By Five Towns Marriage Initiative
The sefer of Sh’mos begins with enumerating the descendants of Yaakov that went down to Egypt. It then starts a new topic, the beginning of the Jewish enslavement and the evil decrees against the Jews. The way this begins is with the following words: “Vayakam melech chadash al Mitzrayim asher lo yada es Yosef,” a new king arose over Egypt that did not know Yosef. The commentaries elaborate on this most perplexing statement. How could it be that a new king would not know Yosef? He is the viceroy to Pharaoh himself, second in command, and the one that brought food to the entire country that was beset by famine. This statement seems quite difficult to comprehend.
Rashi explains that he acted as if he did not know Yosef. The Sifsei Chachamim says that this statement of Rashi’s connects to his earlier statement where he said that the pasuk refers to Pharaoh as a new king because he made new decrees. In order to attack the Jews in the manner he intended, it was impossible to also act lovingly towards Yosef; if the Jews had to go, Yosef would have to simultaneously be forgotten.
The Kli Yakar has something fascinating to add to our understanding of this pasuk. He explains that when it says that Pharaoh did not know Yosef, it’s not referring to knowing Yosef as a person. Rather, the emphasis is on knowing something essential about Yosef.
Yosef’s brothers plotted against him. He had dreams and they wanted to nullify every last vestige of those dreams and annihilate Yosef to prevent the dreams from ever possibly coming to fruition. It was about this that Pharaoh did not know. He did not know that with all of the tribes and their plotting, at the end of the day it was truly remarkable to see the status Yosef had acquired. He was second in command to the king, the brothers all bowed down to him, and it was plain for all to see that his dreams were fulfilled in every sense of the word.
Pharaoh had big plans that were not friendly to the Jewish people. He did not know the amazing reality of what Yosef had accomplished and all that he had overcome to attain his current position. Although Pharaoh was saying “pen yirbe”—destroy the Jewish nation and stop them from multiplying—Hashem was clearly saying “kein yirbe,” they should multiply. Pharaoh also came to understand that just as with Yosef, where all the plotting in the world did not stop Hashem’s plans from coming forth, so it would likely be with him—no plotting in the world would ever stand in the way of what Hashem intended to do.
We too must never forget this important principle—that nothing in the world will stand in the way of Hashem’s decrees. When He decrees that there is supposed to be traffic, all the frustration in the world on our part won’t make the cars go faster. Similarly, when He decrees that a person is meant to lose something, all the anger we might display won’t make the lost object reappear.
It is easier to remain in control of ourselves and keep a positive attitude when we realize that everything that happens is all atzas Hashem, the ideas of Hashem, about which it says, “Atzas Hashem hi sakum,” Hashem’s plan is what will be upheld. Knowing that helps us to not put blame on others, to not get frustrated and upset with those around us, and to be better people with greater awareness of Hashem in our lives. It reminds us that it is to Him that we should turn in prayer for all our needs because His plans are the ones that will always ultimately prevail.
There is so much to daven for in a marriage. There is so much siyata d’Shmaya, Divine assistance, that is required. Every interaction in a marriage, when graced with heavenly blessing, can be an entirely different encounter than it might have been otherwise. A married couple should continuously be davening for an extra dose of assistance to make their marriage work.
Send a prayer heavenward that when your husband comes in after a long day of work, he should be in a good mood and be happy to see you. When your wife is upset, ask Hashem for the help to calm her down and say the right words. When you realize how everything that happens is orchestrated by Hashem alone, you will realize that it is vital to daven to Him, even if it’s a short whispered prayer or one that isn’t verbalized at all.
Everyone knows that when a bride and groom are engaged, and especially on their wedding day, it is a most opportune time for prayer. After that, though, one must not think that the opportunity has ended and now life just goes on. One’s prayers should intensify, not slacken! Through using the tool of connecting with the Creator, we should all merit to see better, healthier, happier marriages for all of K’lal Yisrael. v
Five Towns Marriage Initiative provides educational programs, workshops, and referrals to top marriage therapists. FTMI will help offset counseling costs when necessary and also runs an anonymous shalom bayis hotline for the entire community Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings, 10:00–11:00 p.m. For the hotline or for more information, call 516-430-5280 or e‑mail firstname.lastname@example.org.