In Shemos 2:5, we read the daughter of Pharaoh came down "לִרְחֹץ עַל הַיְאֹר" "To dip into the Nile". The Gemara in Sotah 12b says it means she came to convert.

How did she know that immersion was part of the conversion?

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    Probably the same way she came to know about Judaism in the pagan country of Egypt.
    – robev
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 3:11
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    The question should be, why or who determined that immersion was part of the conversion process. In fact, it was before Matan Torah so how was there proper conversion at all?
    – Chatzkel
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 11:15
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    The Gemoro actually says, R' Yoḥanan says in the name of R' Shimon ben Yoḥai: This teaches that she came to the river to cleanse herself from the impurity of her father’s idols. Rashi says “to immerse for the sake of conversion” - this comment is the source of your question. The text of the gemoro does not say that the purpose was immersion for conversion. Is it possible to understand Rashi that she sought to sever the connection to idolatry and hence make herself fit to be Jewish? Maybe Rashi did not mean the teviloh that is used in our conversion process. Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 14:57
  • Please don't use nonstandard pronunciations of names, it makes the question impossible to search for. It's best to stick with the standard Hebrew pronunciation.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 13:30
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    @AlBerko Bisya is pretty standard Hebrew for בִּתְיָ֣ה בַת־פַּרְעֹ֔ה
    – Double AA
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 14:46

2 Answers 2


The Turei Even on Megilla 13A asks a similar question. How could she have been doing a conversion if there were no Jews yet and everyone was considered Bnei Noach? He then quotes a Rashi in Sotah 12B that says that it was not for a proper conversion, but rather to just remove the idolatry of her past.

Perhaps it can be explained further by the insight of the Beer Mayim Chaim on Sotah 12B who explains that the Egyptians worshipped the water of the Nile and therefore her Teshuva included going to the Nile to remove the sins of the past.

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    I didn't really understand why you think we don't have the Rashi on Sotah 12b. It's here. It's not the exact same words, but maybe he was aware that he was paraphrasing?
    – Harel13
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 14:55
  • Thank you, I missed that Rashi. My issue is that Rashi in Sotah says explicitly it was for Geirus just like he says in Megilla. So did he not have that Rashi? The Marharitz Chiyus in Megilla says he is asking a stira in Rashi between Sotah and Megilla
    – Chatzkel
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 15:01

It appears that dipping in water was an accepted ritual for spiritual rebirth in many ancient cultures. See Water_and_religion.

Because before the Matan Torah, conversion was a matter of personal choice, not a matter of established Halachah, she decided to commemorate her personal commitment to the new faith by dipping in the Nile.

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    What makes you assume that it was practised in Ancient Egypt? The Wikipedia article that you linked to lists Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, the Baháʼí Faith, Shinto, Taoism, and the Rastafari movement (as well as Judaism) all of which came into existence after the Jewish faith. None of these religions were practised in Ancient Egypt?
    – Dov
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 14:02
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egyptian_religion
    – Dov
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 14:04

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