Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Yam Suf 7 or 8 Days from the Exodus?

Most people assume that Krias Yam Suf and its ensuing song happened on the seventh day of Pesach. However, Rashi at the end of this week's Parsha clearly states that it happened on the eighth day of Pesach. Rashi states that the eight strings of Tzitzis are symbolic of the eight days of travel from when we left Egypt until the sea split and we sang our Shira. (Rashi Bamidbar 15:41)

One of the issues that has been addressed regarding this Rashi is that it seems contradictory to another Rashi. When commenting on the events of Krias Yam Suf, Rashi mentions that it happened on the seventh day of the Exodus. Rashi even states that this is the basis for the custom to read the Torah portion of Krias Yam Suf on the seventh day of Pesach. (Rashi Shemos 14:5)

I would like to offer two suggestions that our founded on how to calculate when one's day begins. The first answer is suggested by Rabbeinu Bachye. He maintains that even though Jewish law usually recognizes night as preceding day, when it comes to sacrificial offerings the day comes first (regarding sacrifices, the portion placed on the Mizbeach is able to be burnt the night following the day in which the blood was sprinkled).

Our Exodus began on the 14 of Nisan when the Korbon Pesach, a sacrificial offering, was brought in the early afternoon. Thus, the morning of what we would refer to as the seventh day of Pesach is actually the eighth day from the Exodus if one is utilizing the sacrificial offering system. In this regard both the Rashi that maintained that it was day seven and the one that states that it was day eight are correct, they are just describing the event based on separate systems. (Rabbeinu Bachye Bamidbar 15:41)

Seeming to support this assumption is the fact that the Rashi that maintained that it was day eight focused on the time when Klal Yisrael sang and not when the Egyptians perished in the sea. They perished just before morning, (Shemos 14:27) but we did not sing until after daybreak. (Rashi Shemos 14:5) Unfortunately, Rabbeinu Bachye leaves hidden the reason why Tzitzis reflect the sacrificial offering system and the Torah portion read on Pesach reflects the regular system.

Before presenting another approach I would like to say, as an aside, that it is pretty fascinating that the evening during which the sea split had a very rare occurrence happen in the sky. That night the moon partially blocked Mars making it appear as if the two were touching (I know that I posted a similar thing with Saturn regarding the first Tisha B'Av earlier this week, but these events truly are rare which makes it even more fantastic that they seem to happen on these monumental dates in Jewish history). Astrologically, this event portends malevolent tidings. (Ibn Ezra Reishis Chachma 7) Interestingly, it occurred in the constellation Aquarius which is considered the be the mazal of Klal Yisrael. (Ibn Ezra Shemos 31:18) Aquarius, depicted as a man pouring a bucket of water, would have been seen as being afflicted by this sign. It seems interesting that Hashem bestowed His mercy that evening and saved this young nation. Just as he split the water of the Yam Suf, he "split open" the evil tidings found in the constellation of water that symbolized this nation and protected them miraculously. In fact, quite unbelievably, Rabbeinu Bachye mentions that the Jewish nation should have perished at the Yam Suf because the Egyptians had tapped into the inlfuence of Mars which is associated with death. It was only because of God's tremendous mercy that he saved us. (Rabbeinu Bachye Shemos 14:25)

I am certainly not qualified to argue with Rabbeinu Bachye, but I would like to suggest an alternate way one could have read Rashi based on the Meiri. The Meiri states that their are four accepted ways that civilizations have decided to begin their days. One is the Jewish way and that is the start from evening. A second way is to start from daybreak. Another is to start at midnight (like is the practice here in the U.S.) and the last way is to start from midday when the sun is at its peak. This last way, says the Meiri, is based on deep astrological meaning and this is how the ancient Egyptians began their day. (Meiri Pesachim 5a)

Rashi mentions that Paroh sent a messenger with us when we left Egypt to make sure that we would return after three days. When we did not, Paroh came out with his armies and advanced towards our camp on days five and six. The night of the seventh day of our Exodus his battalions were drowned in the sea. (Rashi Shemos 14:5) In fact, this is the same Rashi that mentions the reason for reading this portion on the seventh of Pesach.

The Sifri mentions that we left Egypt at midday. (Sifri Devarim 337) Rashi quotes from this Sifri elsewhere implying that he is of the same opinion. (See Rashi Bereishis 7:13) If Rashi agreed with the Meiri then Paroh sent his messenger with us right at the "beginning" of the first day which coincides with 15 Nisan in the Jewish calendar at midday (this is the day after the Korbon Pesach and the first day of our holiday of Pesach). That means that seven Egyptian days after would have the Egyptian destruction occurring on the night of the eighth day of the Jewish count. Since we do not follow the Egyptian calendar we commemorate this event with the seventh day based on our count and we read the Torah portion of this event on the seventh of Pesach. The Rashi at the end of our Parsha, though, would also be accurate. The Egyptians perished on what we would call the eighth day, but the seventh Egyptian day from our Exodus.


Anonymous said...

1. Not sure I understand your logic. Do you imply that klal yisrael at the time counted like the Egyptians and it was the 7th day for them? Now that our system has changed we count 7 days according to our own system?
2. Also, can you please post the exact dates and coordinates to recreate these phenomena in Stellarium?
3. Do you use the traditional Seder Olam chronology in your calculations?
4. The malevolent sign in Aquarius helps to better understand the midrashim klal yisrael being in a state of judgement at the time.

Ari S. said...

1. I am not sure whether Klal Yisrael followed this system or whether Rashi was referring to how the Mitzrim viewed the events. The Meiri does state that our korbon was done at midday because it was considered to be the beginning of the day.
2. 5/17/1312 B.C.E. you can look at locations in either Eretz Yisrael or eastern Egypt. If you watch throughout the night you will see the moon get close to Mars, cover part of it and then separate. Please keep in mind that the calendar has no year 0 but in scientific notation there is. So, you need to plug in -1311 into Stellarium to get to 1312 B.C.E. Also, you may want to go to the options and scale the moon to its actual visible size (I don't know why this is an option and not the default setting, but that is how they have it)
3. I wish I had enough time to discuss this point in depth, in my upcoming book I have an appendix that is the size of a regular chapter that talks about it. Basically, I use the regular chronology of Seder Olam, but I utilize Rebbi Yehoshua's opinion that the world was created in Nisan. (R"H 11) That means that 2,448 years after Creation is the Exodus, but since the calendar changes at Rosh Hashana (in our current system) and the Exodus occurs in Nisan one has to change the secular calendar one extra year (between Rosh Hashana and Nisan you inevitably passed through a January 1). Also, you have to factor in that the secular calendar has no year 0, nor does the Hebrew calendar. Also, there was a year called Shnas Tohu that is year 1 (discussed in the Tur in Hilchos ROsh Chodesh) in our calendar making Creation in year 2.
4. Thank you.

I hope that this helped make things clear and did not make things worse. Unfortunately, with posts I often write them on the quicker side and, unlike the book, don't have an editor.

Ari S. said...

After posting this, I realized that my theory may actually have roots in something else that Rabbeinu Bachye says, Baruch Shekivanti Rabbeinu Bachye mentions that the Jewish nation should have perished at the Yam Suf because the Egyptians had tapped into the inlfuence of Mars which is associated with death. It was only because of God's tremendous mercy that he saved us. (Rabbeinu Bachye Shemos 14:25)I felt that this adds an integral element to that portion of the post, so I included in the actual post in addition to this comment. Thank you.

Beit vegan astrolog said...

Moon conjunct mars rare ?...once a month. There is a fellow from belgium that wrote 2 books on the astrology of jewish history...also mazel cancer...

Ari S. said...

Thanks for the interest, perhaps, I can help with your questions. The moon does come close to Mars on a monthly basis, BUT DOES NOT TOUCH IT. The more precise term would have been an occultation and not a conjunction, but I felt that the average person would feel more comfortable with the first term which does, as you state, also connote a closeness when not touching. Therefore, let me be more accurate and state that I am referring to an occultation in the post.

Occultations are not common and WHEN TAKING INTO ACCOUNT THAT THE OBSERVER HAS TO BE AT A LOCATION WHERE IT IS NIGHT TIME, THEY ARE VERY RARE. It is comparable to the moon and sun. Both come very close once a month, a conjunction, but they do not touch as often, an eclipse (although the sun and moon experience "occultations" or eclipses far more often than the other planets, due to size and orbit. In fact, they eclipse several tiems a year, but try and remember how often you see an eclipse). They eclipse on a much rarer basis when one takes into account the location of the observer.

Do you have the name of the book/author of that set of books? I would be interested in seeing it.

I am not sure what you are asking by stating "also mazel cancer". If you mean that the occultation happened there at Krias Yam Suf, that is clearly not the case as seen in the recreation done by Stellarium for that date. If you mean to say it is the mazal of Yisrael, I would love to know who states that. The Ibn Ezra clearly maintains that D'li (or Aquarius) is the mazal of Yisrael. (Ibn Ezra Shemos 31:18) Cancer, or Sartan, is considered to be the mazal of the world as a whole. (Ibn Ezra Sefer HaTa'amim; available at

Beit vegan said...

Hard for me to write...u cal call 972-54-348-7700

Ari S. said...

I undersrand it seems it is hard for you to type, can you just mention the name of the book/author?

I searched around a bit and found something about planetary cycles and comparing that to the number of verses, is that what you are referring?