Part 1 out of 7

Prepared by David Reed or







"When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a People
of strange language, Jacob was His sanctuary and Israel His
dominion. Jewish legend attempts to describe how God's
sanctuary, the religion of Israel and His dominion, the beginnings
of Israel as a nation, arose in the time between the Exodus from
Egypt and the entrance into the Holy Land.

Moses is regarded not only as the greatest religious guide of Israel,
but also as its first national leader; he is "the wisest (If the wise,
the father of the prophets," as well as " king in Jeshiurun, when the
heads of the people and the tribes of Israel gathered together."
hence his unique position in Jewish legend, neither Abraham, the
friend of God, nor Solomon, the wisest of all men, nor Elijah, the
helper in time of need. can lay claim to such a position.

Great religious and national institutions like the Sabbath, the
sanctuary, and many other " commandments of God revealed to
Moses " stand in a special relation to his life and work. The
sanctification of the Sabbath became quite a living thing to him
through the miracle of the Manna, and the first sanctuary was
actually erected by Moses. The life of Moses ceased, therefore, to
be a thing of the past and became closely interwoven with the
every-day life of the nation.

The most natural way for the popular mind to connect existing
conditions with the past is the symbolic method. The present
volume contains, therefore, a number of symbolic explanations of
certain laws, as, for instance, the symbolical significance of the
Tabernacle, which, properly speaking, do not belong to the domain
of legend. The life of Moses, as conceived by Jewish legend,
would, however, have been in complete if the lines between
Legend and Symbolism had been kept too strictly. With this
exception the arrangement and presentation of the material in the
third volume is the same as that in the two preceding ones.

NEW YORK, March 2, 1911

The Long Route--Pharaoh Pursues the Hebrews--The Sea Divided
--The Passage through the Red Sea--The Destruction of the
Fgyptians--The Song at the Sea-- The Awful Desert--The Heavenly
Food--The Gathering of the Manna--Miriam' s Well--Aniaiek's
War against Israel Amalek Defeated Jethro Installation of Elders--
Jethro Rewarded--The Time is at Hand--The Gentiles Refuse the
Torah The Contest of the Mountains--The Torah Offered to
Israel-- Israel Prepares for the Revelation--The Revelation on
Mount Sinai--The First Commandment--The Other
Commandments Revealed on Sinai-- The Unity of the Ten
Commandments--Moses Chosen as Intermediator--Moses and the
Angels Strive for the Torah--Moses Receives the Torah--The
Golden Calf--Moses Blamed for Israel's Sin--The Punishment of
the Sinners-- Moses Intercedes for the People--The Inscrutable
Ways of the Lord--The Thirteen Attributes of God--The Second
Tables--The Census of the People--The Erection of the Tabernacle
Commanded--The Materials for the Construction of theTabernacle
--Bezalel--The Ark with the Cherubim--The Table and the
Candlestick--The Altar--The Symbolical Significance of the
Tabernacle--The Priestly Robes--The Stones in the
Breastplate--The Completion of the Tabernacle--The Setting up of
the Tabernacle--The Consecration of the Priests--The Day of the
Ten Crowns--The Interrupted Joy--The Gifts of the Princes--The
Revelations in theTabernacle--The Cleansing of the Camp--The
Lighting of the Candlestick--The Twelve Princes of the Tribes--
The Census of the Levites--The Four Divisions of the Levites--The
Four Standards--Thc Camp--The BIasphemer and the
Sabbath-breaker--The Ungrateful Multitude--The Flesh-pots of
Egypt--The Appointment of the Seventy Elders--Eldad and Medad
--The Quails--Aaron and Miriam Slander Moses--Miriam's
Punishment--The Sending of the Spies--Significant Names--The
Spies in Palestine--The Slanderous Report--The Night of Tears--
Ingratitude Punished--The Years of Disfavor--The Rebellion of
Korah--Korah Abuses Moses and the Torah Moses Pleads in Vain
with Korah--Korah and His Horde Punished--On and the Three
Sons of Korah Saved--Israel Convinced of Aaron's Priesthood--The
Waters of Meribah--Moses' Anger Causes His Doom--Edom's
Unbrotherly Attitude toward Israel--The Three
Shepherds--Preparing Aaron for Impending Death--Aaron's
Death--The General Mourning for Aaron--The False Friends--The
Brazen Serpent--At Arnon--Sihon, the King of the Amorites--The
Giant Og--Moses' Speech of Admonition--Balak, King of
Moab--Balaam, the Heathen Prophet--Balak's Messengers to
Bahaam-- Balaam Accepts Balak's Invitation--Baiaam's Ass--
Balaam Runs into His Own Destruction--Balaam with Balak
Balaam's Sacrifices Refused--Balaam Extols Israel--Balaam's
Hopes Disappointed--Curses Turned into Blessings--Balaam's
Wicked Counsel--Phinehas, Zealous for God--Twelve
Miracles--Phinehas Rewarded--The Daughters of Zelophmehad
The appointment of Joshua--Moses' Legacy to Joshua--Moses' last
campaign--The Complete Annihilation of Midian--The Gruesome
End of Balaam-- The Victorious Return from the War--Wealth that
Bringeth Destruction--Moses' Death Irrevocably Doomed--Moses
Prayer for Suspension of Judgment--God Tries to Comfort Moses
Concerning His Death--The Intercessions for Moses--Moses
Serves Joshua--The Last Day of Moses' Life--Moses Beholds the
Future--Moses Meets the Messiah in Heaven--The Last Hours of
Moses The Blessing of Moses--Moses Prays for Death--Samuel
Chastised by Moses--God Kisses Moses' Soul--The Mourning for
Moses--Samuel's Vain Search--Moses Excels All Pious Men.


The Legends of the Jews Volume III
Bible Times and Characters from the Exodus to the Death of


The exodus would have been impossible if Joseph's bones had
remained behind. Therefore Moses made it his concern to seek
their resting-place, while the people had but the one thought of
gathering in the treasures of the Egyptians. [1] But it was not an
easy matter to find Joseph's body. Moses knew that he had been
interred in the mausoleum of the Egyptian kings, but there were so
many other bodies there that it was impossible to identify it.
Moses' mother Jochebed came to his aid. She led him to the very
spot where Joseph's bones lay. As soon as he came near them, he
knew them to be what he was seeking, by the fragrance they
exhaled and spread around. [2] But his difficulties were not at an
end. The question arose, how he was to secure possession of the
remains. Joseph's coffin had been sunk far down into the ground,
and he knew not how to raise it from the depths. Standing at the
edge of the grave, he spoke these words. "Joseph, the time hath
come whereof thou didst say, 'God will surely visit you, and ye
shall carry up my bones from hence.'" No sooner had this reminder
dropped from his lips than the coffin stirred and rose to the

And even yet the difficulties in Moses' way were not removed
wholly. The Egyptian magicians had stationed two golden dogs at
Joseph's coffin, to keep watch,. and they barked vehemently if
anyone ventured close to it. The noise they made was so loud it
could be heard throughout the land, from end to end, a distance
equal to a forty day's journey. When Moses came near the coffin,
the dogs emitted their warning sound, but he silenced them at once
with words, "Come, ye people, and behold the miracle! The real,
live dogs did not bark, and these counterfeit dogs produced by
magic attempt it!" [3] What he said about real, live dogs and their
refraining from barking had reference to the fact that the dogs of
the Egyptians did not move their tongues against any of the
children of Israel, through they had barked all the time the people
were engaged in burying the bodies of their smitten first-born. As a
reward God gave the Israelites the law, to cast to the dogs the flesh
they themselves are forbidden to eat, for the Lord withholds due
recompense from none of His creatures. [4] Indeed, the dogs
received a double reward, for their excrements are used in tanning
the hides from which the Torah scrolls are made, as well as the
Mezuzot and the phylacteries. [5]

Joseph's coffin in the possession of Moses, the march of the
Israelites could begin. The Egyptians put no manner of obstacle in
their way. Pharaoh himself accompanied them, to make sure that
they were actually leaving the land, [6] and now he was so angry at
his counselors for having advised against letting the Israelites
depart that he slew them. [7]

For several reasons God did not permit the Israelites to travel
along the straight route to the promised land. He desired them to
go to Sinai first and take the law upon themselves there, and,
besides, the time divinely appointed for the occupation of the land
by the Gentiles had not yet elapsed. Over and above all this, the
long sojourn in the wilderness was fraught with profit for the
Israelites, spiritually and materially. If they had reached Palestine
directly after leaving Egypt, they would have devoted themselves
entirely each to the cultivation of his allotted parcel of ground, and
no time would have been left for the study of the Torah. In the
wilderness they were relieved of the necessity of providing for
their daily wants, and they would give all their efforts to acquiring
the law. On the whole, it would not have been advantageous to
process at once to the Holy Land and take possession thereof, for
when the Canaanites heard that the Israelites were making for
Palestine, they burnt the crops, felled the trees, destroyed the
buildings, and choked the water springs, all in order to render the
land uninhabitable. Hereupon God spake, and said: "I did not
promise their fathers to give a devastated land unto their see, but a
land full of all good things. I will lead them about in the
wilderness for forty years, and meanwhile the Canaanites will have
time to repair the damage they have done." [8] Moreover, the
many miracles preformed for the Israelites during the journey
through the wilderness had made their terror to fall upon the other
nations, and their hearts melted, and there remained no more spirit
in any man. They did not venture to attack the Israelites, and the
conquest of the land was all the easier. [9]

Nor does this exhaust the list of reasons for preferring the longer
route through the desert. Abraham had sworn a solemn oath to live
at peace with the Philistines during a certain period, and the end of
the term had not yet arrived. Besides, there was the fear that the
sight of the land of the Philistines would awaken sad recollections
in the Israelites, and drive them back into Egypt speedily, for once
upon a time it had been the scene of a bitter disappointment to
them. they had spent one hundred and eighty years in Egypt, in
peace and prosperity, not in the least molested by the people.
Suddenly Ganon came, a descendant of Joseph, of the tribe of
Ephraim, and he spake, "The Lord hat appeared unto me, and He
bade me lead you forth out of Egypt." The Ephraimites were the
only ones to heed his words. Proud of their royal lineage as direct
descendants of Joseph, and confident to their valor in war, for they
were great heroes, they left the land and betook themselves to
Palestine. [10] They Carried only weapons and gold and silver.
They had taken no provisions, because they expected to buy food
and drink on the way or capture them by force if the owners would
not part with them for money.

After a day's march they found themselves in the neighborhood of
Gath, at the place where the shepherds employed by the residents
of the city gathered with the flocks. the Ephraimites asked them to
sell them some sheep, which they expected to slaughter in order to
satisfy their hunger with them, but the shepherds refused to have
business dealings with them, saying, "Are the sheep ours, or does
the cattle belong to us, that we could part with them for money?"
Seeing that they could not gain their point by kindness, the
Ephraimites used force. The outcries of the shepherds brought the
people of Gath to their aid. A violent encounter, lasting a whole
day, took place between the Israelites and the Philistines. The
people of Gath realized that alone they would not be able to offer
successful resistance to the Ephraimites, and they summoned the
people of the other Philistine cities to join them. The following
day an army of forty thousand stood ready to oppose the
Ephraimites. Reduced in strength, as they were, by their three days'
fast, they were exterminated root and branch. Only ten of them
escaped with their bare life, and returned to Egypt, to bring
Ephraim word of the disaster that had overtaken his posterity, and
he mourned many days.

This abortive attempt of the Ephraimites to leave Egypt was the
first occasion for oppressing Israel. Thereafter the Egyptians
exercised force and vigilance to keep them in their land. As for the
disaster of the Ephraimites, it was well-merited punishment,
because they had paid no heed to the wish of the father Joseph,
who had adjured his descendants solemnly on his deathbed not to
think of quitting the land until the redeemer should appear. Their
death was followed by disgrace, for their bodies lay unburied for
many years on the battlefield near Gath, and the purpose of God in
directing the Israelites to choose the longer route from Egypt to
Canaan, was to spare them the sight of those dishonored corpses.
Their courage might have deserted them, and out of apprehension
of sharing the fate of their brethren they might have hastened back
to the land of slavery. [11]


When Pharaoh permitted Israel to depart, he was under the
impression that they were going only a three days' journey into the
wilderness for the purpose of offering sacrifices. He sent officers
with them, whose duty was to bring them back at the appointed
time. The exodus took place on a Thursday. On the following
Sunday the king's watchers noticed that the Israelites, so far from
preparing for a return, were making arrangements looking to a
long sojourn in the desert. They remonstrated and urged them to go
back. The Israelites maintained that Pharaoh had dismissed them
for good, but the officers would not be put off with their mere
assertions. They said, "Willy-nilly, you will have to do as the
powers that be command." To such arrogance the Israelites would
not submit, and they fell upon the officers, slaying some and
wounding others. The maimed survivors went back to Egypt, and
report the contumacy of the Israelites to Pharaoh. Meantime
Moses, who did not desire the departure of his people to have the
appearance of flight before the Egyptians, gave the signal to turn
back to Pi-hahiroth. Those of little faith among the Israelites tore
their hair and their garments in desperation, though Moses assured
them that by the word of God they were free men, and no longer
slaves to Pharaoh. [12] Accordingly, they retraced their steps to
Pi-hahiroth, where two rectangular rocks form an opening, within
which the great sanctuary of Baal-zephon was situated. The rocks
are shaped like human figures, the one a man and the other a
woman, and they were not chiseled by human hands, but by the
Creator Himself. The place had been called Pithom in earlier
times, but later, on account of the idols set up there, it received the
name Hahiroth. Of set purpose God had left Baal-zephon
uninjured, alone of all the Egyptian idols. He wanted the Egyptian
people to think that this idol was possessed of exceeding might,
which it exercised to prevent the Israelites from journeying on. To
confirm them in their illusory belief, God caused wild beasts to
obstruct the road to the wilderness, and they took it for granted
that their idol Baal-zephon had ordained their appearance. [13]

Pi-hahiroth was famous, besides, on account of the treasures
heaped up there. The wealth of the world which Joseph had
acquired through the sale of corn he had stored up during the seven
years of plenty, he had divided into three parts. The first part he
surrendered to Pharaoh. The second part he concealed in the
wilderness, where it was found by Korah, though it disappeared
again, not to come to view until the Messianic time, and then it
will be for the benefit of the pious. The third part Joseph hid in the
sanctuary of Baal-zephon, whence the Hebrews carried it off as
booty. [14]

When Amalek and the magicians brought the information to
Pharaoh, that the Israelites had resolved not to return to Egypt, his
heart and the heart of his whole people turned against them. The
very counselors that had persuaded him to dismiss the children of
Israel spake now as follows: " If we had only been smitten with the
plaques, we could have resigned ourselves to our fate. Or if,
besides being smitten with the plagues, we had been compelled to
let the Hebrews depart from the land, that, too, we could have been
borne with patience. But to be smitten with the plagues, to be
compelled to let our slaves depart from us, and to sit by and see
them go off with our riches, that is more than we can endure."

Now that the children of Israel had gone from them the Egyptians
recognized how valuable an element they had been in their
country. In general, the time of the exodus of Israel was disastrous
for their former masters. In addition to losing their dominion over
the Israelites, the Egyptians had to deal with mutinies that broke
out among many other nations tributary to them, for hitherto
Pharaoh had been the ruler of the whole world. The king resorted
to blandishments and promises, to induce the people to make war
against the Israelites, saying, "As a rule the army marches forth
first, and the king follows in security, but I will precede you; and
as a rule the king has the first choice of the booty, and as much of
it as he desires, but I will take no more than any one of you, and on
my return from the war I will divide my treasures of silver, gold,
and precious stones among you."

In his zeal Pharaoh did not wait to have his chariot made ready for
him he did it with his own hands, and his nobles followed his
example. [15] Samael granted Pharaoh assistance, putting six
hundred chariots manned with his own hosts at his disposal. [16]
These formed the vanguard, and they were joined by all the
Egyptians, with their vast assemblages of chariots and warriors, no
less than three hundred of their men to one of the children of
Israel, each equipped with their different sorts of weapons. The
general custom was for two charioteers to take turns at driving a
car, but to overtake the Israelites more surely and speedily,
Pharaoh ordered three to be assigned to each. The result was that
they covered in one day the ground which it had taken the
Israelites three to traverse.

The mind of the Egyptians was in no wise directed toward spoil
and plunder in this expedition. Their sole and determined purpose
was to exterminate Israel, kith and kin. As the heathen lay great
stress upon omens when they are about to start out on a campaign,
God caused all their preparations to proceed smoothly, without the
slightest untoward circumstance. Everything pointed to a happy
issue. [17] Pharaoh, himself an adept in magic, had a presentiment
that dire misfortune would befall the children of Israel in the
wilderness, that they would lose Moses there, and there the whole
generation that had departed from Egypt would find its grave.
Therefore he spoke to Dathan and Abiram, who remained behind
in Egypt, saying: "Moses is leading them, but he himself knows not
whither. Verily, the congregation of Israel will lift up their voice in
the wilderness, and cry, and there they will be destroyed." He
thought naturally that these visions had reference to an imminent
future, to the time of his meeting with his dismissed slaves. But his
error was profound - he was hurrying forward to his own
destruction. [18]

When he reached the sanctuary of Baal-zephon, Pharaoh, in his joy
at finding him spared while all the other idols in Egypt had been
annihilated, lost no time, but hastened to offer sacrifices to him,
and he was comforted, "for," he said, "Baal-zephon approves my
purpose of drowning the children of Israel in the sea." [19]

When the Israelites beheld the huge detachments of the Egyptian
army moving upon them, and when they considered that in Migdol
there were other troops stationed, besides, more, indeed, than their
own numbers, men, women, and children all told, great terror
overwhelmed them. [20] What affrighted them most, was the sight
of the Angel of Egypt darting through the air as he flew to the
assistance of the people under his tutelage. They turned to Moses,
saying: "What has thou done to us? Now they will requite us for all
that hath happened - that their first-born were smitten, and that we
ran off with their money, which was thy fault, for thou didst bid up
borrow gold and silver from our Egyptian neighbors and depart
with their property."

The situation of the Israelites was desperate. Before them was the
sea, behind them the Egyptians, on both sides the wild beasts of
the desert. [21] The wicked among them spoke to Moses, saying,
"While we were in Egypt, we said to thee and to Aaron, 'The Lord
look upon you, and judge, because ye have made our savor to be
abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of his servants, to
put a sword in their hand to slay us.' Then there died many of our
brethren during the days of darkness, which was worse than the
bondage in which the Egyptians kept us. Nevertheless our fate in
the desert will be sadder than theirs. They at least were mourned,
and their bodies ere buried, but our corpses will lie exposed,
consumed in the day by drought and by frost in the night."

Moses in his wisdom knew how to pacify the thousands and
myriads under his leadership. He impressed them with the words,
"Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord." "When
will His salvation come?" questioned the people, and he told them
it would appear the following day, but they protested, "We cannot
wait until to-morrow." Then Moses prayed to God, and the Lord
showed him the angel hosts standing ready to hasten to the
assistance of the people. [22]

They were not agreed as to what they were to do. There were four
contending parties. The opinion of the first party was that they
seek death by drowning in the sea; of the second, that they return
to Egypt; the third was in favor of a pitched battle with the enemy,
and the fourth thought it would be a good plan to intimidate the
Egyptians by noise and a great hubbub. To the first Moses said,
"Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord;" to the second, "The
Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them again no
more forever;" to the third, "The Lord shall fight for you;" and to
the fourth, "Ye shall hold your peace." "What, then, shall we do?"
these asked their leader, and Moses answered them, saying, "Ye
shall bless, praise, extol, adore and glorify Him that is the Lord of
war!" Instead of the sword and the five sorts of arms which they
bore, they mad use of their mouth, and it was of greater avail than
all possible weapons of war. The Lord hearkened unto their prayer,
for which He had but been waiting. [23]

Moses also addressed himself to God, saying: "O Lord of the
world! I am like the shepherd who, having undertaken to pasture a
flock, has been heedless enough to drive his sheep to the edge of a
precipice, and then is in a despair how to get them down again.
Pharaoh is behind my flock Israel, in the south is Baal-zephon, in
the north Midgol, and before us the sea lies spread out. [24] Thou
knowest, O Lord, that it is beyond human strength and human
contrivance to surmount the difficulties standing in our way. Thine
alone is the work of procuring deliverance for this army, which left
Egypt at Thy appointment. We despair of all other assistance or
device, and we have recourse only to our hope in Thee. If there be
any escape possible, we look up to Thy providence to accomplish
it for us." [25] With such words Moses continued to make fervent
supplication to God to succor Israel in their need. But God cut
short his prayer, saying: "Moses, My children are in distress - the
sea blocks the way before them, the enemy is in hot pursuit after
them, and thou standest here and prayest. Sometimes long prayer is
good, but sometimes it is better to be brief. If I gathered the waters
together unto one place, and let the dry land appear for Adam, a
single human being, should I not do the same for this holy
congregation? I will save them if only for the sake of the merits of
Abraham, who stood ready to sacrifice his son Isaac unto Me, and
for the sake of My promise to Jacob. The sun and the moon are
witnesses that I will cleave the sea for the seed of the children of
Israel, who deserve My help for going after Me in the wilderness
unquestioningly. Do thou but see to it that they abandon their evil
thought of returning to Egypt, and then it will not be necessary to
turn to Me and entreat My help." [26]

Moses, however, was still very much troubled in mind, on account
of Samael, who had not left off lodging accusations before God
against Israel since the exodus from Egypt. The Lord adopted the
same procedure in dealing with the accuser as the experienced
shepherd, who, at the moment of transferring his sheep across a
stream, was faced by a ravening wolf. The shepherd threw a strong
ram to the wolf, and while the two engaged in combat, the rest of
the flock was carried across the water, and then the shepherd
returned and snatch the wolf's supposed prey away from him.
Samael said to the Lord: "Up to this time the children of Israel
were idol worshippers, and now Thou proposest so great a thing as
dividing the sea for them?" What did the Lord do? He surrendered
Job to Samael, saying, "While he busies himself with Job, Israel
will pass through the sea unscathed, and as soon as they are in
safety, I will rescue Job from the hands of Samael." [27]

Israel had other angel adversaries, besides. Uzza, the tutelary
Angel of the Egyptians, appeared before God, and said, "O Lord of
the world! I have a suit with this nation which Thou hast brought
forth out to Egypt. If it seemeth well to Thee, let their angel
Michael appear, and contend with me before Thee." The Lord
summoned Michael, and Uzza stated his charges against Israel: "O
Lord of the world! Thou didst decree concerning this people of
Israel that is hall be held in bondage by my people, the Egyptians,
for a period of four hundred years. But they had dominion over
them only eighty-six years, therefore the time of their going forth
hath not yet arrived. If it be Thy will, give me permission to take
them back to Egypt, that they may continue in slavery for the three
hundred and fourteen years that are left, and Thy word be fulfilled.
As Thou are immutable, so let Thy decree be immutable!"

Michael was silent, for he knew not how to controvert these words,
and it seemed as if Uzza had won his suit. But the Lord Himself
espoused the cause of Israel, and He said to Uzza: "The duty of
serving thy nation was laid upon My children only on account of
an unseemly word uttered by Abraham. When I spoke to him,
saying, 'I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees,
to give thee this land to inherit it,' he made answer, 'Whereby shall
I know that I shall inherit it?' Therefore did I say to him, 'Thy seed
shall be a stranger.' But it is well-known and manifest before Me
that they were 'strangers' from the day of Isaac's birth, and.
reckoning thence, the period of four hundred years has elapsed,
and thou hast no right to keep My children in bondage any longer."


God spake to Moses, saying, "Why dost thou stand here praying?
My children's prayer has anticipated thine. For thee there is naught
to do but lift up thy rod and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and
divide it." Moses replied: "Thou commandest me to divide the sea,
and lay bare the dry ground in the midst of it, and yet Thou didst
Thyself make it a perpetual decree, that the sand shall be placed
for the bound of the sea." And again God spake to Moses: "Thou
has not read the beginning of the Torah. I, yea, I, did speak, 'Let
the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place,
and let the dry land appear,' and at that time I made the condition
that the waters shall divide before Israel. [29] Take the rod that I
gave unto thee, and go to the sea upon Mine errand, and speak
thus: 'I am the messenger sent by the Creator of the world!
Uncover thy paths, O sea, for My children, that they may go
through the midst of thee on dry ground.'"

Moses spoke to the sea as God had bidden him, but it replied, "I
will not do according to thy words, for thou are only a man born of
woman, and, besides, I am three days older than thou, O man, for I
was brought forth on the third day of creation, and thou on the
sixth." Moses lost no time, but carried back to God the words the
sea has spoken, and the Lord said" "Moses, what does a master do
with an intractable servant?" "He beats him with a rod," said
Moses. "Do thus!" ordered God. "Lift up thy rod, and stretch out
thine hand over the sea and divide it." [30]

Thereupon Moses raised up his rod - the rod that had been created
at the very beginning of the world, on which were graven in plain
letters the great and exalted Name, the names of the ten plagues
inflicted upon the Egyptians, and the names of the three Fathers,
the six Mothers, and the twelve tribes of Jacob. This rod he lifted
up, and stretched it out over the sea. [31]

The sea, however, continued in its perverseness, and Moses
entreated God to give His command direct to it. But God refused,
saying: "Were I to command the sea to divide, it would never again
return to its former estate. Therefore, do thou convey My order to
it, that it be not drained dry forever. But I will let a semblance of
My strength accompany thee, and that will compel its obedience."
When the sea saw the Strength of God at the right hand of Moses,
it spoke to the earth saying, "Make hollow places for me, that I
may hide myself therein before the Lord of all created things,
blessed be He." Noticing the terror of the sea, Moses said to it:
"For a whole day I spoke to thee at the bidding of the Holy One,
who desired thee to divide, but thou didst refuse to pay heed to my
words; even when I showed thee my rod, thou didst remain
obdurate. What hath happened now that thou skippest hence?" The
sea replied, "I am fleeing, not before thee, but before the Lord of
all created things, that His Name be magnified in all the earth."
[32] And the waters of the Red Sea divided, and not they alone,
but all the waters in heaven and on earth, in whatever vessel it
was, in cisterns, in wells, in caves, in casks, in pitchers, in drinking
cups, and in glasses, and none of these waters returned to their
former estate until Israel has passed through the sea on dry land. [

The angel Gabriel was eager to drown the Egyptians during the
same night, but God bade him wait until early the next day, until
the hour of the morning watch, when Abraham had made himself
ready to set out for the sacrifice of his son. Gabriel succeeded,
however, in holding back the turbulent water about to sweep over
Israel. To the wall of water on the right, he called, "Beware of
Israel, who will receive the law in time to come from the right
hand of the Lord," and turning to the wall of water on the left, he
said, "Beware of Israel, who will wind the phylacteries about their
left hand in time to come." The water behind he admonished,
"Beware of Israel, who will let the Zizit drop down upon their back
in time to come," and to the water towering in front of them, he
called, "Beware of Israel, who bear the sign of the covenant upon
their bodies." [34]

God caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind, the wind He
always makes use of when He chastises the nations. The same east
wind had brought the deluge; it had laid the tower of Babel in
ruins; it was to cause the destruction of Samaria, Jerusalem, and
Tyre; and it will, in future, be the instrument for castigating Rome
drunken with pleasure; and likewise the sinners in Gehenna are
punished by means of the east wind. All night long God made it to
blow over the sea. To prevent the enemy from inflicting harm
upon the Israelites, He enveloped the Egyptians in profound
darkness, so impenetrable it could be felt, and none could move or
change his posture. He that sat when it fell could not arise from his
place, and he that stood could not sit down. Nevertheless, the
Egyptians could see that the Israelites were surrounded by bright
light, and were enjoying a banquet where they stood, and when
they tried to speed darts and arrows against them, the missiles
were caught up by the cloud and by the angels hovering between
the two camps, and no harm came to Israel. [35]


On the morning after the eventful night, though the sea was not yet
made dry land, the Israelites, full of trust in God, were ready to
cast themselves into its waters. The tribes contended with one
another for the honor of being the first to jump. Without awaiting
the outcome of the wordy strife, the tribe of Benjamin sprang in,
and the princes of Judah were so incensed at having been deprived
of pre-eminence in danger that they pelted the Benjamites with
stones. God knew that the Judaeans and the Benjamites were
animated by a praiseworthy purpose. The ones like the others
desired but to magnify the Name of God, and He rewarded both
tribes: in Benjamin's allotment the Shekinah took up her residence,
and the royalty of Israel was conferred upon Judah.

When God saw the two tribes in the waves of the sea, He called
upon Moses, and said: "My beloved are in danger of drowning, and
thou standest by and prayest. Bid Israel go forward, and thou lift
up thy rod over the sea, and divide it." Thus it happened, and Israel
passed through the sea with its water cleft in twain.

The dividing of the sea was but the first of ten miracles connected
with the passage of the Israelites through it. The others were that
the waters united in a vault above their heads; twelve paths opened
up, one for each of the tribes; the water became transparent as
glass, and each tribe could see the others; the soil underfoot was
dry, but it changed into clay when the Egyptians stepped upon it;
the walls of water transformed into rocks, against which the
Egyptians were thrown and dashed to death, while before the
Israelites could slake their thirst; and, finally, the tenth wonder
was, that this drinking water was congealed in the heart of the sea
as soon as they had satisfied their need. [36]

And there were other miracles, besides. The sea yielded the
Israelites whatever their hearts desired. If a child cried as it lay in
the arms of its mother, she needed but to stretch out her hand and
pluck and apple or some fruit and quiet it. [37] The waters were
piled up to the height of sixteen hundred miles, and they could be
seen by all the nations of the earth. [38]

The great wonder of Israel's passage through the sea took place in
the presence of the three Fathers and the six Mothers, for God had
fetched them out of their graves to the shores of the Red Sea, to be
witnesses of the marvelous deeds wrought in behalf of their
children. [39]

Wonderful as were the miracles connected with the rescue of the
Israelites from the waters of the sea, those performed when the
Egyptians were drowned were no less remarkable. First of all God
felt called upon to defend Israel's cause before Uzza, the Angel of
the Egyptians, who would not allow his people to perish in the
waters of the sea. He appeared on the spot at the very moment
when God wanted to drown the Egyptians, and he spake: "O Lord
of the world! Thou are called just and upright, and before Thee
there is no wrong, no forgetting, no respecting of persons. Why,
then, dost Thou desire to make my children perish in the sea?
Canst Thou say that my children drowned or slew a single one of
Thine? If it be on account of the rigorous slavery that my children
imposed upon Israel, then consider that Thy children have received
their wages, in that they took their silver and golden vessels from

Then God convoked all the members of His celestial family, and
He spake to the angel hosts: "Judge ye in truth between Me and
yonder Uzza, the Angel of the Egyptians. At the first I brought a
famine upon his people, and I appointed My friend Joseph over
them, who saved them through his sagacity, and they all became
his slaves. Then My children went down into their land as
strangers, in consequence of the famine, and they made the
children of Israel to serve with rigor in all manner of hard work
there is in the world. They groaned on account of their bitter
service, and their cry rose up to Me, and I sent Moses and Aaron,
My faithful messengers, to Pharaoh. When they came before the
king of Egypt, they spake to him, 'Thus said the Lord, the God of
Israel, Let My people go, that they may hold a feast unto Me in the
wilderness.' In the presence of the kings of the East and of the
West, the sinner began to boast, saying: 'Who is the Lord, that I
should hearken unto His voice, to let Israel go? Why comes He not
before me, like all the kings of the world, and why doth He not
bring me a present like the others? This God of whom you speak, I
know Him not at all. Wait and let me search my lists, and see
whether I can find His Name.' But his servants said, 'We have
heard that He is the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings.' Then
Pharaoh asked My messengers, 'What are the works of this God?'
and they replied, 'He is the God of gods, the Lord of lords, who
created the heaven and the earth.' But Pharaoh doubted their
words, and said, 'There is no God in all the world that can
accomplish such works besides me, for I made myself, and I made
the Nile river.' Because he denied Me thus, I sent ten plagues upon
him, and he was compelled to let My children go. Yet, in spite of
all, he did not leave off from his wicked ways, and he tried to
bring them back under his bondage. Now, seeing all that hath
happened to him, and that he will not acknowledge Me as God and
Lord, does he not deserve to be drowned in the sea with his host?"

The Celestial family called out when the Lord had ended His
defense, "Thou hast every right to drown him in the sea!"

Uzza heard their verdict, and he said: "O Lord of all the worlds! I
know that my people deserve the punishment Thou has decreed,
but may it please Thee to deal with them according to Thy
attribute of mercy, and take pity upon the work of Thy hands, for
Thy tender mercies are over all Thy works!"

Almost the Lord had yielded to Uzza's entreaties, when Michael
gave a sign to Gabriel that mad him fly to Egypt swiftly and fetch
thence a brick for which a Hebrew child had been used as a
mortar. Holding this incriminating object in his had, Gabriel
stepped into the presence of God, and said: "O Lord of the world!
Wilt Thou have compassion with the accursed nation that has
slaughtered Thy children so cruelly?" Then the Lord turned
Himself away from His attribute of mercy, and seating Himself
upon His throne of justice He resolved to drown the Egyptians in
the sea. [40]

The first upon whom judgement was executed was the Angel of
Egypt - Uzza was thrown into the sea. [41] A similar fate overtook
Rahab, the Angel of the Sea, with his hosts. Rahab had made
intercession before God in behalf of the Egyptians. He had said:
"Why shouldst Thou drown the Egyptians? Let is suffice the
Israelites that Thou hast saved them out of the hand of their
masters." At that God dealt Rahab and his army a blow, under
which they staggered and fell dead, and then He cast their corpses
in the sea, whence its unpleasant odor. [42]


At the moment when the last of the Israelites stepped out of the
bed of the sea, the first of the Egyptians set foot into it, but in the
same instant the waters surged back into their wonted place, and
all the Egyptians perished. [43]

But drowning was not the only punishment decreed upon them by
God. He undertook a thoroughgoing campaign against them. When
Pharaoh was preparing to persecute the Israelites, he asked his
army which of the saddle beasts was the swiftest runner, that one
he would use, and they said: "There is none swifter than thy
piebald mare, whose like is to be found nowhere in the world."
Accordingly, Pharaoh mounted the mare, and pursued after the
Israelites seaward. And while Pharaoh was inquiring of his army as
to the swiftest animal to mount, God was questioning the angels as
to the swiftest creature to use to the detriment of Pharaoh. And the
angels answered: "O Lord of the world! All thing are Thine, and all
are Thine handiwork. Thou knowest well, and it is manifest before
Thee, that among all Thy creatures there is none so quick as the
wind that comes from under the throne of Thy glory," and the Lord
flew swiftly upon the wings of the wind. [44]

The angels now advanced to support the Lord in His war against
the Egyptians. Some brought swords, some arrows, and some
spears. But God warded them off, saying, "Away! I need no help!"
[45] The arrows sped by Pharaoh against the children of Israel
were answered by the Lord with fiery darts directed against the
Egyptians. Pharaoh's army advanced with gleaming swords, and
the Lord sent out lightnings that discomfited the Egyptians.
Pharaoh hurled missiles, and the Lord discharged hailstones and
coals of fire against him. With trumpets, sackbuts, and horns the
Egyptians made their assault, and the Lord thundered in the
heavens, and the Most High uttered His voice. In vain the
Egyptians marched forward in orderly battle array; the Lord
deprived them of their standards, and they were thrown into wild
confusion. [46] To lure them into the water, the Lord caused fiery
steeds to swim out upon the sea, and the horses of the Egyptians
followed them, each with a rider upon his back. [47]

Now the Egyptians tried to flee to their land in their chariots drawn
by she-mules. As they had treated the children of Israel in a way
contrary to nature, so the Lord treated them now. Not the
she-mules pulled the chariots but the chariots, though fire from
heaven had consumed their wheels, dragged the men and the
beasts into the water. The chariots were laden with silver, gold,
and all sorts of costly things, which the river Pishon, as it flows
forth from Paradise, carries down into the Gihon. Thence the
treasures float into the Red Sea, and by its waters they were tossed
into the chariots of the Egyptians. It was the wish of Israel, and for
this reason He caused the chariots to roll down into the sea, and
the sea in turn to cast them out upon the opposite shore, at the feet
of the Israelites. [48]

And the Lord fought against the Egyptians also with the pillar of
cloud and the pillar of fire. The former made the soil miry, and the
mire was heated to the boiling point by the latter, so that the hoofs
of the horses dropped from their feet, and they could not budge
from the spot. [49]

The anguish and the torture that God brought upon the Egyptians
at the Red Sea caused them by far more excruciating pain than the
plagues they had endured in Egypt, for at the sea He delivered
them into the hands of the Angels of Destruction, who tormented
them pitilessly. Had God not endowed the Egyptians with a double
portion of strength, they could not have stood the pain a single
moment. [50]

The last judgement executed upon the Egyptians corresponded to
the wicked designs harbored against Israel by the three different
parties among them when they set out in pursuit of their liberated
slaves. The first party had said, "We will bring Israel back to
Egypt;" the second had said, "We will strip them bare," and the
third had said, "We will slay them all." The Lord blew upon the
first with His breath, and the sea covered them; the second party
He shook into the sea, and the third He pitched into the depths of
the abyss. [51] He tossed them about as lentils are shaken up and
down in a saucepan; the upper ones are made to fall to the bottom,
the lower ones fly to the top. This was the experience of the
Egyptians. And worse still, first the rider and his beast were
whisked high up in the air, and then the two together, the rider
sitting upon the back of the beast, were hurled to the bottom of the
sea. [52]

The Egyptians endeavored to save themselves from the sea by
conjuring charms, for they were great magicians. Of the ten
measures of magic allotted to the world, they had taken nine for
themselves. And, indeed, they succeeded for the moment; they
escaped out of the sea. But immediately the sea said to itself,
"How can I allow the pledge entrusted to me by God to be taken
from me?" And the water rushed after the Egyptians, and dragged
back every man of them.

Among the Egyptians were the two arch-magicians Jannes and
Jambres. They made wings for themselves, with which they flew
up to heaven. They also said to Pharaoh: "If God Himself hath
done this thing, we can effect naught. But if this work has been put
into the hands of His angel, then we will shake his lieutenants into
the sea." They proceeded at once to use their magic contrivances,
whereby they dragged the angels down. These cried up to God:
"Save us, O God, for the waters are come in unto our soul! Speak
Thy word that will cause the magicians to drown in the mighty
waters." And Gabriel cried to God, "By the greatness of Thy glory
dash Thy adversaries to pieces." Hereupon God bade Michael go
and execute judgement upon the two magicians. The archangel
seized hold of Jannes and Jambres by the locks of their hair, and
he shattered them against the surface of the water. [53]

Thus all the Egyptians were drowned. Only one was spared -
Pharaoh himself. When the children of Israel raised their voices to
sing a song of praise to God at the shores of the Red Sea, Pharaoh
heard it as he was jostled hither and thither by the billows, and he
pointed his finger heavenward, and called out: "I believe in Thee,
O God! Thou art righteous, and I and My people are wicked, and I
acknowledge now that there is no god in the world beside Thee."
Without a moments delay, Gabriel descended and laid and iron
chain about Pharaoh's neck, and holding him securely, he
addressed him thus: "Villain! Yesterday thou didst say, 'Who is the
Lord that I should hearken to His voice?' and now thou sayest, 'The
Lord is righteous.'" With that he let him drop into the depths of the
sea, and there he tortured him for fifty days, to make the power of
God known to him. At the end of the time he installed him as king
of the great city of Nineveh, and after the lapse of many centuries,
when Jonah came to Nineveh, and prophesied the overthrow of the
city on account of the evil done by the people, it was Pharaoh who,
seized by fear and terror, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat
in ashes, and with his own mouth made proclamation and
published this decree through Nineveh: "Let neither man nor beast,
herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed nor drink water;
for I know there is no god beside Him in all the world, all His
words are truth, and all His judgements are true and faithful."

Pharaoh never died, and never will die. He always stands at the
portal of hell, and when the kings of the nations enter, he makes
the power of God known to them at once, in these words: "O ye
fools! Why have ye not learnt knowledge from me? I am denied
the Lord God, and He brought ten plagues upon me, sent me to the
bottom of the sea, kept me there for fifty days, released me then,
and brought me up. Thus I could not but believe in Him." [54]

God caused the Egyptians to be washed ashore in their death
struggle. There were four reasons for this. The Israelites were not
to say that as they themselves had escaped, so also the Egyptians
had passed through the sea dryshod, only the latter had gone in
another direction, and therefore had vanished from sight. The
Egyptians, on the other hand, were not to think that the children of
Israel had been drowned in the sea like themselves. In the third
place, the Israelites were to have, as their booty, the silver, gold,
and other precious things with which the Egyptians were decked;
and, finally, the Israelites were to enjoy the satisfaction of seeing
their enemies suffer. With their finger thy could point them out
one by one, saying, "This one way my taskmaster, who beat me
with those fists of his at which the dogs are now gnawing, and
yonder Egyptian, the dogs are chewing the feet with which he
kicked me."

As they lay on the shore in their last agony, they had to witness
their own destruction and the victory of the Israelites, and they also
beheld the suffering of their brethren that had remained behind in
Egypt, for God poured out His punishment over the whole people,
whether in Egypt or at the Red Sea. [55] As for the corpses by the
shores of the sea, they did not remain unburied, the earth
swallowed them, by way of reward for Pharaoh's having
acknowledged the justice of the chastisement that had been
inflicted upon king and people. Before their corpses had been
disposed of in this way, there had been a quarrel between the earth
and the sea. The sea said to the earth, "Take thy children unto
thyself," and the earth retorted, "Keep those whom thou hast slain."
The sea hesitated to do as the earth bade, for fear that God would
demand them back on the day of judgement; and the earth
hesitated, because it remembered with terror the curse that had
been pronounced upon it for having sucked up Abel's blood. Only
after God swore and oath, not to punish it for receiving the corpses
of the Egyptians, would the earth swallow them. [56]


Mighty is faith, for the spirit of God came upon the Israelites as a
reward for their trust in God, and in His servant Moses; and it was
in this exaltation that they sang to the Lord a song [57] that moved
Him to grant forgiveness for all their sins. [58] This song was the
second of the nine songs that in the course of history of Israel sang
to their God. They assembled to sing the first in Egypt, on the
night when they were freed from captivity; their second was the
song of triumph by the Red Sea; their third, when the well sprang
up in the wilderness; Moses sang the fourth before his death; the
fifth was Joshua's song after his victory over the five Amorite
Kings; Deborah and Barak sang the sixth when they conquered
Sisera; the seventh was David's psalm of thanksgiving to God for
his deliverance out of the hand of all his enemies; the eighth was
Solomon's song at the dedication of the Temple; the ninth
Jehoshaphat sang as, trusting in God, he went to battle against the
Moabites and the Ammonites. The tenth and last song, however,
will be that grand and mighty song, when Israel will raise their
voice in triumph at their future deliverance, for that will be the
final release of Israel for all time. [59]

When Israel prepared to sound their praises to God for delivering
them from destruction in the Red Sea, God, to show His
recognition of Israel's fulfillment of the token of the Abrahamic
covenant, bade the angels who came to intone their song, wait:
"Let My children sing first," He said. This incident with the angels
is like the story of the king who, upon returning from a victorious
campaign, was told that his son and his servant were waiting with
wreaths in their hands, and were asking who should first crown
him. The king said, "O ye fools, to question if my servant should
walk before my son! No, let my son come first!"

This was the second time the angels were obliged to retire before
Israel. When Israel stood by the Red Sea, before them the rolling
waters, and behind them the hosts of Egypt, then, too, the angels
appeared, to sing their daily song of praise to the Lord, but God
called to them, "Forbear! My children are in distress, and you
would sing!"

But even after the men had completed their song, it was not yet
given to the angels to raise their voices, for after the men followed
the women of Israel, and only then came the turn of the angels.
Then they began to murmur, and said, "Is it not enough that the
men have preceded us? Shall the women come before us also?"
But God replied, "As surely as ye live, so it is." [60]

At first Israel requested their leader Moses to begin the song, but
he declined, saying, "No, ye shall begin it, for it is a greater mark
of honor to be praised by the multitude than by a single one." At
once the people sang: "We will glorify the Eternal, for He has
shown us signs and tokens. When the Egyptians passed the decree
against us, and said, 'Every son that is born ye shall cast into the
river,' our mothers went into the field, and Thou didst bid a sleep
to fall upon them, and they bore us without any pain; and the
angels descended from Heaven, washed and anointed us, and
robed us in many-colored silken garments, and placed in our hands
two lumps, one of butter and one of honey. When our mothers
awoke and saw us washed, anointed, and clothed in silk, then they
praised Thee, and said, 'Praise be God who has not turned His
grace and His lasting love from the seed of our father Abraham;
and now behold! they are in Thy hand, do with them as Thou wilt.'
And they departed. When the Egyptians saw us, they approached
to kill us, but Thou in Thy great mercy didst bid the earth swallow
us and set us in another place, where we were not seen by the
Egyptians, and lo! in this way didst Thou save us from their hand.
When we grew up, we wandered in troops to Egypt, where each
recognized his parents and his family. All this hast Thou done for
us, therefore will we sing of Thee."

Thereupon Moses said: "Ye have given thanks to the Holy One,
blessed be He, and not I will praise His name, for to me also has
He shown signs and tokens. The Lord is my strength and my song,
and He is become my salvation; He is my God, and I will prepare
Him and habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt Him." [61]

The song by the Red Sea was as much the song of Moses as of all
Israel, for the great leader counted as not less than all the other
Israelites together, and, besides, [62] he had composed a large
portion of the song. In virtue of the spirit of God that possessed
them while they sang, Moses and the people mutually
supplemented each other, so that, as soon as Moses spoke half the
verse, the people repeated it, and linked the second complementary
part to it. So Moses began with the half verse, "I will sing unto the
Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously," whereupon the people
answered, "The horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea."
And in this wise developed the whole song. [63]

But not alone the adults took part in this song, even the sucklings
dropped their mothers' breasts to join in singing; yea, even the
embryos in the womb joined the melody, and the angels' voices
swelled the song. [64] God so distinguished Israel during the
passage through the Red Sea, that even the children beheld His
glory, yea, even the woman slave saw more of the presence of God
by the Red Sea than the Prophet Ezekiel was ever permitted to
behold. [65]

They closed the song with the words: "Let us set the crown of glory
upon the head of our Deliverer, who suffers all things to perish,
but does not Himself decay, who changes all things, but is Himself
unchanged. His is the diadem of sovereignty, for He is the King of
kings in this world, and His is the sovereignty of the world to
come; it is His and will be His in all eternity." [66] Thereupon
Moses spake to Israel, "Ye have seen all the signs, all miracles and
works of glory that the Holy One, blessed be He, hath wrought for
you, but even more will He do for you in the world to come; for
not like unto this world is the world of the hereafter; for in this
world war and suffering, evil inclination, Satan, and the Angel of
Death hold sway; but in the future would, there will be neither
suffering nor enmity, neither Satan nor the Angel of Death, neither
groans nor oppression, nor evil inclination." [67]

As Moses and the race that wandered from Egypt with him sang a
song to the Lord by the Red Sea, so shall they sing again in the
world to come. In the world to come, all generations will pass
before the Lord and will ask Him who should first intone the song
of praise, whereupon He will reply: "In the past it was the
generation of Moses that offered up to me a song of praise. Let
them do it now once more, and as Moses conducted the song by
the Red Sea, so shall he do in the world of the hereafter." [68]

In other respects, too, it shall be in the world to come as it was at
the time of the song by the sea. For when Israel intoned the song of
praise, God put on a festive robe, on which were embroidered all
the promises for a happy future to Israel. Among them were
written: "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning"; "Then
said they among the heathen. 'The Lord hath done great things for
them,'" and many similar promises. But when Israel sinned, God
rent the festive robe, and He will not restore it, or put it on until
the coming of the future world. [69]

After the men had completed the song, the women under the
guidance of Miriam sang the same song to the accompaniment of
music and dancing. The Israelites had had perfect faith, that God
would perform for them miracles and deeds of glory, hence they
had provided themselves with timbrels and with flutes, that they
might have them at hand to glorify the anticipated miracles. [70]
Then Miriam said to the women, "Let us sing unto the Lord, for
strength and sublimity are His; He lords it over the lordly, and He
resents presumption. He hurled Pharaoh's horses and chariots into
the sea, and drowned them, because wicked Pharaoh in his
presumption pursued God's people, Israel." [71]


Just as Israel had displayed sullenness and lack of faith upon
approaching the sea, so did they upon leaving it. Hardly had they
seen that the Egyptians met death in the waters of the sea, when
they spoke to Moses, and said: "God had led us from Egypt only to
grant us five tokens: To give us the wealth of Egypt, to let us walk
in clouds of glory, to cleave the sea for us, to take vengeance on
the Egyptians, and to let us sing Him a song of praise. Now that all
this has taken place, let us return to Egypt." Moses answered: "The
Eternal said, 'The Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, yes shall
see them again no more forever.'" But the people were not yet
content, and said, "Now the Egyptians are all dead, and therefore
we can return to Egypt." Then Moses said, "You must now redeem
your pledge, for God said, 'When thou hast brought forth the
people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.'" Still
the people remained headstrong, and without giving heed to
Moses, they set out on the road to Egypt, under the guidance of an
idol that they had brought with them out of Egypt, and had even
retained during their passage through the sea. Only through sheer
force was Moses able to restrain them from their sinful
transgression. [72] This was the second of the ten temptations with
which Israel tempted God during their wanderings through the
desert. [73]

There was one other difficulty with the people that Moses had to
overcome: The sea cast up many jewels, pearls and other treasures
that had belonged to the Egyptians, drowned in its waves, and
Israel found it hard to tear themselves away from the spot that
brought them such riches. Moses, however, said, "Do you really
believe that the sea will continue to yield you pearls and jewels?"

From the sea they passed to the desert Shur, a horrible and
dreadful wilderness, full of snakes, lizards, and scorpions,
extending over hundreds of miles. So deadly is the nature of the
snakes that dwell in the desert, that if one of them merely glides
over the shadow of a flying bird, the bird falls into pieces. [75] It
was in this desert that the following happened to King Shapor: A
cohort that he sent through this desert was swallowed by a snake,
and the same fate overtook a second and a third cohort. Upon the
advice of his sages, he then filled the hides of animals with hot
coals wrapped in straw, and had these cast before the snake until it
expired. [76]

It was then a proof of Israel's great faith in their God, that they
obeyed Moses, and without murmur or delay followed him into
this frightful wilderness. [77] Therefore did God reward them for
their trust in Him, for not only were they not harmed by the snakes
and scorpions during their many years stay in the desert, but they
were even relieved of the fear of the reptiles, for as soon as the
snakes saw the Israelites, they meekly lay down upon the sand.
[78] For three days they marched through the desert,
uncomplaining, but when their supply of water gave out, the
people murmured against Moses, saying, "What shall we drink?"
While crossing through the Red Sea they had provided themselves
with water, for, miraculously, the sea flowed sweet for them; and
now when the supply was becoming exhausted, they began to give
expression to their dissatisfaction. On this occasion they again
betrayed their faintheartedness, for instead of seeking advice from
their leader Moses, they began to murmur against him and against
God, even though at present they had not yet suffered from lack of
water. So poorly did they stand the test to which God has put them,
for in fact the very ground upon which they trod had running water
beneath it, but they were not aware of this. God had desired to see
how they would act under these conditions. [79]

The people were all the more exasperated because their joy, when
they sighted the springs and hastened to draw from the, turned to
keenest disappointment when they tasted of the water and found it
bitter. These deluded hopes cast them down spiritually as well as
physically, and grieved them, not so much for their own sakes as
for those of their young children, to whose pleas for water they
could not listen without tears. Some of the thoughtless and fickle
of faith among them uttered the accusation that even the former
kindness had been granted them so much as a benefit, but rather
with a view to the present and much greater privation. These said
that death by the hand of the enemy is to be thrice preferred to
perishing by thirst; for by the wise man, speedy and painless
departure from life is in no way to be distinguished from
immortality; the only real death, however, is slow and painful
dying, for the dread lies not in being dead, but in dying.

While they indulged in these lamentations, Moses prayed to God to
forgive the faint of heart their unseemly words, and, furthermore,
to supply the general want. [80] Mindful of the distress of the
people, Moses did not pray long, but uttered his request in a few
words; and quickly, as he had prayed, was his prayer answered.
God bade him take a piece of a laurel tree, write upon it the great
and glorious name of God, and throw it into the water, whereupon
the water would become drinkable and sweet. [81]

The ways of the Holy One, blessed be He, differ from the ways of
man: Man turns bitter to sweet by the agency of some sweet stuff,
but God transformed the bitter water through the bitter laurel tree.
When Israel beheld this miracle, they asked forgiveness of their
heavenly Father, and said: "O Lord of the world! We sinned
against Thee when we murmured about the water." [82] Not
through this miracle alone, however, has Marah become a
significant spot for Israel, but, especially, because there God gave
to Israel important percepts, like the Sabbath rest, marriage and
civil laws, and said to the people: "If you will observe these
statutes, you will receive many more, the Ten Commandments, the
Halakot, and the Haggadot; the Torah, however, will bring you
happiness and life. If you will diligently endeavor to walk through
life uprightly, so that you will be virtuous in your dealing with
men, I will value it as if you had fulfilled all commandments, and
will put upon you none of those diseases that I brought Egypt. If,
however, you will not be mindful of My laws, and will be visited
by diseases, then will I be you physician and will make you well,
for as soon as you will observe the laws, shall the diseases vanish."

The cause for the want of water at Marah had been that for three
days the people had neglected the study of the Torah, and it was
for this reason that the prophets and elders of Israel instituted the
custom of reading from the Torah on Saturday, Monday and
Thursday, at the public service, so that three days might never
again pass without a reading from the Torah. [84]

From Marah they moved on to Elim. From a distance palm trees
made the place look inviting enough, but when the people came
close, they were again disappointed; there were not more than
three score and ten palm tress, and there were of stunted growth
owing to a lack of water, for in spite of the presence of twelve
wells of water, the soil was so barren and sandy that the wells were
not sufficient to water it. [85] Here again the marvelous
intercession of God in favor of the fate of Israel is shown, for the
scant supply of water at Elim, which had hardly sufficed for
seventy palm trees, satisfied sixty myriads of the wandering people
that stayed there for several days. [86]

The men of understanding could at this place see a clear allusion
to the fortune of the people; for there are twelve tribes of the
people, each of which, if it prove God-fearing, will be a well of
water, inasmuch as its piety will constantly and continually bring
forth beautiful deeds; the leaders of the people, however, are
seventy, and they recall the noble palm tree, for in outward
appearance as well as in its fruits, it is the most beautiful of trees,
whose seat of life does not lie buried deep in the roots, as with
other plants, but soars high, set like the heart in the midst of its
branches, by which it is surrounded as a queen under the
protection of her bodyguard. The soul of him who has tasted piety
possesses a similar spirit; it has learned to look up and ascend, and
itself ever busy with spiritual things and the investigation of
Divine beauty, disdains earthly things, and considers them only a
childish play, whereas that aspiration alone seems serious. [87]

It was at Elim, where, at the creation of the world, God had made
the twelve wells of water, and the seventy palm trees, to
correspond to the twelve tribes and the seventy elders of Israel,
that Israel first took up the study of the law, for there they studied
the laws given them at Marah. [88]


The bread which Israel had taken along out of Egypt sufficed for
thirty-one days, and when they had consumed it, the whole
congregation of the children of Israel murmured against their
leader Moses. It was not only immediate want that oppressed
them, but despair of a food supply for the future; for when they
saw the vast, extensive, utterly barren wilderness before them,
their courage gave way, and they said: "We migrated, expecting
freedom, and now we are not even free from the cares of
subsistence; we are not, as out leader promised, the happiest, but
in truth the most unfortunate of men. After our leader's words had
keyed us to the highest pitch of expectation, and had filled out ears
with vain hopes, he tortures us with famine and does not provide
even the necessary food. With the name of a new settlement he has
deceived this great multitude; after he had succeeded in leading us
from a well-known to an uninhabited land, he now plans to send us
to the underworld, the last road of life. [89] 'Would to God we had
died by the hand of the Lord during the three days of darkness in
the land of Egypt when we sat by the flesh-pots, and when we did
eat bread to the full.'" In their exasperation they spoke untruths, for
in reality they had suffered from want of food in Egypt, too, as the
Egyptians had not given them enough to eat. [90]

In spite of the railings against him, Moses was not so much
indignant about their words as about the fickleness of the people.
After those many quite extraordinary experiences they had no right
to expect merely the natural and the probable, but should
cheerfully have trusted him; for, truly, in the sight of all, they had
been shown the most tangible proofs of his reliability. When, on
the other hand, Moses considered their distress, he forgave them;
for he told himself that a multitude is by nature fickle, and allows
itself to be easily influenced by impressions of the moment, which
cast the past into oblivion, and engender despair of the future. [91]

God also forgave the unworthy conduct of Israel, and instead of
being angry with them because they murmured against Him, when
it should have been their duty to pray to Him, He was ready to
grant them aid, saying to Moses, "They act according to their
lights, and I will act according to Mine; not later than to-morrow
morning manna will descend from heaven."

As a reward for Abraham's readiness, in answer to the summons to
sacrifice Isaac, when he said, "Here am I," God promised manna to
the descendants of Abraham with the same words, "Here I am." In
the same way, during their wanderings through the wilderness,
God repaid the descendants of Abraham for what their ancestor
had done by the angels who visited him. He himself had fetched
bread for them, and likewise God Himself caused bread to rain
from heaven; he himself ran before them on their way, and
likewise God moved before Israel; he had water fetched for them,
and likewise God, through Moses, caused water to flow from the
rock; he bade them seek shade under the tree, and likewise God
had a cloud spread over Israel. [92] Then God spoke to Moses: "I
will immediately reveal Myself without Jacob, 'I will rain bread
from My treasure in heaven for you; and the people shall go out
and gather a certain rate every day.'"

There were good reasons for not exceeding a day's ration in the
daily downpour of manna. First, that they might be spared the need
of carrying it on their wanderings; secondly, that they might daily
receive it hot; and, lastly, that they might day by day depend upon
God's aid, and in this way exercise themselves in faith. [93]

While the people were still abed, God fulfilled their desire, and
rained down manna for them. For this food had been created on
the second day of creation, [94] and ground by the angels, it later
descended for the wanderers in the wilderness. [95] The mills are
stationed in the third heaven, where manna is constantly being
ground for the future use of the pious; [96] for in the future world
manna will be set before them. [97] Manna deserves its name,
"bread of the angels," not only because it is prepared by them, but
because those who partake of it become equal to the angels in
strength, and, furthermore, like them, have no need of easing
themselves, as manna is entirely dissolved in the body. Not until
they sinned, did they have to ease themselves like ordinary
mortals. [98]

Manna also showed its heavenly origin in the miraculous flavor it
possessed. There was no need of cooking or baking it, nor did it
require any other preparation, and still it contained the flavor of
every conceivable dish. One had only to desire a certain dish, and
no sooner had he thought of it, than manna had the flavor of the
dish desire. The same food had a different taste to every one who
partook of it, according to his age; to the little children it tasted
like milk, to the strong youths like bread, to the old men like
honey, to the sick like barley steeped in oil and honey. [99]

As miraculous as the taste of manna was it descent from heaven.
First came a north wind to sweep the floor of the desert; then a rain
to wash it quite clean; then dew descended upon it, which was
congealed into a solid substance by the wind, that it might serve as
a table for the heaven-descending gold. [100] But, that no insects
or vermin might settle on the manna, the frozen dew formed not
only a tablecloth, but also a cover for the manna, so that it lay
enclosed there as in a casket, protected from soiling or pollution
above and below.


With an easy mind every individual might perform his morning
prayer in his house and recite the Shema', then betake himself to
the entrance of his tent, and gather manna for himself and all his
family. [101] The gathering of manna caused little trouble, and
those among the people who were too lazy to perform even the
slightest work, went out while manna fell, so that it fell straight
into their hands. [102] The manna lasted until the fourth hour of
the day, when it melted; but even the melted manna was not
wasted, for out of it formed the rivers, from which the pious will
drink in the hereafter. The heathen even then attempted to drink
out of these streams, but the manna that tasted so deliciously to the
Jews, had a quite bitter taste in the mouth of the heathen. Only
indirectly could they partake of the enjoyment of manna: They
used to catch the animals that drank the melted manna, and even it
this form it was so delicious that the heathen cried, "Happy is the
people that is in such a case." [103] For the descent of manna was
not a secret to the heathen, as it settled at such enormous heights
that the kings of the East and of the West could see how Israel
received its miraculous food. [104]

The mass of the manna was in proportion to its height, for as much
descended day by day, as might have satisfied the wants of sixty
myriads of people, through two thousand years. [105] Such
profusion of manna fell over the body of Joshua alone, as might
have sufficed for the maintenance of the whole congregation.
[106] Manna, indeed, had the peculiarity of falling to every
individual in the same measure; and when, after gathering, they
measured it, they found that there was an omer for every man.

Many lawsuits were amicably decided through the fall of manna. If
a married couple came before Moses, each accusing the other of
inconstancy, Moses would say to them, "To-morrow morning
judgement will be given." If, then, manna descended for the wife
before the house of her husband, it was known that he was in the
right; but if her share descended before the house of her own
parents, she was in the right. [107]

The only days on which manna did not descend were the Sabbaths
and the holy days, but then a double portion fell on the preceding
day. These days had the further distinction that, while they lasted,
the color of the manna sparkled more than usual, and it tasted
better than usual. The people, however, were fainthearted, and on
the very first Sabbath, they wanted to go out as usual to gather
manna in the morning, although announcement had been made
that God would send them no food on that day. Moses, however,
restrained them. They attempted to do it again toward evening, and
again Moses restrained them with the words, "To-day ye shall not
find it in the field." At these words they were greatly alarmed, for
they feared that they might not receive it any more at all, but their
leader quieted them with the words, "To-day ye shall not find any
of it, but assuredly to-morrow; in this world ye shall not receive
manna on the Sabbath, but assuredly in the future world."

The unbelieving among them did not hearken to the words of God,
and went out on the Sabbath to find manna. Here-upon God said to
Moses: "Announce these words to Israel: I have led you out of
Egypt, have cleft the sea for you, have sent you manna, have
caused the well of water to spring up for you, have sent the quails
to come up to you, have battled for you against Amalek, and
wrought other miracles for you, and still you do not obey My
statutes and commandments. You have not even the excuse that I
imposed full many commandments upon you, for all that I bade
you do at Marah, was to observe the Sabbath, but you have
violated it." "If," continues Moses, "you will observe the Sabbath,
God will give you three festivals in the months of Nisan, Siwan,
and Tishri; and as a reward for the observance of the Sabbath, you
will receive six gifts from God: the land of Israel, the future world,
the new world, the sovereignty of the dynasty of David, the
institution of the priests and the Levites; and, furthermore, as a
reward for the observance of the Sabbath, you shall be freed from
the three great afflictions: from the sufferings of the times of Gog
and Magog, from the travails of the Messianic time, and from the
day of the great Judgement."

When Israel heard these exhortations and promises, they
determined to observe the Sabbath, and did so. [108] They did not
know, to be sure, what they had lost through their violation of the
first Sabbath. Had Israel then observed the Sabbath, no nation
would ever have been able to exercise any authority over them.

This, moreover, was not the only sin that Israel committed during
this time, for some among them also broke the other
commandment in regard to manna, that it, not to store it away
from day to day. These sinners were none other than the infamous
pair, Dathan and Abiram, who did not hearken to the word of God,
but saved the manna for the following day. But if they fancied they
could conceal their sinful deed, they were mistaken, for great
swarms of worms bred from the manna, and these moved in a long
train from their tents to the other tents, so that everyone perceived
what these two had done. [110]

To serve future generations as a tangible proof of the infinite
power of God, the Lord bade Moses lay an earthen vessel full of
manna before the Holy Ark, and this command was carried out by
Aaron in the second year of the wanderings through the desert.
When, many centuries later, the prophet Jeremiah exhorted his
contemporaries to study the Torah, and they answered his
exhortations, saying, "How shall we then maintain ourselves?" the
prophet brought forth the vessel with manna, and spoke to them,
saying: "O generation, see ye the word of the Lord; see what it was
that served your fathers as food when they applied themselves to
the study of the Torah. You, too, will God support in the same
way, if you will but devote yourselves to the study of the Torah.

When the imminent destruction of the Temple was announced to
King Josiah, he concealed the Holy Ark, and with it also the vessel
with manna, as well as the jug filled with sacred oil, which was
used by Moses for anointing the sacred implements, and other
sacred objects. In the Messianic time the prophet Elijah will
restore all these concealed objects. [112]

Israel received three gifts during their wanderings through the
desert: the well, the clouds of glory, and the manna; the first for
the merits of Miriam, the second for those of Aaron, and the third
for those of Moses. When Miriam died, the well disappeared for a
time, but it reappeared as a reward for the merits of Aaron and
Moses; when Aaron dies, the clouds of glory disappeared for a
time, but reappeared owing to the merits of Moses. But when the
last-named died, the well, the clouds of glory, and the manna
disappeared forever. [113] Throughout forty years, however,
manna served them not only as food, but also as provender for
their cattle, for the dew that preceded the fall of manna during the
night brought grain for their cattle. [114] Manna also replaced
perfume for them, for it shed and excellent fragrance upon those
who ate of it. [115]

In spite of all the excellent qualities of manna, they were not
satisfied with it, and demanded that Moses and Aaron give them
flesh to eat. These replied: "We might put up with you if you
murmured only against us, but you murmur against the Eternal.
Come forward, that you may hear the judgment of God." At once
God appeared to Moses, and said to him: "It is revealed to Me
what the congregation of Israel have said, and what they will say,
but tell them this: You have demanded two things; you have
desired bread, and I gave it to you, because man cannot exist
without it; but now, filled to satiety, you demand flesh; this also
will I give you, so that you might not say if your wish were denied.
'God cannot grant it,' but at some future time you shall make
atonement for it; I am a judge and shall assign punishment for

In the meantime, however, God granted their wish, and toward
evening thick swarms of quails came up from the sea, and covered
the whole camp, taking their flight quite low, not two ells above
the ground, so that they might be easily caught. Contrary to the
manna, which fell in the morning, the quails did not come before
evenfall; with a radiant countenance God gave them the former, as
their desire for bread was justified, but with a darkened mien,
under cover of night, He sent quails. [116] Now, because the one
food came in the morning and the second in the evening, Moses
instituted the custom among his people of taking two meals a day,
one in the morning and one in the evening; and he set the meal
with the use of meat for the evening. [117] At the same time he
taught them the prayer in which they were to offer thanks after
eating manna, which read: "Blessed be Thou, O God our Lord,
King of the world, who in Thy bounty, dost provide for all the
world; who, in Thy grace, goodwill, and mercy, dost grant food to
every creature, for Thy grace is everlasting. Thanks to Thy bounty
we have never lacked food, nor ever shall lack it, for Thy great
name's sake. For Thou suppliest and providest for all; Thou are
bountiful, and nourishest all Thy creatures which Thou has made.
Blessed be Thou, O God, that dost provide for all." [118]


Relieved as they were of all the cares of subsistence through the
gift of manna, it was plainly the duty of the Israelites to devote
themselves exclusively to the study of the Torah. [119] When,
therefore, they slackened in the performance of this duty,
punishment in the form of lack of water immediately overtook
them. This was the first time that they actually experienced this
want, for at Marah nothing more than alarm that this need might
come upon them, had caused them to murmur and complain. In
their distress they once more unreasonably cast reproaches upon
their leader, and disputed with him, saying: "Wherefore is this,
children, that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us, and
our children, and our cattle with thirst?" Moses replied: "As often
as you quarrel with me, you tempt God, but God performeth
wonders and excellent deeds for you, as often as you dispute with
me, that His name may sound in glory throughout the world."

In spite of the injury they had done him, Moses prayed to God that
He might aid them in their distress and also stand by him. "O Lord
of the world!" said he, "I am surely doomed to die. Thou biddest
me not to be offended with them, but if I obey Thy words, I shall
certainly be killed by them." God, however, replied: "Try thou to
act like Me; as I return good for evil, so do thou return to them
good for evil, and forgive their trespass; go on before the people,
and We shall see who dares touch thee." [120] Hardly had Moses
shown himself to the people, when all of them rose reverently
from their seats, whereupon God said to Moses: "How often have I
told thee not to be angry with them, but to lead them, as a shepherd
leads his flock; it is for their sake that I have set thee on this
height, and only for their sake wilt thou find grace, goodwill, and
mercy in My sight." [121]

Then God bade him go with some elders to the rock on Horeb, and
fetch water out of it. The elders were to accompany him there, that
they might be convinced that he was not bringing water from a
well, but smiting it from a rock. To accomplish this miracle, God
bade him smite the rock with his rod, as the people labored under
the impression that this rod could only bring destruction, for
through its agency Moses had brought the ten plagues upon the
Egyptians in Egypt, and at the Red Sea; now they were to see that
it could work good also. [122] Upon God's bidding, Moses told the
people to choose from which rock they wished water to flow,
[123] and hardly had Moses touched with his sapphire rod the rock
which they had chosen, when plenteous water flowed from it. The
spot where this occurred, God called Massah, and Meribah,
because Israel had there tried their God, saying, "If God is Lord
over all, as over us; if He satisfies our needs, and will further show
us that He knows our thoughts, then will we serve Him, but not
otherwise." [124]

The water that flowed for them on this spot served not only as a
relief for their present need, but on this occasion there was
revealed to them a well of water, which did not abandon them in
all their forty years' wandering, but accompanied them on all their
marches. [125] God wrought this great miracle for the merits of
the prophetess Miriam, wherefore also it was called "Miriam's
Well." [126] But his well dates back to the beginning of the world,
for God created it on the second day of the creation, [127] and at
one time it was in the possession of Abraham. It was this same
well that Abraham demanded back from Abimelech, king of the
Philistines, after the king's servants had violently taken it away.
But when Abimelech pretended not to know anything about it,
saying, "I wot not who hath done this thing," Abraham said: "Thou
and I will send sheep to the well, and he shall be declared the
rightful owner of the well, for whose sheep the water will spout
forth to water them. And," continued Abraham, "from that same
well shall the seventh generation after me, the wanderers in the
desert, draw their supply." [128]

This well was in the shape of a sieve-like rock, out of which water
gushes forth as from a spout. It followed them on all their
wanderings, up hill and down dale, and wherever they halted, it
halted, too, and it settled opposite the Tabernacle. Thereupon the
leaders of the twelve tribes would appear, each with his staff and
chant these words to the well, "Spring up, O well, sing ye unto it;
nobles of the people digged it by the direction of the lawgiver with
their staves." Then the water would gush forth from the depths of
the well, and shoot up high as pillars, then discharge itself into
great streams that were navigable, and on these rivers the Jews
sailed to the ocean, and hauled all the treasures of the world
therefrom. [129]

The different parts of the camp were separated by these rivers, so
that women, visiting each other, were obliged to make use of
ships. Then the water discharged itself beyond the encampment,
where it surrounded a great plain, in which grew every conceivable
kind of plant and tree; [130] and these trees, owing to the
miraculous water, daily bore fresh fruits. [131] This well brought
fragrant herbs with it, so that the women had no need of perfumes
on the march, for the herbs they gathered served this purpose.
[132] This well furthermore threw down soft, fragrant kinds of
grass that served as pleasant couches for the poor, who had no
pillows or bedclothes. [133] Upon the entrance to the Holy Land
this well disappeared and was hidden in a certain spot of the Sea of
Tiberias. Standing upon Carmel, and looking over the sea, one can
notice there a sieve-like rock, and that is the well of Miriam. [134]
Once upon a time it happened that a leper bathed at this place of
the Sea of Tiberias, and hardly had he come in contact with the
waters of Miriam's well when he was instantly healed. [135]


As a punishment because they had not had sufficient faith in God,
and had doubted whether He could fulfill all their wishes, and had
grown negligent in the study of the Torah and in the observance of
the laws, God turned Amalek against them during their sojourn in
Rephidim, where they had committed these sins. God dealt with
them as did that man with his son, whom he bore through the river
on his shoulders. Whenever the child saw something desirable, he
said, "Father, buy it for me," and he fulfilled the child's wish. After
the son had in this way received many beautiful things from his
father, he called to a passing stranger with these words, "Hast thou
perhaps seen my father?" Then, indignantly, the father said to his
son: "O thou fool, that sittest on my shoulder! All that thou didst
desire, did I procure for thee, and now dost thou ask of that man,
'Hast thou seen my father?'" Thereupon the father threw the child
off his shoulder, and a dog came and bit him. So did Israel fare.
When they moved out of Egypt, God enveloped them in seven
clouds of glory; they wished for bread, and He gave them manna;
they wished for flesh, and He gave them quails. After all their
wishes had been granted, they began to doubt, saying, "Is the Lord
among us, or not?" Then God answered, "You doubt My power; so
surely as you live shall you discover it; the dog will soon bite you."
Then came Amalek. [136]

This enemy of Israel bore the name Amalek to denote the rapidity
with which he moved against Israel, for like a swarm of locusts he
flew upon them; and the name furthermore designates the purpose
of this enemy, who came to suck the blood of Israel. [137] This
Amalek was a son of Eliphaz, the first-born son of Esau, and
although the descendants of Jacob had been weaker and more
insignificant in earlier times, Amalek had left them in peace, for
he had excellent reasons to delay his attack. God had revealed to
Abraham that his seed would have to serve in the land of the
Egyptians, and had put the payment of this debt upon Isaac, and
after his death, upon Jacob and his descendants. The wicked
Amalek now said to himself, "If I destroy Jacob and his
descendants, God will impose the Egyptians bondage upon, me,
grandson of Esau, descendant of Abraham." Therefore he kept
himself in restraint as long as Israel dwelt in Egypt, but only after
the bondage predicted to the seed of Abraham had been served in
full, did he set out to accomplish the war of annihilation against
Israel, which his grandfather Esau had enjoined upon him. [138]

No sooner had he heard of Israel's departure from Egypt, then he
set out against them and met them by the Red Sea. There, indeed,
he could work them no ill, for Moses uttered against him the
Ineffable Name; and so great was his confusion, that he was forced
to retreat without having effected his object. [139] Then, for some
time, he tried lying hidden in ambush, and in this wise molesting
Israel, but as length he gave up this game of hide-and-seek, and
with a bold front revealed himself as the open enemy of Israel. Not
alone, however, did he himself declare war upon Israel, but he also
seduced all the heathen nations to assist him in his enterprise
against Israel. Although these declined to war upon Israel, fearing
that they might have to fare like the Egyptians, they agreed to the
following plan of Amalek. He said: "Follow my expedition. Should
Israel conquer me, there will still be plenty of time for you to flee,
but should success crown my attempt, join your fate to mine, in my
undertaking against Israel." So Amalek now marched from his
settlement in Seir, which was no less than four hundred parasangs
away from the encampment of the Jews; and although five nations,
the Hittites, the Hivites, the Jebusites, the Amorites, and the
Canaanites, had their dwellings between his home and the camp of
the Jews, he insisted upon being the first to declare war upon

God punished Israel, who had shown themselves an ungrateful
people, by sending against them an enemy that was ungrateful, too,
never recalling that he owed his life to the sons of Jacob, who had
had him in their power after their brilliant victory over Esau and
his followers. [140]

In his expedition against Israel he made use of his kinsman. Before
going over to open attack, he lured many unsuspecting Jews to
death by his kindly words. He had fetched from Egypt the table of
descent of the Jews; for every Jew had there to mark his name on
the bricks produced by him, and these lists lay in the Egyptian
archives. Familiar with the names of the different Jewish families,
Amalek appeared before the Jewish camp, and calling the people
by name, he invited them to leave the camp, and come out to him.
"Reuben! Simeon! Levi! etc.," he would call, "come out to me,
your brother, and transact business with me."

Those who answered the enticing call, found certain death at his
hands; and not only did Amalek kill them, but he also mutilated
their corpses, following the example of his grandsire Esau, by
cutting off a certain part of the body, and throwing it toward
heaven with the mocking words, "Here shalt Thou have what Thou
desirest." In this way did he jeer at the token of the Abrahamic

So long as the Jews remained within the encampment, he could, of
course, do them no harm, for the cloud enveloped them, and under
its shelter they were as well fortified as a city that is surrounded by
a solid wall. The cloud, however, covered those only who were
pure, but the unclean had to stay beyond it, until they were
cleansed by a ritual bath, and these Amalek caught and killed. The
sinners, too, particularly the tribe of Dan, who were all
worshippers of idols, were not protected by the cloud, and
therefore exposed to the attacks of Amalek. [141]

Moses did not himself set out to battle against this dangerous foe
of Israel, but he sent his servant Joshua, and for good reasons.
Moses knew that only a descendant of Rachel, like the Ephraimite
Joshua, could conquer the descendant of Esau. All the sons of
Jacob had taken part in the unbrotherly act of selling Joseph as a
slave, hence none of their descendants might stand up in battle
against the descendant of Esau; for they who had themselves acted
unnaturally to a brother, could hardly hope for God's assistance in
a struggle with the unbrotherly Edomites. Only the descendants of
Joseph, the man who had been generous and good to his brothers,
might hope that God would grant them aid against the unbrotherly
descendants of Esau. In many other respects, too, Joseph was the
opposite of Esau, and his services stood his descendants in good
stead in their battles against the descendants of Esau. Esau was the
firstborn of his father, but through his evil deeds he lost his
birthright; Joseph, on the other hand, was the youngest of his
father's sons, and through his good deeds was he found worthy of
enjoying the rights of a firstborn son. Joseph had faith in the
resurrection, while Esau denied it; hence God said, "Joseph, the
devout, shall be the one to visit merited punishment on Esau, the
unbelieving." Joseph associated with two wicked men, Potiphar
and Pharaoh, yet he did not follow their example; Esau associated
with two pious men, his father and his brother, yet he did not
follow their example. "Hence," said God, "Joseph, who did not
follow example of wicked men, shall visit punishment upon him
who did not follow the example of pious men." Esau soiled his life
with lewdness and murder; Joseph was chaste and shunned
bloodshed, hence God delivered Esau's descendants into the hands
of Joseph's descendants. And, as in the course of history only the
descendants of Joseph were victorious over the descendants of
Esau, so will it be in the future, at the final reckoning between the
angel of Esau and the angels of the Jews. The angel of Reuben will
be rebuffed by the angel of Esau with these words, "you represent
on who had illegal relations with his father's wife"; the angels of
Simeon and Levi will have the listen to this reproof, "You
represent people who slew the inhabitants of Shechem"; the angel
of Judah will be repulsed with the words, "Judah had illicit
relations with his daughter-in-law." And the angels of the other
tribes will be repulsed by Esau's angel, when he points out to them
that they all took part in selling Joseph. The only one whom he
will not be able to repulse will be Joseph's angel, to whom he will
be delivered and by whom he will be destroyed; Joseph will b the
flame and Esau the straw burned in the flame. [142]


Moses now instructed Joshua in regard to his campaign against
Amalek, saying, "Choose us out men and go out, fight with
Amalek." The words "choose us" characterize the modesty of
Moses, who treated his disciple Joshua as an equal; in these words
he has taught us that the honor of our disciples should stand as
high as our own. Joshua did not at first want to expose himself to
danger and leave the protection of the cloud, but Moses said to
him, "Abandon the cloud and set forth against Amalek, if ever thou
dost hope to set the crown upon thy head." He commanded him to
choose his warriors from among the pious and God-fearing, and
promised him that he would set a fast day for the following day,
and implore God, in behalf of the good deeds of the Patriarchs and
the wives of the Patriarchs, to stand by Israel in this war.

Joshua acted in accordance with these commands [143] and set out
against Amalek, to conquer whom required not only skillful
strategy, but also adeptness in the art of magic. For Amalek was a
great magician and knew that propitious and the unpropitious hour
of each individual, and in this way regulated his attacks against
Israel; he attacked that one at night, whose death had been
predicted for a night, and him whose death had been preordained
for a day did he attack by day.

But in this art, too, Joshua was his match, for he, too, knew how to
time properly the attack upon [144] individuals, and he destroyed
Amalek, his sons, the armies he himself commanded, and those
under the leadership of his sons. But in the very heat of battle,
Joshua treated his enemies humanely, he did not repay like with
like. Far was it from him to follow Amalek's example in mutilating
the corpses of the enemy. Instead with a sharp sword he cut off the
enemies' heads, an execution that does not dishonor.

But only through the aid of Moses, did Joshua with his victory.
Moses did not go out into battle, but through his prayer and
through his influence upon the people in inspiring them with faith,
the battle was won. While the battle raged between Israel and
Amalek, Moses was stationed on a height, where, supported by the
Levite Aaron and the Judean Hur, the representatives of the two
noble tribes Levi and Judah, he fervently implored God's aid. He
said: "O Lord of the world! Through me has Thou brought Israel
out of Egypt, through me hast Thou cleft the sea, and through me
has Thou wrought miracles; so do Thou now work miracles for
me, and lend me victory to Israel, for I well know that while all
other nations fight only to the sixth hour of the day, this sinful
nation stand in battle ranks till sunset." Moses did not consider it
sufficient to pray alone to God, but he raised his hands toward
heaven as a signal for the whole nation to follow his example and
trust in God. As often as he then raised his hands to heaven and the
people prayed with him, trusting that God would lend them
victory, they were indeed victorious; as often, however, as Moses
let down his hands and the people ceased prayer, weakening in
their faith in God, Amalek conquered. But it was hard for Moses
constantly to raise his hands. This was God's way of punishing him
for being somewhat negligent in the preparations for the war
against Amalek. Hence Aaron and Hur were obliged to hold up his
arms and assist him in his prayer. As, furthermore, he was unable
to stand all that time, he seated himself on a stone, disdaining a
soft and comfortable seat, saying, "So long as Israel is in distress, I
shall share it with them." [145]

At evenfall, the battle was not yet decided, therefore Moses prayed
to God that He might stay the setting of the sun and thus enable
Israel to draw the battle to a close. God granted this prayer, for the
sun did not set until Israel had completely destroyed their enemy.
Thereupon Moses blessed Joshua with the words, "Some day the
sun shall stand still for thy sake, as it did to-day for mine," and this
blessing was later fulfilled at Gibeon, when the sun stood still to
help Joshua in his battle against the Amorites. [146]

Although Amalek had not received the merited punishment from
the hands of Joshua, still his enterprise against Israel had not been
entirely unavailing. The miraculous exodus of Israel out of Egypt,
and especially the cleaving of the sea, had created such alarm
among the heathens, that none among them had dared to approach
Israel. But this fear vanished as soon as Amalek attempted to
compete in battle with Israel. Although he was terrible beaten, still
the fear of the inaccessibility of Israel was gone. It was with
Amalek as with that foolhardy wight who plunged into a
scalding-hot tub. He scalded himself terribly, yet the tub became
cold through his plunge into it. Hence God was not content with
the punishment Amalek received in the time of Moses, but swore
by His throne and by His right hand that He would never forget
Amalek's misdeeds, that in this world as well as in the time of the
Messiah He would visit punishment upon him, and would
completely exterminate him in the future world. So long as the
seed of Amalek exist, the face of God is, as it were, covered, and
will only then come to view, when the seed of Amalek shall have
been entirely exterminated.

God had at first left the war against Amalek in the hands of His
people, therefore He bade Joshua, the future leader of the people,
never to forget the war against Amalek; and if Moses had listened
intently, he would have perceived from this command of God that
Joshua was destined to lead the people into the promised land. But
later, when Amalek took part in the destruction of Jerusalem, God
Himself took up the war against Amalek, saying, "By My throne I
vow not to leave a single descendant of Amalek under the heavens,
yea, no one shall even be able to say that this sheep or that wether
belonged to an Amalekite." [147]

God bade Moses impress upon the Jews to repulse no heathen
should he desire conversion, but never to accept an Amalekite as a
proselyte. It was in consideration of this word of God that David
slew the Amalekite, who announced to him the death of Saul and
Jonathan; for he saw in him only a heathen, although he appeared
in the guise of a Jew. [148]

Part of the blame for the destruction of Amalek falls upon his
father, Eliphaz. He used to say to Amalek: "My son, dost thou
indeed know who will posses this world and the future world?"
Amalek paid no attention to his allusion to the future fortune of
Israel, and his father urged it no more strongly upon him, although
it would have been his duty to instruct his son clearly and fully. He
should have said to him: "My son, Israel will posses this world as
well as the future world; dig wells then for their use and build road
for them, so that thou mayest be judged worthy to share in the
future world." But as Amalek had not been sufficiently instructed
by his father, in his wantonness he undertook to destroy the whole
world. God, who tries the reins and the heart, said to him: "O thou
fool, I created thee after all the seventy nations, but for thy sins
thou shalt be the first to descend into hell." [149]

To glorify the victory over Amalek, Moses built an altar, which
God called "My Miracle," for the miracle God wrought against
Amalek in the war of Israel was, as it were, a miracle for God. For
so long as the Israelites dwell in sorrow, God feels with them, and
a joy for Israel is a joy for God, hence, too, the miraculous victory
over Israel's foe was a victory for God. [150]


"Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware." The destruction of
Amalek brought Jethro to his senses. Jethro was originally in the
same plot with Amalek, both having incited Pharaoh against Israel,
but when he saw that Amalek lost this world and the other, he
repented of his sinful ways, saying: "There is nothing left to me but
to go over to the God of Israel"; [151] and although he dwelt in the
greatest wealth and honor, he determined to set out for the desert,
to Moses and his God. [152] Arrived at the camp of Israel, he
could not enter it, for it was enveloped by a cloud that none could
pierce, hence he wrote a letter to Moses and shot it off with an
arrow, so that it fell into the camp. [153] The letter read: "I adjure
thee, by thy two sons and by thy God, to come to meet me and
receive me kindly. If thou wilt not do if for my sake, do it for thy
wife's sake; and if thou wilt not do it for her sake, do it for thy
sons' sake." For Jethro brought with him his daughter Zipporah,
from whom Moses had been divorced, as well as her two sons, her
only children, for after her separation from Moses, she had wed no
other man.


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