Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Excalibur? No, The Staff of Moses

I participate at Mail Jewish, (details) having been introduced to it way back in 1990.

Here's a fascinating example of what you can find there, this one by Steven Oppenheimer, D.M.D:

There is a legend going back perhaps to the twelfth century about King Arthur and his legendary sword (Excalibur according to some). The legend has it that whoever could retrieve the sword from the rock would become the king of England. While many tried, it was only Arthur who was able to remove this magical sword and he became king of England and united the realm.

What is the source of this legend?

Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkanus (early 2nd century Tanna) was born into a prominent family. However, he did not know any Torah, even lacking the ability to recite Kriat Shema, Shemoneh Esrei and Bircat Hamazone. At age 28, he traveled to Jerusalem and studied with Rav Yochanan ben Zakai, eventually becoming a great scholar. The Talmud (Bava Metziah 59b) records a story in which a Bat Kol (Heavenly Voice) declared that the Halacha is always according to Rabbi Eliezer.

There is a collection of Midrashim written by Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkanus entitled, "Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer." There is a fascinating account of Mateh Moshe, Moshe Rabbeinu's staff, in chapter 40 of Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer.

The staff was created Bein HaShemashot (dusk) on the sixth day of Creation when 10 other miraculous things were created (e.g. the well that provided water for the Jews in the desert, Bilam's donkey, etc.). This special staff was handed down from Adam HaRishon to Chanoch, Metushelach, Noach, Shem, Avaraham, Yitzchak, Ya'akov and Yosef. When Yosef passed away, it was taken by Paroh's court. One of Paroh's advisors was Yitro (along with Iyov and Bilam). Yitro was the priest of Midyan (Kohain Midyan) . Yitro saw the letters (signs) engraved on the staff that had been taken from Yosef and realized that it was very special indeed. When he fled from Paroh, he took the staff with him and planted it in the ground in his yard.

He said whoever would be able to retrieve the staff from the ground would be able to marry his daughter. No one was able to remove the staff from the ground until Moshe came along, brought home by Zipporah. Moshe was able to retrieve the staff from the ground and Yitro realized that Moshe was destined to be a great leader, King of Israel, who would go on to redeem his people. He gave Zipporah to Moshe to be his wife and the story of Moshe and this special Mateh (staff) are recorded in our Chumash.

Centuries after the recording of this story by Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkanus, the myth of King Arthur and "the sword and the stone" became popular.

And now you know the rest of the story!

See here for the Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer citation:

It is here under the heading The Circumcision of Gershon, btw:-

Moses was imprisoned in a deep dungeon in Jethro's house, and received as food only small portions of bread and water. He would have died of hunger had not Zipporah, to whom Moses had before his captivity made an offer of marriage by the well, devised a plan by which she no longer went out to pasture the sheep, but remained at home to attend to the household, being thereby enabled to supply Moses with food without her father's knowledge. After ten (or seven) years Zipporah reminded her father that he had at one time cast a man into the dungeon, who must have died long ago; but if he were still living he must be a just man whom God had kept alive by a miracle. Jethro went to the dungeon and called Moses, who answered immediately. As Jethro found Moses praying, he really believed that he had been saved by a miracle, and liberated him. Jethro had planted in his garden a marvelous rod, which had been created on the sixth day of the Creation, on Friday afternoon, and had been given to Adam. This curious rod had been handed down through Enoch, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to Joseph, at whose death it came into the possession of Pharaoh's court. Jethro, who saw it there, stole it and planted it in his garden. On the rod were engraved the name of God (Yhwh) and the initials of the ten plagues destined for Egypt. Jethro asked every one who wished to marry one of his daughters to pull up the rod; but no suitor had yet succeeded in doing so. Moses, on being set at liberty, walked in the garden, saw the rod, and read the inscription. He easily pulled it out of the ground and used it for a staff (see Aaron's Rod). Jethro thereby recognized Moses as the deliverer of Israel, and gave him the virtuous Zipporah as wife, together with much money


1 comment:

Juniper in the Desert said...

Wonderful and incredible. I wonder if the Crusaders picked up on the story when they were in Jerusalem, or whether Jews brought it with them when they came to England in 1066 with William the Conqueror?