This week’s Torah portion begins by listing the 70 members of Jacob’s family which went to Egypt. In my opinion, the number 70 should be associated with the 70 leaders of Israel who were appointed as judges to assist Moses explain the law to the people, as well as Joseph who was the 7th son of Jacob. Naturally, many people believe that, chronologically speaking, Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob, but, it is my opinion, this is incorrect. Joseph is described as: “the son set apart from his brothers”. This phrasing thus associates him with the Sabbath, the seventh day. Furthermore, Joseph is the first son of Jacob’s second wife: Rachel. The other brothers from Bilhah and Zilpah are the children of concubines and, from a legal standpoint, should be ranked after Joseph.
In addition to this, the Torah associates food, children and the word of God together in many different examples. The clearest example of this is the holy day of “Shavout” when God gave his Torah to the Israelites. This holy day is also referred to as: “The Festival of the First Fruits” and the Hebrew word for: “first fruits” also means: “first born sons”. Accordingly, it is my belief that when the Torah speaks of a famine in the land, it means a spiritual or religious famine, not an actual shortage of food. Joseph was appointed Prime Minister of Egypt, yet, for all intents and purposes, all he did was manage the production of wheat. Since for centuries Jews have used the phrase: “the Torah is the Bread of Life”, we could then draw the conclusion that Joseph was not an agricultural adviser, but a spiritual adviser to Pharaoh. Even today we use the term: “field of study” when discussing one’s major in college. When we are told that Joseph “enslaved” the people and took away their lands, what this suggests is that he established a network of religious schools in Egypt to teach the people how to get closer to God. Thus, the Edomite convert: King Herod was described by the rabbis as having the status of a Jewish slave and he was not considered to be a true Jew.
Another interesting point to consider here is that the Torah tells us the Pharaoh of Moses’ time did not “know” Joseph. In the Torah, the verb “to know” was used to describe the sexual act. If we can agree that there is a connection between a first born son and the word of God, then we can clearly see that when God speaks of the Children of Israel as: “his first born son”, what this means is that the Israelites were: "the authorized teachers of God’s word". Thus, when we are told the Pharaoh did not know Pharaoh, we are not speaking about homosexuality. What we are being told is that this Pharaoh did not know of, or did not accept, the teachings about God which Joseph, Jacob and the other members of the family brought with them to Egypt.
This week’s Torah portion explains that the Children of Israel were spread all over the land of Egypt, yet later, when speaking of the plagues, the Torah tells of the Israelites were not affected because they were all living in the land of Goshen. What I believe the Torah is trying to say is that it was the teachings of the Israelites which were being spread all over Egypt and it was these teachings which the Pharaoh feared so much.
To conclude, let us just recall that Moses was forced to flee Egypt because he killed one of Pharaoh’s work foreman. If we accept the rabbinical description of King Herod as having the legal/religious status of: "a slave owned by Jew", then we can see that “a work foreman” is a metaphor for a religious teacher. For centuries, the Torah and the Bible has been associated with stone. The descendants of the Ham were described as slaves and the descendants of Ham, just like the Egyptian slaves, used bricks instead of stone as a building material to reach heaven. The descendants of Ham may have been slaves, but they were not stupid. The phrase: “to reach heaven” is not a reference to a tall building, it means: “to reach a higher level of understanding”. Thus, God came down and destroyed the Tower of Babel because the people were using “man made sources of religious knowledge” to reach a higher level of understanding. The Pharaoh of Joseph’s time did not do this; instead he used the wheat/bread representing the religious counseling of Joseph. The Pharaoh during the time of Moses, however, rejected the Israelite teachings about God. This is symbolized by the throwing of the “first born sons/first fruits of the land” into the Nile river.