.


At Tue Feb 15, 01:46:00 AM 2011, Blogger Akiva said...

It's an interesting question but I don't see the relevance. The navi'im wrote their prophecies in the words and descriptions of their times (the only words they had available), so therefore events that will happen in the Land of Egypt are written about in Egypt. And those in today's Jordan are Moav, and in Iraq are Babylon, or in Lebanon written about Tyre.

Do we expect to open a navi and read about "the skyscrapers of New York City and the Onion Domes of Moscow?" when such places didn't yet exist?

At Tue Feb 15, 08:11:00 AM 2011, Anonymous S. said...

At Wed Feb 16, 03:51:00 AM 2011, Blogger Dov Bar-Leib said...

I happen to think that it does matter if the present population of Egypt is the same as the one from ancient times. The prophesy in Isaiah 19 obviously refers to a pagan Egypt and not a Muslim one, for one. Since the condition of this prophesy was only effective before the Islamic invasion, the prophesy itself must have already occurred in ancient times. Also the Targum Yonatan on the last vision of Moshe Rabbeinu before his passing on Har Nevo, explicitly says that the Moavites and the Ammonites will be the foreign inhabitants of the Land of Israel at the End of Days, particularly not in the "Maishrah" which is a specific reference to Gaza. Therefore the PA Arabs in Judea and Samaria are indeed from Ammon and Moav, and any end time prophesy about Ammon and Moav applies to them. As far as Egypt is concerned, it has been invaded and overrun at least four times since Isaiah prophesied about them. (Ashur, Bavel, Yavan, and Mohamad). With Ashur large portions of the Population were moved to another place. Under Yavan, Alexandria and other places had huge influxes of Greek peoples. And of course with Mohamad there was a huge influx of Mohamadens from the Arabian Peninsula. What percentage of the people are from the ancient Mitzri or in Arabic Masri people is difficult to guess. I do know thow that Masri is the most common last name in Gaza by far. So perhaps there are a significant number of Mitri'im that are left in Egypt and in Gaza. In Gaza's case of course they were simply trying to return home in 1948 when King Farouk closed the border, trapping them in Gaza. In Egypt there may still be a large Masri presence, but if they were to turn to paganism as is specifically mentioned in Isaiah 19:3, they would be summarily executed by Sharia Law. Verse 3 is simply not happening. Plus the Targum Yonatan on that verse simply translates these pagan practices into Aramaic. As a matter of fact he does not digress on the prophesy and specifically explain it in the context of the End of Days. If it had relevence now, he would have said so. I think, therefore, that any End Times prophesy about Egypt has to be subsumed into a prophesy or medrash about Yishmael since he is spriritually running the show in Egypt and not the pagans of Isaiah 19.


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