All About Me!

The Pharohs of Egypt were around for a long time, and already starting with our forefather Avraham and his wife Sarah, they interacted with us. The Torah relates that when Avraham traveled to Egypt because of a famine in Israel, Sarah, because of her extreme beauty was taken to the Pharoh. The Torah relates that G-d prevented Pharoh from coming near Sarah and she was returned to Avraham. Our Sages tell us that Pharoh deeded the land of Goshen to Sarah as a gift to her. It is no coincidence that years later, before our forefather Yaacov set out to reunite with his son Yosef and settle in Egypt, he sent his son Yehudah to the land of Goshen to set up an infrastructure so that they could settle in. They chose the land of Goshen because the family still had rights to it through Pharoh’s gift to Sarah. Throughout the 210 years that the Jews were in Egypt, their primary residences were in the Land of Goshen.

Egypt had completed the second year of the seven year famine that had been forecasted when Yaacov came to Egypt and met with Pharoh. When the saintly Yaacov arrived he blessed the Nile that it rise and provide irrigation to the land; thus the famine halted.

Years before this event we find that Pharoh had a fixation on the Nile and considering it his deity. The Torah relates that Pharoh had two dreams that only Yosef was able to decipher and interpret. When the Torah describes one of the dreams it states, “I, [the Pharoh,] was standing on the water.” However, when the Pharoh related the dream to Yosef, he changed it to, “Behold I was standing on the bank of the river.”

Why did Pharoh describe his position differently than it occurred in his dream? The Rokeach explains that indeed Pharoh was standing on the water in his dream, however, when relating it to Yosef, he was embarrassed to state that he was standing on the Nile because he considered it his deity. Therefore he said he was standing on the bank of the river.

Pharoh’s dream of him standing on the water was a true portrayal of idolatry, for this was an expression that he was on par or greater than the deity. When one thinks this way he can do whatever he wishes.

The Pharoh who was in power during the time of Moshe considered himself a deity and the Nile’s blessed waters were an extension of his powers, as the verse in Ezekiel states that Pharoh proclaimed, “The river is mine; I had made it.”

It is for this reason that G-d began the plagues with the bodies of water turning to blood. The Nile in particular was smitten in order to prove to the Pharoh that it is G-d Who controls and is in charge of the power of water.

Interestingly, G-d instructed Moshe to meet with the Pharoh in the morning while he was bathing in the Nile. Why then? Our Sages explain that Pharoh presented himself as a deity, and to prove it he claimed that he did not have to relieve himself from waste. Pharoh trained himself to wait until his morning swim and then relieved himself without anyone noticing. It was specifically at that time, that G-d told Moshe to meet and warn the Pharoh, in order to convey to him that he knew exactly what he was up to and that he was no more than flesh and blood.

Perhaps, because Pharoh portrayed himself like a deity by not relieving himself, G-d specifically brought frogs as the second plague, since frogs are creatures that eat and do not void their waste.

The Torah tells us that a new Pharoh arose who did not know Yosef. How did he not know Yosef? After all, Yosef saved Egypt and served them loyally and effectively for many years.

What the Torah means is that Pharoh turned a blind eye to Yosef’s contribution and had no consideration for his people; thus he enslaved them bitterly.

Baalei Tosfos, quotes a passage of our Sages: Rebbe Yehuda ben Levi showed that the deterioration of Pharoh and his beliefs is similar to one who threw stones at a representation of the king. After he did this deed, he was then able to proceed and throw stones at the king himself.

So too with the Pharoh, he turned a blind eye to Yosef, the viceroy of Egypt, who was sent as an emissary of G-d to provide sustenance and blessing to Egypt, and as result of his ungratefulness and disregard, he eventually proclaimed to Moshe, “I don’t know G-d!”

G-d sent all the awful plagues upon the Pharoh and the Egyptians in order for him to recognize G-d and His power and let the Jews out. The Pharoh held the key to alleviating himself and his nation from so much suffering – all he had to do was to recognize G-d. But because his stubbornness got in the way of seeing things clearly – he, in effect, brought it all upon himself.

The Pharohs are all gone, but we are still here. This is due to our firm loyalty to G-d and His word!