January 5, 2018
18 Tevet 5778
Candle lighting: 4:38 p.m.
Our Torah portion this week begins the book of Shemot, and the next chapter in the story of the Jewish people. All of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs have passed, the Israelites are in Egypt. The Israelites came to Egypt under the protection of Joseph who had become a very powerful man. But we are told in the beginning of our Torah portion that there was a new Pharaoh who “did not know” Joseph. That Pharaoh feared the Israelites, and forced them into servitude.
The Talmud argues as to what “did not know” means. Some Rabbis prefer to read it rather literally. That there was a new Pharaoh who didn’t know Joseph, and what Joseph had done for the previous Pharaoh. He lacked the institutional knowledge of cooperation between the people and of their mutually beneficial relationship. As a result, the Israelites lost the protection that Joseph and his policies had provided for them. Another interpretation suggested that “did not know” was more metaphorical. It suggests that it was the same Pharaoh, with a new outlook. He reversed all of Joseph’s policies because he thought he knew better. He was wrong, and ultimately (albeit many years later) brought about the exodus from Egypt and the destruction of his empire.
I would like to think that I am relatively in the know, and a well educated person. But something I know for sure is that as much as I think I know, there is so much more that I don’t. When making decisions and addressing challenges, the times I get into the most trouble are the times I think I know, or know better, and I don’t.
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