“I’ve never been good with words,” he said.
“I wouldn't know what to say.
I wouldn’t know how to say it.
I wouldn’t even know who to say it to -
I’ve just never been good with words.”
After the individual sagas that comprise so much of Genesis — Joseph’s story alone consumes the better part of 19 chapters — the speed at which the Israelites’ fortune reverses at the beginning of Exodus is stunning. And all it takes is one verse. In this week’s portion, Parashat Sh’mot, we read: “A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” (Ex.1:8)
These concepts have played—and continue to play—their part in history, but they are based on readings of the text that, I believe, do not ring true today.
In Parashat Sh’mot, we learn the Israelites have been enslaved in Egypt by a pharaoh who did not know Joseph. To gain some small degree of control, the Israelites examine their behavior for flaws that may have caused the situation.