7

This question is based on a few assumptions, which are based on a couple of Midrashim.

First of all, Shemos Rabbah 9:10 and Tanna D'Vei Eliyahu Chapter 7 say that the Egyptians were punished with the plague of blood because they prevented the Jews from going to the mikveh (Yefeh Toar and Maharzu say they must have kept the tradition of taharas hamishpacha from their ancestors). At the same time, Midrash Tanchuma Metzora § 9 says that the Jewish women, due to the dread placed upon them by the Egyptians, stopped getting their monthly cycles. I would add that there must have been a miracle that they were able to conceive in such large quantities, despite not getting their cycles.

I would say that there's no contradiction here, as the Egyptians were punished for their nefarious intentions, even though in the end no harm was done (no Jewess even needed the mikveh). However, Anaf Yosef ad. loc., quoting Gevul Binyamin, sees a contradiction, and therefore says that even though the Jews' monthly cycles stopped, they still needed the mikveh after giving birth.

במצרים לא היו רואות דם. והא דאיתא לעיל למה הביא עליהם דם לפי שלא היו מניחין בנות ישראל לבטול מטומאתן הרי שהיו רואין דם ונראה והנה כבר כתיב אשה כי תזריע וכו' ואפילו נפתח הקבר בלא דם אמו טמאה לידה וישראל היו פרים ורבים מאד לכן היו צריכות טהרה במקוה

Since this is all assuming the Jews kept halacha, and we see that the Jews had an unusually large population explosion, how can this be reconciled? Once they gave birth, seemingly they couldn't continue having children with their husbands, as the mikvehs were closed. This Gevul Binyamin created a new problem instead of just answering one (which I anyways feel wasn't a problem). He does give a different answer, but I'm curious according to this one.

12
  • 4
    Maybe they only kept the tradition for nidah and not dam leida?
    – Chatzkel
    Sep 21, 2022 at 18:05
  • 2
    Not sure why my comment was deleted. I wrote to @Chatzkel that that distinction seems arbitrary.
    – robev
    Sep 24, 2022 at 17:46
  • 3
    Perhaps they were able to use the Nile River Sep 28, 2022 at 21:39
  • 1
    @sabbahillel what does it mean then that they closed the mikvehs? Doesn't that mean they blocked access to the most obvious mikveh, namely the Nile?
    – robev
    Sep 29, 2022 at 12:20
  • 1
    The golus in Egypt was spread out of a few hundered years. It is likely that the dread stopping cycles, the mookvaos being shut and all the otehr events happened at different times, so when the mikvaos were closed they indeed did not multiply or did not need to use them
    – terryg
    Oct 27, 2022 at 8:58

4 Answers 4

2

Perhaps the Egyptians closed the Mikvaos but they didn't close the Nile River.

There is a machlokes between Rav and Shmuel in Shabbos 65b whether rivers are permissible as mikvaos. Rav holds the majority of water in a river (unless you know otherwise) is presumed to be rainwater. Because they water is moving (zochlin) it is therefore posul as a mikvah. Shmuel (in one version) holds that the majority of river water is assumed to be from underground acquifiers and therefore has the status of a mayan (a spring) and it permissible as a mikvah even though the water is moving.

Although we are machmir for Rav as a l'chatchila, in places without a proper mikvah, the Rama brings down that the minhag was to be meikel like Shmuel. יש על מי שיסמוכו.

So although the Egyptians shut down the mikvaos, the Jewish women would bathe in the Nile (or its tributaries) as a mikvah in order to be mutar to their husbands. The Egyptians thought that they were stopping Jewish families or causing sin but the nashim tzidkoniyos found a way to build the Klal Yisrael anyway.

1

For each midrashic author, you need to explore his world and see the underlying assumptions. When the author of Shemot Rabba wrote:

מִפְּנֵי מָה הֵבִיא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עֲלֵיהֶן דָּם, מִדָּה כְּנֶגֶד מִדָּה. שֶׁכָּךְ אָמַר לְאַבְרָהָם (בראשית טו, יד): וְגַם אֶת הַגּוֹי אֲשֶׁר יַעֲבֹדוּ דָּן אָנֹכִי וגו'. לְפִי שֶׁלֹא הָיוּ מַנִּיחִין בְּנוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל לִטְבֹּל מִטֻּמְאָתָן, כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹא יִהְיוּ פָּרִין וְרָבִין, לְפִיכָךְ לָקוּ הַמַּיִם בְּדָם.

However, "because they did not allow the daughters of Israel to immerse from their niddah impurities, so that they (the Jewesses) would not be fruitful and multiply", it does not specify just how they so prevented them. Did they close the ritual baths and access to the Nile? That is the assumption in the question.

However, reading other parts of Shemot Rabba, indeed in the very first chapter, 1:12, we see just how the Egyptians attempted to prevent them from immersing, in various ways. Namely:

אַרְבַּע גְּזֵרוֹת גָּזַר פַּרְעֹה עֲלֵיהֶם, בַּתְּחִלָּה גָּזַר וְצִוָּה לַנּוֹגְשִׂין שֶׁיִּהְיוּ דּוֹחֲקִין בָּהֶן כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיוּ עוֹשִׂין הַסְּכוּם שֶׁלָּהֶן, וְלֹא יִהְיוּ יְשֵׁנִין בְּבָתֵּיהֶם. וְהוּא חָשַׁב לְמַעֲטָן מִפְּרִיָּה וּרְבִיָּה, אָמַר מִתּוֹךְ שֶׁאֵינָן יְשֵׁנִין בְּבָתֵּיהֶם אֵינָן מוֹלִידִין. אָמְרוּ לָהֶן הַנּוֹגְשִׂים, אִם אַתֶּם הוֹלְכִין לִישֹׁן בְּבָתֵּיכֶם עַד שֶׁאָנוּ מְשַׁלְּחִין אַחֲרֵיכֶם בַּבֹּקֶר, הַיּוֹם עוֹלֶה לְשָׁעָה וְלִשְׁתַּיִם וְאֵין אַתֶּם מַשְׁלִימִין אֶת הַסְּכוּם שֶׁלָּכֶם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות ה, יג): וְהַנֹּגְשִׂים אָצִים לֵאמֹר וגו', וְהָיוּ יְשֵׁנִין עַל הָאָרֶץ. אָמַר לָהֶן הָאֱלֹהִים, אֲנִי אָמַרְתִּי לְאַבְרָהָם אֲבִיהֶם שֶׁאֲנִי מַרְבֶּה בָּנָיו כַּכּוֹכָבִים, דִּכְתִיב (בראשית כב, יז): כִּי בָרֵךְ אֲבָרֶכְךָ וְהַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה וגו', וְאַתֶּם מִתְחַכְּמִים לָהֶן שֶׁלֹא יִרְבּוּ, נִרְאֶה אֵיזֶה דָּבָר עוֹמֵד אוֹ שֶׁלִּי אוֹ שֶׁלָּכֶם, מִיָּד (שמות א, יב): וְכַאֲשֶׁר יְעַנּוּ אֹתוֹ כֵּן יִרְבֶּה וגו'. דָּרַשׁ רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא, בִּשְׂכַר נָשִׁים צִדְקָנִיּוֹת שֶׁהָיוּ בְּאוֹתוֹ הַדּוֹר נִגְאֲלוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרָיִם. וּמֶה עָשׂוּ, בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁהָיוּ הוֹלְכוֹת לִשְׁאֹב מַיִם, הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מְזַמֵּן לָהֶם דָּגִים קְטַנִּים בְּכַדֵּיהֶן, וְשׁוֹאֲבִין מֶחֱצָה מַיִם וּמֶחֱצָה דָּגִים, וּמוֹלִיכוֹת אֵצֶל בַּעֲלֵיהֶן וְשׁוֹפְתוֹת לָהֶם שְׁתֵּי קְדֵרוֹת, אַחַת שֶׁל חַמִּין וְאַחַת שֶׁל דָּגִים, וּמַאֲכִילוֹת אוֹתָן וּמַרְחִיצוֹת אוֹתָן וְסָכוֹת אוֹתָן וּמַשְׁקוֹת אוֹתָן, וְנִזְקָקוֹת לָהֶם בֵּין שְׁפַתָּיִם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים סח, יד): אִם תִּשְׁכְּבוּן בֵּין שְׁפַתָּיִם כַּנְפֵי יוֹנָה נֶחְפָּה בַכֶּסֶף, בִּשְׂכַר שֶׁשָּׁכְבוּ בֵּין שְׁפַתָּיִם, זָכוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל לְבִזַּת מִצְרַיִם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: כַּנְפֵי יוֹנָה נֶחְפָּה בַכֶּסֶף.

Pharaoh issued four decrees against them. Initially, he decreed and commanded the taskmasters to pressure them so that they would produce their quota and they would not sleep at home. He thought to diminish their procreation. He said: If they do not sleep at home they will not have children. The taskmasters said to them: ‘If you go to sleep in your homes, by the time we send to gather you in the morning, an hour or two of the day will have passed, and you will not meet your quota,’ as it is stated: “The taskmasters pressured them saying, [fulfill your work, your daily task]” (Exodus 5:13). They would sleep on the ground. God said to them [the Egyptians]: ‘I said to their forefather Abraham that I will multiply his descendants like the stars, as it is stated: “For I will bless you, and I will multiply, etc.” (Genesis 22:17), and you are outsmarting them so they will not multiply? We will see whose matter prevails, Mine or yours.’ Immediately, “but the more they would afflict them, the more they would increase…” (Exodus 1:12). Rabbi Akiva expounded: On account of the righteous women who were in that generation, Israel was redeemed from Egypt. What did they do? When they would go to draw water, the Holy One blessed be He would arrange for them small fish in their jugs, and they would draw half water and half fish. They would take it to their husbands and would place two pots on the fire [veshoftot], one with hot water and one with fish. They would feed them, bathe them, anoint them with oil, and give them to drink, and they would consort with them between the pots [shefatayim], as it is stated: “Now you may lie within the sheepfolds [shefatayim], wings of the dove covered with silver” (Psalms 68:14). In reward for having lain between the pots, Israel merited the loot of Egypt, as it is stated: “wings of the dove covered with silver.”

All of this was before they moved to the next level, the killing of the male infants.

Thus, the midrashic author assumes that the Egyptians are taking steps to prevent them from immersing, but the Israelite women took steps to circumvent those restrictions. Thus, if the Egyptians closed bathhouses, it stands to reason that they might have immersed in the Nile itself, from where they drew fish. It doesn't explicitly specify this, but I don't think it needs to specify this.

1
  • Interesting hypothesis :)
    – robev
    Apr 19 at 8:39
0

Amazing question. The simple answer is that before Mattan Torah and particularly in Chutz Laaretz, Klal Yisroel kept the Torah as a Rishus and not a Chiyuv. The Ramban says this explicitly regarding Yaakov marrying sisters that the Torah was not binding in Chutz Laaretz (hence Rachel had to die prior to entering EY). As such, although the Jewish women would have liked to be keep Taharas Mishpacha, they would not be forbidden to their husband's if they were prevented.

0
-2

I think this is a question where it's more fruitful to disregard the assumptions given for better assumptions that can withstand more scrutiny. Like you said, the premise of "the Egyptians were punished with the plague of blood because they prevented the Jews from going to the mikveh" seems hard to accept given the text of the Torah goes out of its way to describe how numerous the children of Israel were, and how our tradition goes out of its way to say how the children of Israel tried to keep the majority of halakhot.

I'm wondering if the reason you've accepted the midrashic assumptions is because it gives a nice reason for why the plague was to turn the nile into blood. So if you want an explanation for that I have one to offer you.

The reason for the first plague being the water turning into blood is because it symbolizes the earlier genocide of the Egyptians throwing the Israelite children into the Nile. Turning the water to blood serves as a symbol to the Egyptians that the genocide they committed didn't fade into history, and it foreshadows that more plagues and punishments will be coming because of what they had done to the babies. This interpretation also explains why we see the Egyptian populace siding with the Israelites from time to time throughout the plagues, because they saw the guilt of their hands, and recognized the righteous cause of the Israelites. The blood also served the purpose of showing the Israelites that God wasn't blind about what had happened to them. This was important as the Israelites in Exodus 5 had their work become harder due to Moses's and God's actions, so they were in need of seeing a symbol of hope for themselves.

3
  • 2
    I appreciate the effort but this doesn't try to answer the question, or justify throwing out its assumptions, which are based on authoritative sources. Difficulties doesn't make them wrong.
    – robev
    Sep 23, 2022 at 11:32
  • how our tradition goes out of its way to say how the children of Israel tried to keep the majority of halakhot. you arbitrarily accept this Midrash while denying the one I brought about the plague of blood. Why
    – robev
    Sep 23, 2022 at 11:32
  • 1
    @robev Who says I accept one but not the other? I accept that all traditions say what they say. That's different than believing them all. I believe each according to their merits
    – Aaron
    Sep 23, 2022 at 16:02

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .