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Ask the Rabbi - 285

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September 9, 2000 / 9 Elul 5760; Issue #285

Nile Denial


Shana from Daytona Beach, FL wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Hi, I am attending a community college in Daytona Beach before I go to Berkeley, and I have a couple questions concerning the angle my humanities teacher takes. He states that there was no great Exodus out of Egypt for the Jews because archaeologists could not find trash in the desert enough for the "supposed" thousands of Jews migrating out from Egypt. He also states that the Jews were not slaves in Egypt. He admits to there being a small caste of Jews that were slaves, but not on the popular belief scale. I am the only Jew in class because he asked any Hebrew to raise their hand and mine was the only one that went up, so I stand alone when I ask him and question him. If you could give me any information about this I would feel better about the subject. These are only a few of the things my teacher has said that has made me anxious and on guard. Thank you.

Dear Shana,

Your teacher is mistaken on two counts.

First of all, he is simply ignorant of the overwhelming amount of historical evidence, archeological and otherwise, that there is for the Exodus. I'll mention some of this evidence later.

Secondly, even if there were no archeological evidence to prove the Exodus, that would not necessarily disprove it. The only way to disprove something is either to find evidence against it, or to find a lack of evidence that should be present and for which there is no plausible explanation for its absence.

But simply to say that something was not proved is a meaningless statement. For instance, the fact that they didn't find a harp with David's name on it or a pair of shoes with the name "Moses" written in them does not disprove these people's existence.

Now, not finding trash could be "evidence against" the Exodus if the archeologists knew exactly where such trash should be. But how would they know that? Do they know the exact route that we traveled in the desert? How extensive was their digging?

And exactly what kind of trash were they looking for? Candy wrappers? The manna that fell from Heaven wasn't wrapped in candy wrappers. Were they looking for human waste? The Talmud says that the manna was miraculous food that was totaly absorbed by the body; a person didn't have to go the bathroom after eating the manna. Perhaps, then, they expected to find worn out clothing? The verse says, "Your clothes did not wear out from upon you these forty years (Deuteronomy 8:4)."

Now, an archeologist may say, "But I don't believe in these miracles; I'm looking for evidence of a purely natural Exodus."

In other words, the Jewish version of the Exodus is rejected at the outset; instead, evidence is sought for a different event, an event which we never said happened.

This is like saying: "If the Jews crossed the Red Sea, they must have had boats. If we don't find these boats, it disproves their story." But this won't disprove our story; we never claimed we crossed the Red Sea in boats! So, too, our version of the Exodus does not imply necessarily that we would have littered the dessert with all sorts of artifacts.

As I said in the beginning, there is overwhelming historical evidence, archeological and otherwise, for the Exodus. For one, we have an unbroken historical record of these events. Our record is both a written record, recorded in our Torah, and an oral record passed on by word of mouth from parents to their children (like we do the night of Passover). See our "Historical Verification of the Torah"

I'll mention here just one piece of archeological evidence, the Ipuwer papyrus. Found in the early 19th Century in Egypt, this document describes events which parallel remarkably events described in the Book of Exodus: Violent upheavals in Egypt, starvation, drought, escape of slaves with the wealth of the Egyptians, and death throughout the land. See it on our website at:

Finally, let me suggest a few books that bring extensive archaeological evidence for the Exodus: The best book on the subject is Israel in Egypt by James Hoffmeier. See also Biblical Personalities and Archaeology by Leah Bronner and Permission to Receive by Leib Keleman.

Yiddle Riddle


My older brother is my twin. Although he is perfectly healthy in every way, he will not fast this year on Yom Kippur, although I will. Why?

Answer next week ...


The Public Domain
Comments, quibbles, and reactions concerning previous "Ask-the-Rabbi" features.


Re: GOING TO POTTER (Ask the Rabbi #282):

A few months ago, my non-religious, eight-year old nephew arrived in Israel for the first time and stayed with us one week, Harry Potter novel in tow. He was very excited to share his book with his numerous cousins (our children). Within the first half hour of greeting them, he was happily reading aloud to them and showing them the pictures.

It was obvious to me within moments that he should keep this book to himself for private reading time, when our children were in school. I was relieved when my ten-year old whispered to me, "Imma, the book he is reading isn't nice!"

Another answer to the person who asked whether we should be reading Harry Potter is this: Why not read something much more inspiring to oneself and one's children? Like Paysach Krohn's phenomenal true stories (the five volume "Maggid" series), or the four volume Visions of Greatness by Rabbi Yosef Weiss, and numerous others?

When I read these to our children, we all are uplifted by our own potential for greatness, and awed by the chesed (kindness), giving, sensitivity, and selflessness of Jews around the world. Why aspire to be a wizard and read about all that violence? It seeps in to one's psyche, everything we read. (please don't print my email address if you use this letter in the Public Domain).


You wrote: "There's no specific prohibition against 'wizard' stories, the question is how much time, if any, to spend on them?" Your suggestion does not take into consideration the other contents of the book -- it could be licentious, violent, etc.

Revs. Helmut & Erika Loeffler, Metro Manila, Philippines


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Debi Burdman-Deutsch

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