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Home Articles Holidays Pesach ``AND THE EGYPTIANS CORRUPTED US…``
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The biblical account of the Exodus states that the Egyptian culture had a negative effect on the moral standards of the Jewish People. How did this come about?


"Perfection Perfumes" read delicately lettered sign.  Practically speaking, there was no need for a sign.  As one approached the long row of shops where Perfection Perfumes was located, the delectable blend of jasmine, lavender cedar, gardenia, roses, pine, vanilla, and other delectable fragrances announced that here one could find a wide selection of fine perfumes.  His friends jokingly told the owner, Daniel, that he had wasted his money on the beautiful sign made for his shop.  Long before they drew close enough to read the sign, the delicate aromas that wafted along the street let them know what the shop had to offer. 

In fact, many people would go out of their way just to catch a whiff of the delicate fragrances that wafted down the street where Daniel's shop was located.  They always came away in a better mood after spending a few minutes delighting in the fragrance that hung over the entire neighborhood, thanks to Daniel's delightful wares.

Daniel thanked Heaven that his lot was so pleasant; he blessed his Creator each day for the shop that brought him and his family their daily bread, and much more.  People flocked to his store and recommended it to their friends.  Life seemed to be a bed of roses for him and his family until the fateful day when Richard Tinker arrived on the scene.

At the time, Daniel thought he would never forget that day. To him, it was a trauma and a tragedy.  The large shop next door to him, Sam's Dry Goods, had closed down over a month previously.  Old Sam had finally retired, and the store was up for sale.  Already half a year beforehand, Sam had offered to sell his shop to Daniel when he retired, but the owner of Perfection Perfumes only laughed at the idea. 

"What would I do with a store three times the size?"  he asked the elderly shopkeeper.   "With hardware, it's an advantage to have more room, but my merchandise doesn't take up that much space.  Thanks anyway, Sam, but I'm afraid you'll have to sell to someone else.  Good luck!"

How Daniel rued those words now!  If only he had thought ahead, he would have realized that it would have been well worth his while to take Sam up on his offer, if only to rent out the store to someone else.  Now Richard Tinker had gone and bought it, and Richard Tinker was a tanner by profession! 

Everyone knew that tanneries gave off the most horrid, obnoxious stench imaginable.  Those who worked as tanners had the foul odors in their clothing, even in there skin, it seemed.  If Richard Tinker were to open a tannery next to Perfection Perfumes, Daniel may as well close down his shop today. No one would come near Perfection Perfumes any more.  Even if someone did brave the stench and try to make a purchase from him, they would have no way of distinguishing one scent from the other; their noses would detect only the acrid fumes of the tannery next door, which would mask his delicate scents altogether.

After more than two decades of success with perfumes, Daniel admitted with a heavy sigh that all was lost.  If only he had realized what might happen, he would have paid Sam any price he asked, just to avoid having so harmful a workshop next door. 

For three days after he heard the news about Tinker's move, Daniel hardly ate or slept.  He was so distraught that he could not even make change correctly when people came into the store.  He could think of nothing but the tragic fate that awaited him...The minute that Tinker started to operate his tannery, he, Daniel would be forced to close the doors of Perfection Perfumes.  

On the fourth day, he decided to take the bull by the horns.  Straight after breakfast, would approach Richard Tinker, and explain what a devastating effect his moving in next door would have on Perfection Perfumes.  Perhaps he would take pity on him and decide to move his tannery elsewhere; the further away, the better.

If all else failed, Daniel told himself, he would offer to buy Sam's shop from Richard for more than it was worth, just to avoid being put out of business by the tannery's foul fumes. 

The next day, despite the knot in his stomach, Daniel set out to speak to Richard.  It wasn't difficult to find the old tannery – just follow your nose, Daniel told himself with a wry smile.  Just as people told him again and again that they could always find his shop by the delicate scents it gave off; it was even easier, he thought to himself, though far less pleasant, to locate Tinker's Tannery.  

He was still three blocks away when the smell of the workshop told him that he was on the right track.  Daniel stopped in his tracks and held his stomach, which was starting to protest the foul smell.  He grasped at a lamppost with the other hand, afraid that he would vomit right there on the street.  "I can't do it," he thought to himself.  "I just can't take the stench of a tannery."

He fought off the sensation of his breakfast coming up along the same route it had just followed down to his stomach.  He shot a desperate glance around him, trying to locate an inconspicuous spot where he could relieve himself of his morning meal in private. 

An empty patch of ground across the street caught his eye.  There was a clump of high bushes which he decided would serve him well.  He dashed behind them, and not a minute too soon.  Just then, the wind brought a strong waft of the tannery fumes his way.  With a wretched groan, he let nature take its course.  Fortunately, no one passed close by.  

When his insides calmed down somewhat, Daniel sat down on a low stone wall to gather his thoughts.  He was torn in two directions.  Should he carry on to the tannery, to try to speak with Richard Tinker? 

After several moments of contemplation, Daniel decided that he had no choice.  He must meet with Richard Tinker, or face the prospect of closing Perfection Perfumes for good. 

Slowly he rose to his feet and with the hesitant steps of a weak, old man of seventy, made his way toward the sign at the end of the road: "Tinker's Tannery."

He was determined to do all in his power to save his shop.  Breathing as shallowly as possible, he strode toward the tannery.  There was no doubt in his mind: he must convince Richard Tinker to change his plans!

His insides threatened to revolt again, and his eyes stung from the foul vapors, but he forced himself to knock on the door.  "Come in!" called out a voice from within.  Daniel pushed the door open.  The rush of foul, acrid air that greeted him was overpowering.  Instinctively, he stepped back, overcome by the stench.

"Come in, come in!" the voice repeated.

The vendor of delicate perfumes forced himself to step forward, right into the "lion's den" of the tannery. He tried to speak, but the acrid stench made him cough and gag.  The workman who greeted him chuckled to himself, put down his tools, and led Daniel back outdoors.

"Don't worry," the fellow said with a smile.  "Just take your time, and you'll stop coughing.  In a minute you'll catch your breath, and you'll be fine."

Daniel was relieved to follow the worker back outside, grateful for his understanding.  When he explained the purpose of his visit, he was pleased to learn that he was speaking to Mr. Richard Tinker himself. 

“You're just the person I wanted to talk to,” Daniel announced.  “I have a proposition to make; sell Sam's old shop to me; I'll pay you for it handsomely, and you can use the money buy a larger workshop in a different part of town.”

“Thank you for your offer, but I'm not interested in a different location,” answered Richard.  "This spot is just fine with me."

Daniel went to great lengths explaining how a tannery would close down his shop and leave him and his family without a livelihood.  "You can't do this to me," he pleaded with Richard in desperation.  "My family and I will starve if you open a tannery next door to me."

"I have an idea," answered Richard.  "Let's become partners.  In any case, Sam's shop is too small for me, but I couldn't find anything bigger in a good location.  Become my partner, and we'll combine the two shops into one.  That way there will be plenty of room to develop the business. There's a great demand for quality leather, and I'm certain that we can do well if we combine the two properties.

"What do you say?" asked Richard with a smile.

Daniel was devastated.  "A tanner?" he said weakly.  "I should become a tanner?"  His knees nearly buckled under him at the mere thought of it.

"What's wrong?" asked Richard, somewhat taken aback.  "I'm not suggesting that you become a thief, you know.  A tanner can make a good, honest living if he's not lazy.  What do you say?"

Daniel's insides threatened to revolt again.  A lowly tanner?  He could hardly bear the stench here outside the workshop.  How could he contemplate spending a whole day at such work?  And a whole week?  Or month?

He grappled for an answer that would not insult Richard.  "But I don't know a thing about tanning," he protested.  "How could I suddenly change my profession and become your partner?"
"I can teach you," Richard insisted.  "You know how to run a business; you just need to learn the tricks of tanning.  If you agree to become my partner, I'll teach you everything you need to know."

Daniel could not find the words to explain to Richard that he could never consider exposing himself to such a horrid stench.  And what about his prestige? And how could he, who came home each day with the scent of roses and lavender about him, agree to work in a tannery?  What would his wife and children say?

Even if Richard was right, and there was good money to be made in leather goods, Daniel could not face the thought of telling people that he had decided to become a tanner instead of dealing in fine perfumes. 

For lack of anything else to say, Daniel muttered "I'll have to think it over."  Then, with a mumbled goodbye, he hurried away as fast as his wobbly legs could take him.

What a relief it was to fill his lungs with fresh air again! 

As he walked home, Daniel didn't know what to think.  He was too weak and dizzy from the ordeal of the tannery fumes.  It didn't come into question to expose himself to them all day long.  On the other hand, how would he make a living if Richard insisted on remaining in Sam's shop?

He didn't have an answer, and, right now, he was too weak even to contemplate the question.  One thing was clear to him, however, beyond all doubt.  He would never become a tanner!

Two days later, Richard came to see Daniel in Perfection Perfumes, and again asked him to consider a partnership.  This time, Daniel was more adamant.  "It's not for me, thank you," he told the tanner. 

The following week, Tinker's Tannery took moved in to their new premises.  Daniel's worst fears became a reality.  For two weeks, he made valiant attempt to sell perfumes, but to no avail.  No one came near Perfection Perfumes.  He realized that there was no point even opening the shop doors each morning, and stayed at home.

How long could he hold out?  What should he do?

After three weeks of idleness, Daniel gave in.  He went to Richard and agreed to become his partner.  Tinker was delighted.  He wasted no time in starting to teach Daniel the basic principles of tanning.  The first day, Daniel came home utterly depressed.  "I can't go back to another day of this," he told his family.  "We'll have to find another solution."

Late into the night they discussed one suggestion after the other, but no other option presented itself.  Dejected and exhausted, Daniel spent a sleepless night bemoaning his bitter fate.  With a heavy heart, he donned his work clothes the next day, and took the familiar path that led to what had once been his delight, Perfection Perfumes.  He had sold all his stock to a competitor.  Now, all that remained was the delicately lettered sign.  The shop that had always given off a heavenly scent now became a personal purgatory for him. 

Again that evening, he returned home determined never to set foot again on the premises of Tinker's Tannery.  And again, with the morning, he realized that there was no other option available to him. 

So the first week went; each evening, he was certain that he could not carry on, and each morning he dragged himself back to the tannery.

The second week was less of a struggle.  Daniel had begun to take an interest in the tanning process.  The acrid fumes disturbed him somewhat less.  Each evening, every step he took on the way home, that put a greater distance between him and the stench he had left behind, was a blessed relief for him.  Even so, he had to admit that he was adjusting to his lot, and suffering a bit less.

By the end of the first month, Daniel was telling himself that he would stay on only for a year or so, until he could save up the money to put himself into the perfume business once more, without having to sell his share of the tannery.  The business was proving to be very profitable; what Daniel lost in the way of prestige, he gained in profits from his work.

After three months on the job, Daniel began to enjoy the challenge of watching the raw hide become processed leather.  He also looked forward to mastering the art of dyeing the leather in a wide range of shades and colors.  It was still a relief to take in a breath of good, clean air when he came home, but he no longer noticed the foul aroma that clung to his garments. 

By the end of the first year, Daniel had forgotten that he had once harbored thoughts of going back to the perfume business.  He wore the rough, stained clothing of a tanner, and worked with the calloused, stained hands of the manual laborer.  His manner had changed from the genteel merchant to a hard-working, rough laborer whose muscles and sweat earned him an excellent living.

The family prospered, and their savings grew to a considerable sum.  After some time, Daniel's wife had a suggestion to make.  "We have already saved up more than we need for the children.  Why don't you take some of the money and buy yourself a nice new perfume store, in a good location, so you can give up the tannery business for once and for all?"

"What?  Me, sell perfumes again?" answered Daniel with a wave of his hand.  “Not for me!  I can't stand these dandies who can't take in a good deep breath of plain fresh air.  Who needs perfumes and lavender and roses at all?  Only a stuck-up sissy!  I'm staying at the tannery; that's the place for a man, like me!"


The culture of Egypt was highly developed in the arts and literature.  On a moral level, however, the Land of the Pharaohs was corrupt and depraved.  Living among the Egyptians for decade after decade, the Jewish People unconsciously absorbed some of the values of their neighbors.  Just as Daniel grew accustomed to the foul, acrid fumes of the tannery, so, too, did the Jewish People become less and less sensitive to the immorality around them. 

Against their will, tradition, and upbringing, the shameless, rotten ethos of Egyptian culture gradually corrupted the Jewish People as well. 

The nature of man is such that he becomes accustomed to his circumstances, even to evil and depravity.  Heaven intervened, through the Exodus, and removed us from the sphere of influence of Egyptian society and culture.  This, too, is a form of redemption for which we give thanks yet today.

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