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Both Pharaoh and Ahasuerus were not worthy of ruling, but rose to the throne by riches.

The Not-So-New King

The Not-So-New King

Both Pharaoh and Ahasuerus were not worthy of ruling, but rose to the throne by riches.

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For an explanation of the methodology of this series, see the introduction.

"Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph." (Ex. 1:8)

Peshat (basic meaning):

Rashi:"A new king arose"
[There is a controversy between] Rav and Samuel. One says: He was really new, and the other one says: His decrees were new.
(Rashi on Sotah 11a clarifies: Since the Torah does not say: The king of Egypt died, and a new king arose, it implies that the old king was still alive, only that his policies had changed, and he acted like a new king.)

Rashi:"and who did not know"
He acted as if he did not know about him.

Onkelos:
A new king arose over Egypt, who did not fulfill Joseph's decrees.
(Rather than simply translating the verse, Onkelos offers an original interpretation, to tackle the problem of how could there be any king who would not "know" of Joseph's accomplishments. Hence, he suggests that the meaning of the text is that the new Pharaoh refused to fulfill Joseph's decrees - Ed.)

Targum Yonatan:
And a king arose (different from he who was) formerly over Egypt, who took no knowledge of Joseph, and walked not in his laws.

Siftei Chachamim:According to the opinion that the verse refers to an actual new king, the phrase "who knew not Joseph" may be taken literally. But according to the opinion that this was the same Pharaoh who ruled during Joseph's lifetime, it must be understood to mean that he acted as if he did not know Joseph.

Pharaoh...acted as if he did not know Joseph.

Remez (hinted meaning):

There is no Baal HaTurim on this verse.

Derash (interpretive meaning):

Ohr HaChayim: a further (5th cause) for enslavement was the new Pharaoh in Egypt. Even if the word "new" meant only new legislation to subdue the Jewish population, the previous 4 causes also helped to shape Pharaoh's anti-Jewish attitude. But the simple meaning is that he was a brand new Pharaoh, not the one whose dreams Joseph interpreted 102 years earlier.

Maggid Mesharim: "A new king arose"
that is, he was appointed because the Other Side wished to take away the abundance from the holy malchut/kingship. The new king wished that there be no unity between malchut and the righteous Joseph, the personification of yesod, but rather to have the Shefa/abundance be turned over to the "maidservant." That is, the secret of a "new king arose" is the secret of the "maidservant who inherits her mistress", which is the secret of Egypt being second to the land of Israel.

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

Zohar Shemot 7:
"Now there arose a new king": Rabbi Hiya said: actually new. Rabbi Yosi said that he made new decrees that no king had decreed until now. "Who did not know Joseph": (i.e. who did not know) all the good that Joseph did in Egypt, as (for example) is written: "And Joseph brought the money to the house of Pharaoh" (Gen. 47:14) and he kept them alive during the years of famine. He did not remember and pretended not to know.

Rabbi Yosi and Rabbi Yehuda were sitting and studying Torah before Rabbi Shimon. Rabbi Yehuda said: It is written, "Now there arose a new king over Egypt." We learn that he arose of himself, one who was humbled arose--he was not worthy of ruling, but he arose by riches. Rabbi Shimon said: Similar to Ahasuerus, who was not worthy of ruling but he arose to rule by himself, and he arose by riches and wanted to destroy Israel from the world. This is also the case for he was not worthy of ruling, yet he arose and ruled by himself and wanted to destroy Israel from the world, as is written: "And he said to his people...come let us deal wisely with them..." (Ex. 1:9-10) When a king arises above, then a king arises below.

...he arose and ruled by himself and wanted to destroy Israel from the world...

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
The Zohar comments on how several rose to power through riches, so I thought of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof:

"Dear G-d, you made many, many poor people.
I realize, of course, that it's no shame to be poor.
But it's no great honor either!
So, what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?"

…L-rd who made the lion and the lamb,
You decreed I should be what I am.
Would it spoil some vast eternal plan?
If I were a wealthy man.
Ah, the desire for money! Ah, the desire for power! How fleeting! How superficial! What really counts we learn from Pirkei Avot:
Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot.
Who is powerful? One who overpowers his inclinations.
Money certainly helps, but it doesn't make the world go around. It is all based on desire, a powerful primal desire to connect with the All Powerful, the Richest of all, the Holy One Blessed be He. Probably down in the very depths of their soul was a spark of holiness in Pharaoh, in Ahasuerus, in Haman, to connect with holiness, a spark covered by layer upon layer of impure stuff. In fact, according to the Arizal, at the Purim Festive Meal we drink until we don't know the difference between blessing Mordechai and cursing Haman because we want to bless Haman's spark without our thinking caps on, rather from our heart and a Freudian slip, a slip that makes all the difference.

The Tzaddik knows a lot about power, and resources, and desire, and how to channel this for holiness. So the job of the Tzaddik in us is to recognize our desire for power, our desire for money, and to channel it into acts of lovingkindness, mitzvot, and Torah. Bless you on your efforts during these six winter weeks of Shovavim [a series of Monday+Thursday fasts] that begin this week or parashat Shemot, a time when, according to the Arizal, we can work on our desires with more effectiveness than any time of the year.


Copyright 2003 by KabbalaOnline.org, a project of Ascent of Safed (//ascentofsafed.com). All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.

Rahmiel-Hayyim Drizin is a devoted student of many of the leading teachers of Kabbala in English in Israel and the USA. He is a criminal defense lawyer who lives in Oak Park, Illinois with his family.
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Discussion (1)
January 1, 2013
"...a new king.."
Could it have been both?

A new king who decided to change the policies set by those before him.
Dwight D. Williams
Garland, TX
kabbalaonline.org
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