Issue 10 –
Thoughts on Ancient Times & Current Events by Ashirah Yosefah
RAAH AND THE PESACH LAMB
Sheep gather to drink from an ancient well in the Judean desert.
© Ashirah Yosefah Photo
Purim is now past. Pesach is fast approaching. Soon all
While studying Torah commentaries on Parasha Bo a while back, I came across interesting commentaries on the reason Hashem commanded the Children of Israel to sacrifice a lamb at the time of the final plague He brought against the Egyptians, the plague that climaxed with the miraculous deliverance of Israelites from their 210 years of Egyptian exile. Hashem had already brought upon the Egyptians a series of plagues that had wrecked havoc with their rivers, crops, livestock, their health and sources of food and livelihood.
The ancient gods were often associated with the forces of nature and worship of the sun and stars. Hashem orchestrated the forces of nature at His bidding in a direct affront to the plethora of gods worshipped by the Egyptians.
"And Hashem said to Moshe: 'Go in to Pharaoh; for I have let his heart and the heart of his servants be unmoved in order to set up these My signs in his midst, so that you may tell in the ears of your son, and your son's son, the succession of acts in which I have revealed Myself upon Mitzrayim, and My signs that I have established among them; that you may recognize that I am Hashem.' " (Exodus 10:1-2, The Pentateuch, Samson Raphael Hirsch)
From the very onset, each of
the plagues directly challenged and proved impotent the various gods the
Egyptians revered. They worshipped the River Nile. When Moshe went out to speak with Pharaoh, as
commanded by Hashem in Exodus ,
Pharaoh was performing his morning worship ritual on the banks of the
The multitude of
gods associated with nature worshipped by the Egyptians were many,
but there were more than a few direct associations between these gods
and the plagues which preceded the Exodus: Frogs - Hekt;
gnats/vermin - Geb; flies - Amon-Ra; cattle disease - Hathor and Apis; boils -
Imohept, Serapis and Thoth; hail - Seth, Shu, Nut and Horus; locusts - Isis,
Min, Nepri and Thermuthis; and darkness - Horus, Ra, Tem and Shu.
Pharaoh himself was regarded as a god ... the son of the venerable sun.
His patron deity was Osirus, the judge of the dead, who was obviously sleeping
on the job the night of the plague which brought about the death of the
Yet, there was another
Egyptian deity associated with that unforgettable night; the night when
Hashem struck the firstborn of
Topics that follow each other in the Torah are usually related in some manner. Is there a connection between sanctifying the first of the month and the Pesach sacrifice?
Sun worship, and the worship of the stars and heavenly bodies, goes back to the days of Enosh, according to Maimonides (RAMBAM). In his Mishnah Torah, he discussed the development of sun and star worship in the chapter entitled "Idolatry and Heathenism". He also referred to it in his "Guide to the Perplexed", .
"1. In the days of Enosh, the people fell into gross error, and senseless was the counsel of the wise men of that generation. Enosh himself was among those who committed the error. Their error was this: They said that in view of the fact that G-d created the stars and celestial spheres to guide the world, setting them on high and honoring them, and they are His ministering servants, they deserve to be praised, glorified and honored. It is the will of G-d, Blessed be He, that we glorify and honor anyone He has glorified and honored, just as a king desires that respect be shown those who stand and minister before him, since this is an indirect way of honoring the king himself. When this notion entered their mind, they began to build temples in honor of the stars and offered sacrifices to them, praising and glorifying them in speech and prostrating themselves before them, in order to win the favor of the Creator, according to their wrong thinking." (Mishneh Torah, Idolatry and Heathenism, Chapter 1.1, Maimonides)
Kli Yakar (R. Shlomo Efraim of Luntchitz, 1550-1619) in his Torah commentary, "Kli Yakar", noted the fact that the Egyptians were strong believers in astrology. Shprintza Herskovits in her Parasha commentary "Rays of the Sun, Illuminations of the Weekly Parsha", Parsha Bo, pgs. 131-132, writes:
"At one point Pharaoh
told the Jewish people not to leave
In most English translations
of the Bible, "Raah" is translated as "evil". The
Hebrew word, ra, does mean evil; but "Raah" is also the
name of a god worshipped by the ancient Egyptians. The two words are
spelled identically. Each one of the previous plagues confronted,
demoted, and revealed as false one or more of the false deities of ancient
When Ya'akov and his family
joined Yosef in
"If Pharaoh will then
call you and say: 'What is your occupation?' Then you, too, shall say:
'Your servants have been breeders of herds from our youth until now, both we
and our fathers,' so that you may dwell in the
Shepherds were an abomination
to the Egyptians because they worshipped the lamb. The god Raah, a god of
blood, was represented by the lamb and based upon a constellation in the
heavenlies. When the final plague came, "Raah" was helpless to
prevent the death of the firstborn of
"You shall keep this word so that it may be a statute for you and your children forever. And it shall come to pass that when you come to the land which Hashem will give you as He has said, so you shall keep this service. And it shall come to pass that when your sons will say to you: 'What is this service to you?', you shall say: 'It is a meal of a deliverance performed through a pausing passing-over, consecrated to Hashem, Who paused as He passed over the houses of the sons of Yisrael in Mitzrayim when He struck Mitzrayim mortally and rescued our houses!" And the people bowed and cast themselves down." (Exodus 12:24-27, The Pentateuch, Samson Raphael Hirsch)
The Pesach sacrifice had
nothing to do with atonement for sin. It was a direct affront to an
Egyptian deity, and it commemorates a mighty deliverance ... the prophesied
rescue and release of the Children of Israel from exile and slavery in the
For nearly 2000 years, the Christian church has wrongly associated Pesach (Passover) with their celebration of Easter (Ishtar ... an Egyptian fertility goddess). They have connected Pesach with atonement for sin ... which the Torah simply does not do. They herald one of the godhead they worship as "the lamb of G-d", the "Passover lamb". Constantine, the father of the Christian church, was an avid sun worshipper who continued to worship the sun despite his professed conversion to Christianity. Sun worship was not monotheistic. It also involved worship of the constellations and the false deities associated with them since ancient times, including the lamb god, Raah. Something to think about.