“I don’t consider writing a quiet, closet act: I consider it a real physical act. When I’m home writing on a typewriter, I go crazy. I move like a monkey. I’ve wet myself. I’ve come in my pants writing….Instead of shooting smack, I masturbate – fourteen times in a row…I start seeing Aztec mountains…I see weird things. I see temples, underground temples, with the doors opening, sliding door after sliding door, Pharaoh revealed – this bound-up Pharaoh with ropes of gold. That’s how I write a lot of my poetry.”
~ Patti Smith in 1971, from Patti Smith: An Unauthorized Biography, by Victor Bockris and Roberta Bayley
This town thrives on the banks of a life-giving river which flows through the middle of a vast, scorching desert. Explore ancient ruins, and ponder the mysteries of the past. There are some who believe these wonders are not of this world… When you tire from the heat, cool off at the mayor’s home with indoor amusements.
It is an ominous line, suggestive of all the terror that is about to envelop the Israelite people as the Book of Exodus begins. It will begin with a fear of the growing immigrant population, move quickly into slavery, and lead eventually to state-sponsored murder.
We left the Book of Genesis with the family of Israel comfortably settled in Egypt, having secured a fertile plot of land, thanks especially to Joseph’s close relationship with the Pharaoh. But this new Pharaoh, quite pointedly, does “not know Joseph.” How is this possible? Can he really have forgotten the man who served as the right-hand to the previous king, and who saved all of Egypt from famine?
There is a debate in the midrashim, recorded by Rashi, over exactly what kind of new administration this was, and how authentic was their “forgetting”:
“A new king arose” - Rav and Shmuel debated. One said it was truly a new king. While the other said, it’s just that his laws were new, and that “he did not know Joseph,” meant that he acted as if he did not know Joseph.
The latter opinion is that this was not simply a gap in some new leader’s historical memory, but a feigned ignorance by the old Pharaoh, played out for political purposes. Here we have hints of a dangerous psychological profile: a person who could shift personalities at will, and speak lies with total conviction. A sociopath with unlimited power - this was truly a man to fear.