Friday, June 08, 2007

Looking Backwards to Egypt


שמות רבה כב:א

ויאמר ה' אל משה נטה את ידך על הים וישובו המים וגו', הה"ד אחזו לנו שועלים שועלים קטנים. כשהיה מושל המלכיות לא היה מושלן אלא בחיות... וכשהוא מושל את המצרים, אינו מושלן אלא לשועלים — ...א"ר אלעזר ב"ר שמעון: ערומים היו המצרים לפיכך הוא מושלן כשועלים; מה שועל זה מהלך ומביט לאחוריו, כך המצרים מהלכין ומביטין לאחוריהם...


Midrash Shemot Raba 22:1
And then God said to Moshe, "stretch out your hand over the sea, and the water will return..." — this is what is refered to by catch foxes for us, small foxes. When the kingdoms would be allegorized, they would be compared to animals... and when the Egyptians would be allegorized, they would be compared specifically to foxes — ...Ribbí El‘azar beRibbí Shim‘on said: the Egyptians were tricky, therefore they were compared to foxes; and just as foxes walk while looking backwards, so too do the Egyptians walk while looking backwards...

The Egyptians walked while looking backwards?

That sounds sort of dangerous... hard to imagine how you could run a society where no one's watching where they're going.

However, their hieroglyphics definitely did 'walk' while looking backwards!

Here is a sample of hieroglyphics, from Karen's Whimsy's collection of public domain images:


Notice how some of the hieroglyphic characters are people and animals. These characters always face backwards, towards the start of the line and/or the beginning of the block of text. So as you read 'down their backs', the little Egyptian people and animals are actually looking in the opposite direction, as if over their shoulders in the manner of foxes.

3 Comments:

Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Yiyshar kohakhah!

6/12/2007 9:39 AM  
Anonymous avakesh said...

A few thoughts.

1. I agree that the intent is that it looks to run away.

"What does a fox watch out for in the ruins? When it sees people coming, it immediately runs away. (Petichta Ruth Rabbah 5).

2.How does a fox get into its hole? Doesn't it edge in backwards?

6/13/2007 12:20 PM  
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