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):
Pharaoh...acted as if he
did not know Joseph.
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.
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.)
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.
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
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):
...he arose and ruled by himself and
wanted to destroy Israel from the world...
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.
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
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.
knows a lot about power, and resources, and desire, and how
to channel this for holiness. So the job of the
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
series of Monday+Thursday fasts] that begin this week or parashat
a time when, according to the Arizal, we can work on our desires with more
effectiveness than any time of the year.
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