The Children of Israel went down as families, welcome guests of the King of Egypt, nearest relations to the second- in-command, Joseph, the savior of the Egyptian people. What happened to change their reality within the space of one generation to indigent slaves?
The Torah describes the onset of the slavery in one terse sentence, “And there arose a new King who didn’t know Joseph.”
How is this possible? that in the space of one generation, the Pharaoh had no idea of what had happened? Had no knowledge of the man to whom his entire country owed its survival? Rashi says, he made as if he didn’t know Joseph.
Rabbi Ashlag in a remarkable letter written to his students relates this sentence not to the outer ruler of a country, but to our own inner ruler. Who are we letting govern our impulses, our thoughts and decisions? The guidance of the Sage, the Torah, or our ego? The new king who did not know Joseph is represented within ourselves as the ego; the part of our self that does not want to acknowledge the superiority of the Tzaddik. When we allow the ego to govern us, then our inner self suffers a spritual descent and this enables the outer exile to overcome us.
The difference between the Hebrew word for exile Golah and for redemption Geulah is only one letter, the letter aleph, א, our connection with the One.
From Igarot haSulam , Igeret 12, Published by Or Hasulam foundation.
With grateful acknowledgement to my chevrutas, Dr. Susan Jackson, and Dr. Shmuel Iger-Kinyan