week, our focus will be on the very beginning of this Parashah.
The translation from The Pentateuch, Translation and
Commentary by Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch is as follows:
And these are the names of the sons of Yisrael (Israel) which
came to Mitzrayim (Egypt), every man and his household with
Reuven, Shimon, Levi, and Yehudah.
Issachar, Zebulun, and Binyahim.
Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher.
And all the souls that descended from Yaakov were seventy
souls, and Yosef (Joseph) was already in Egypt.
And Yosef died and all his brethren and all that generation.
And the children of Yisrael were fruitful by multiple births,
they increased abundantly and were exceedingly strong; and the
land was filled with them.
Now a new King raised himself over Egypt which knew not Yosef.
And he said unto his people: Behold, the children of Yisrael
are a nation, too numerous and too mighty for us.
Come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and
then when there falleth out any war, they also join themselves
to our enemies or fight against us, and get them up out of
They set over them fiscal officers in order to afflict them
with their burdens, and so they built store cities for Paro
(Pharaoh), Pithom, and Raamses.
is the first recorded incidence of anti-Semitism. It is unfortunate that it wasn’t the last.
There are many commentaries that focus on just this
point and all the details around it.
However, the pasuk that I find most interesting is chet
(8) and specifically that the new king did not know Yosef.
Hirsch says the following:
The first causes
of the oldest anti-Semitism can unfortunately not be
definitely established from these first sentences.
“Now a new King raised himself over . . .” by no
means designates an ordinary lawful change of dynasty.
The Hebrew language used always represents an overthrow
by force. So it
seems that the old dynasty was overthrown and Egypt fell under
the power of an invading dynasty from outside, hence also
“which knew not Yosef.”
To a fresh native dynasty Yosef would not be unknown.
It is quite characteristic that the motive given for
the whole subsequent enmity against the Jews is that the new
King did not know about Yosef.
The people did know of him and did not look askance at
the Jewish province and at the Jewish people growing in it.
They considered the Jews as benefactors and not as
intruders, and did not feel their own security threatened by
I could not find a commentary that discusses what I saw, there
is the interesting point that the word used in this pasuk is
“melech” meaning king as opposed to “paro” which was
the designation of the ruler of Mitzrayim.
I believe this is also an indication that the new ruler
was not of Mitzrayim but rather elsewhere.
There is another interesting subtle point in pasuk zayin (7), the “fruitful by multiple births.” Rav Hirsch indicates that this means exactly what it says, twins, triplets, etc. Sh’mot is a very rich Parashah and warrants a thorough read with an eye toward those little phrases that might have multiple interesting meanings contained within them.