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    The first encounter with Egypt – Lech L’cha

    EgyptLong before Jacob, Joseph, and the “new king who arose in Egypt” (Ex. 1), there is a famine in the land and a move to Egypt.

    The move involves Abraham and Sarah and their entourage, and a strange incident in which Pharaoh takes Abraham’s wife Sarah.

    The blame rests in the first instance on Abraham himself, who asks Sarah to tell people she is his sister.

    There are Midrashim that assure us that this is not an entire fabrication but in some sense a true reflection of the family lineage.

    The Ramban criticises Abraham, however, for putting his wife in danger, knowing what was likely to happen. Eventually Pharaoh realises the truth and rebukes Abraham for not being straight with him.

    Sforno puts into Pharaoh’s mouth the words, “You should have relied upon my justice!”

    If Sforno is right it means that Pharaoh comes out of the incident quite well, but the problem remains that one never knew where one was with an absolute monarch like Pharaoh.

    Without justifying Abraham, one sees in the story an encapsulation of many centuries to come in which Jews were at the mercy of capricious rulers.

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