There's an old joke that I heard (a variation of which I found here
) from an Egyptian Jew about 20 years ago when the first President Bush was president. In order to understand the joke, you should know that there is no letter "P" in Arabic. It goes something like this:
Mubarak comes to America and sees that all the doors have the president's name on it (PUSH), so he goes back to Egypt and orders all doors to have the word "MUBARAK" on it.
Well, that's just a joke, but what's not a joke is that Egypt has just ordered
Mubarak's name off
of public facilities:
CAIRO – An Egyptian court on Thursday ordered the name of ousted President Hosni Mubarak and his wife Suzanne removed from all public facilities and institutions — the latest step in dismantling the legacy of the former leader's 29 years in power.
The ruling will affect hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of subway stations, schools, streets, squares and libraries across the nation that over the years bore the name of the former leader or his wife.
In announcing the ruling, Judge Mohammed Hassan Omar said "people have uncovered Mubarak's journey of corruption that began at a parade stand and ended at Tahrir square."
This "journey of corruption" is nothing new to Egypt. In fact, a Midrash tells us
that the very first Pharaoh, named Rakyon, came to power through corruption.
According to the Midrash, Rakyon was a pauper from the land of Shin'ar during the time of Avraham Avinu, and was advised to come to Egypt. Being that he was an intelligent fellow, he thought he could prove his wisdom to the king, who would undoubtedly hire him for something. Unbeknownst to him, however, the king at the time would only come out to rule the people one day a year, and the rest of the year, he would remain in the palace without seeing the people.
He tried starting a business, but was ridiculed and looted since he didn't know the customs of the land. Being destitute, he had to devise a plan. He decided that he would amass an army of 30 criminals by the cemetary and anyone who needed to bury their dead, he would levy a tax from them, saying that the king had decreed such. Eventually, Rakyon became enormously wealthy and bought horses and hired more mercenaries and became extremely powerful.
Finally, the day of the year that the king judges the people came. The people complained to the king about this decree that the king supposedly made. The king replied that he never made such a decree. He was then told about Rakyon and his men. The king got angry and ordered Rakyon to appear before him. Rakyon wisely decided to appease the king with gifts, which found favor in the king's eyes. From then on, the king loved Rakyon, and decided to call him "Par'oh" (פרעה) because he was paid (נפרעת) a tax from the dead. The Egyptians then decided to enact a law that stated that any king that would rule Egypt from then on would be named "Par'oh".
Mubarak, continuing in the tradition of the first Pharaoh, has, along with his family, amassed
"wealth beyond their means".
It is no coincidence that both the first and last Pharaohs, Rakyon and Mubarak, have the word "Rak" - רק - in their names. The Par'oh of Yosef's time said
הכסא אגדל ממך" - only in the throne will I be greater than you. Perhaps, he meant, "You, Yosef, just came to power through honesty. I came to power and was named Par'oh because of the throne which I inherited from Rak - i.e., Rakyon, the first Par'oh, who came to power through corruption. Corruption is the reason why I am greater than you. I'm trusting you not to be corrupt like Rakyon so that you don't usurp the throne from me."
The name Mubarak can be transposed to read בא מִרַק - he comes from "Rak" - i.e., he comes from the culture of corruption of Par'oh Rakyon of old.
We are currently celebrating Zeman Heiruteinu - the time of our freedom - i.e., freedom from the culture of corruption that was and is Mitzrayim. We escaped from that culture just in time and ascended to the holiness we attained at Har Sinai.
Unfortunately, we Jews are not corruption-free ourselves. It's not cultural, like in Egypt, and most of us are very honest, but we still have what to improve upon. And unfortunately, the rest of the world likes to point out the exceptions to the rule way too often. These few have not yet learned the lessons of Yetzi'at Mitzrayim. May we use this time of Sefirat Ha'omer to continue our elevation from Mitzrayim and act more like Yosef Hatzadik than Rakyon and Mubarak.