Sunday, April 09, 2017

On despoiling the Egyptians

PASSOVER IS COMING: Despoiling the Egyptians: A Concerning Jewish Legacy? (Prof. Leonard Greenspoon,
How 19th century Anglo-Jewish translators defended the Israelites’ behavior against the King James translation’s perceived accusation that the Jews “borrowed” the Egyptians belongings and never returned them.
The essay also deals with early biblical translations, biblical Hebrew lexicography, and a legendary ancient and an actual modern effort by Egyptians to sue the State of Israel for the despoilment. Conclusion:
In both the rabbinic story and the modern attempt, the lawsuits went nowhere. Yet, they reflect Jewish anxiety about how the story of the despoiling of Egypt can be used against us, and offer an important lesson. For those seeking to discredit the Book, or the People of the Book, there is no concept of a statute of limitations and no desire to try and understand this account in its literary or historical setting. It merely serves as a useful pretext for anti-Jewish stereotyping. This cannot determine our translations, which must follow philology and context, but we should always remember what is at stake in any given choice.