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Biblical History

Did the Jews Build the Pyramids?

Question: On Passover when we read that the Egyptians forced us to do back-breaking work isn’t there the implication that the work was building the Egyptian pyramids? Not simply Pithom and Ramses? It certainly was implied when we studied this in school. Is it written anywhere specifically that we built them? At least some of them? Naturally I presume that other such structures were built, and that we didn’t build them all. One might even suppose that some remaining today were built much later, and that those of which WE speak are now long gone. After all there are also pyramids in Mexico. However, don’t we still have a claim on at least some of those spoken of, or at least referred to, or implied in the Torah?

Answer: First of all, I’m not sure that any claim we might have to the pyramids should be a source of pride: for one thing, it would have been as slave laborers and for another, the pyramids themselves seem to have been closely identified with idolatrous rites – something our exodus was meant to eliminate.

But in any case, to my knowledge, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence connecting our slave activities to the pyramids. The Torah describes the building projects as “Arei Miskanos l’Paroh” (Exodus 1: 11) – which would either translate as storage cities or treasury cities for the king – a description that doesn’t easily lend itself to the design and purpose of the pyramids.

So it would seem that we’ll just have to resign ourselves to the existence of at least one major architectural project that had no Jewish input!

With my best regards,
Rabbi Boruch Clinton

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