A Bissel Torah: Shmot: Getting to Know You


This week’s torah portion starts with: “There is a new king ruling Egypt, who did not know Joseph.”

How could it be that Joseph had saved Egypt and the region from famine, and the new king did not know Joseph.  He might have known about Joseph, but this king did not KNOW Joseph.

The word the Torah uses for knowing Joseph is the word “yadah,” to know.  When was this word used originally in the context of Egyptian slavery?  Yes, when G-d told Abraham about the slavery, he used the double version of the root of the word “laydah,” to know:  “Yadoah Tedah,” you should surely know that your children will be strangers in a land that is not theirs.

What is the meaning of this particular word, to know.  We have to look to Mainmonides, who starts his Mishneh Torah with Yesod Hayesodot/a basic fundamental is to know/laydah, that there is a First Being, and this First Being and He is the cause of everything in this world.

Maimonides was a student of Aristotle’s philosophy.  Arirstotle too, in his Nicomachean Ethics sets forth that he believes in a first being as well.  Aristotle believed that this First Being caused a domino effect that is in effect to this very day.

Maimonides, in contradistinction, wrote about how G-d is with us daily.  This can be seen later in the book of Exodus, when Moses is about to be sent to Egypt, he asks by what name shall he call G-d?  G-d replies “Eheyeh asher Eheyeh,” the letters of the word Eheyeh reveal G-d’s omnipresence for the past, present and eternally in the future.  He watches us daily.

This name is important to the Jews, because they had been slaves for 210 years, a period of time during which it appeared that G-ds countenance was hidden.

What does the word “laydah” mean then?  To know one’s essence, to know G-d’s essence, which includes that G-d is eternal, He is with every person every second of the day, He is Omnipresent, Omniscient, and Omnipotent.

So when the Book of Exodus opens with a new king who did not know Joseph, it is to say, that he probably knew of Joseph, but did not know that all that occurred to Joseph and his rise to prominence was due to G-d and Joseph’s belief in G-d.  Pharaoh and the Egyptians were on the verge of learning about G-d and His powers.  Learning about Joseph who was G-d’s messenger.

Shabbat shalom.

Stay warm and dry.



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