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Home -- Content: Series 7 (Laws) -- Translation: English -- Book: 1 (Tora) -- Part: 2 (Negative) -- Prohibition: 46 -- Text
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The Sharia of Moses in the TORA
Part 2 - The 365 Prohibitions of the Tora

46 - SETTLING IN THE LAND OF EGYPT


Deuteronomy 17:16 -- “But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the LORD has said to you, 'You shall not return that way again.’”
Deuteronomy 28:68 -- “And the LORD will take you back to Egypt in ships, by the way of which I said to you, 'You shall never see it again.' And there you shall be offered for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.”
Exodus 14:13 -- “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.’”

Post-Maimonidean scholars have been much exercised in mind by the fact that Maimonides himself lived in Egypt during the greater part of his life. According to one school of thought, the commandment under consideration applied only to returning that way, i.e. to returning to Egypt by way of Palestine; whereas Maimonides was born in Spain, and it was only after years of wandering that he finally succeeded in establishing his residence in Egypt.* The Ritbah is of the opinion that the commandment applies only to the times when the whole of the Jewish people dwells in its own land, and does not apply to the period of the dispersion.**

* Hagahoth Maimonioth, Mishneh Torah, Shoftim, Hilchoth Melachim V, 2
** Ritbah, Commentary on Yoma, 38a

According to another school of thought, the prohibition applies only where the intention is to settle permanently in Egypt; but Maimonides, like all the other believing Jews who made up the Egyptian Jewish communities, lived always in the hope of the final redemption, when all Israel would be gathered together from the uttermost parts of the earth.*

* Radbaz, Mishneh Torah, Shoftim, Hilchoth Melachim V, 2

Finally, it must be remembered that Maimonides lived in a time of persecution, when moreover the Crusades had engulfed the whole of the Near East. In such circumstances, his decision to settle in Egypt was fully justified by the principle of the saving of human life, which is a paramount consideration in Jewish law.*

* cf. Note to Pos. Comm. 9, Vol. I, pp. 14- 15

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