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Take your booty

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In the Song of the Sea, the Jewish People recount the events leading up to the miraculous parting of the Red Sea and the Egyptians’ fateful drowning therein. At one point, the Song describes what motivated the Egyptians to pursue the Jews who recently exited Egypt: “The enemy said, ‘I will chase them. I will reach them. I will apportion the booty’” (Ex. 15:9). In this context, the Torah uses the word shallal to denote the “spoils of war.” However, elsewhere, other Hebrew words are employed to mean the same thing: baz/bizah, ad, shevi, and malkoach. For example, when the Jews defeated the Egyptians, they were said to collect bizat Mitzrayim (“the spoils of Egypt”) and bizat ha-yam (“the spoils of the sea”) — not shallal. In this essay we will explain how all of these words are not truly synonymous, but convey slightly different meanings. And, in doing so, we will trace these Hebrew words to their roots and hone in on their exact connotations.

When the Jews defeated the Midianites, the Torah uses the words shevi, baz, malkoach, and shallal to refer to the booty taken from that battle (Num. 31:11-12). Rashi (Num. 31:11) explains that shallal refers to clothing and jewelry, baz refers to other movable items which are not jewelry, and malkoach refers to living booty (like people and animals). This approach is approvingly cited by Rabbi Avraham Bedersi HaPenini (1230-1300) and the Maharal of Prague (Gur Aryeh to Num. 31:11) who substantiate Rashi’s claims by referring to other instances in which these words or cognates thereof appear.

Radak explains that shevi refers to human prisoners; malkoach, to animal spoils of war; and shallal, to clothes and vessels. However, he notes, later the Torah uses the word malkoach without pairing it with shevi (Num. 31:27), and in that case malkoach refers to all living things — human and animals — captured in the war.

Nonetheless, Rabbi Yaakov Chaim Sofer cites II Chron. 15:11 which speaks of offering captured shallal as ritual sacrifices, implying that........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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