Passover footnote

No matter what anybody tries to tell you, there is absolutely no basis, either textual or traditional, for translating “Avodim hayyinu l’pharoh b’mitzyrayim” as “We were guest-workers for Pharaoh in Egypt.”

No matter what anybody tries to tell you, there is absolutely no basis, either textual or traditional, for translating עֲבָדִים הָיִינוּ, לְפַרְעֹה בְּמִצְרַיִם (Avodim hayyinu l’pharoh b’mitzyrayim) as “We were guest-workers for Pharaoh in Egypt.”

Hag samayach!

Second-order footnote:

Commenter Dan Glick reminds me that Tom Lehrer made the same connection. The braceros (for those too young to remember) were seasonal agricultural “guest-workers.” The “George” in the lyric was George Murphy, song-and-dance man turned Republican Senator from California, but perhaps the coincidence evinces Lehrer’s prophetic powers. He sang:

Should Americans pick crops? George says no,

’cause no one but a Mexican would stoop so low.

And, after all, even in Egypt the Pharaohs

had to import Hebrew braceros.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

3 thoughts on “Passover footnote”

  1. Should Americans pick crops? George says "No,
    'Cause no one but a Mexican would stoop so low."
    And after all, even in Egypt, the pharaohs
    Had to import
    Hebrew braceros.

  2. …but if we were slaves and not guest-workers, how could we possibly go about perverting justice against the foreigner, orphan, and widow?
    Maybe some people should start waving Deuteronomy 24:17-18 signs along with the John 3:16 ones.

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