“Pharaoh then gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him for a wife Asenath daughter of Poti-phera, priest of On” (Genesis 41:45).
It seems that Pharaoh gave Joseph an Egyptian name, but Rashi writes, “he explains hidden things,” meaning that Zaphenath is Hebrew, and Radak wonders about this, “It is Egyptian, just as Nebuchadnezer named Daniel (Baltshazar–Daniel 1:7) and his friends in the Aramaic language, and the commentators said that it was Hebrew, and he wondered how Pharaoh gave him a Hebrew name.”
The Rashbam also writes, “It is Egyptian.”
And the Ramban, who supposed it was Hebrew, wrote, “It is possible that he called him some honorable name in the language of his country, having asked him (that is, Pharaoh asked Joseph how one would say ‘he explains hidden things’ in Hebrew) or that the king knew the language of his neighboring country, Canaan.”
The name Poti-phera should, according to all, be Egyptian, and Rashi writes that he is Potiphar (Genesis 39:1), “but he was called Poti-phera [Poti the un-manned] because he emasculated himself because he desired Joseph for sodomy,” and the Gemara in Sotah 13b, “He was called Potiphar, Pharaoh’s eunuch. Rav said he desired him for himself; Gabriel came and emasculated him, at first it is written Potiphar and finally Poti-phera.”
Chazal took the Egyptian language and, as was their way, used it for Hebrew word-play, so Poti-phera became one emasculated. Besides being strange and arousing amazement at what passed through Chazal’s heads when they ascribed to Potiphar the sodomization of Joseph, the Rashbam clearly wrote “This is not Potiphar according to the plain meaning,” just as we wrote in parshat Chaye-Sarah that Keturah is not Hagar, as in Chazal’s opinion.
And know that in many cases Chazal put together two different people and turned them into one, and this is among those things most strange and far from logic. We have already quoted the words of Hai Gaon OBM, “TheHaggadah and Medrash, though they are written in the Talmud, if they are not directed and if they have become distorted, one should not rely upon them.”
And we will bring two examples so that you may become knowledgeable and expand on the issue:
The Gemara in Sanhedrin 38a, “Zerubbabel, as he was conceived (zera) in Babel, and his name was Nehemiah the son of Chakilyah.” Rabbi Yaacov Emden asked, in his writings on the Shas, “This is questionable, as it is contrary to the plain meaning of two writings brought in the books of Ezra and Nahemiah,” Nehemiah 7:7, “who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, etc.,” and in Ezra 2:2, “who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nechemiah, Seraiah, etc.” He is also in Nehemiah 12:47, “And in the time of Zerubbabel, and in the time of Nehemiah.” It is clear from the writings that Zerubbabel is not Nehemiah and Nehemiah is not Zerubbabel, but these are two different people who lived in the same era. Chazal made of two different people one man.
Another example is from the tractate Megillah 15a, “Rav said, ‘Hatach is Daniel, and why is he called Hatach [cut or decider] for he was cut down from his glory and Shmuel says that all things of the kingdom were decided according to his word.”
Rashi on the nook of Ezra 1:8, “And our rabbis said that Shashbtzar is Daniel and why was he called Shashbtzar? For he withstood six [shesh] troubles [tzar].” (This comes from the Yalkut Shimoni.
See these strange things: Daniel, had the name Baltshazar added to him by Nebuchadnezer (Daniel 1:7), and had two names, Hatach and Shashbtzar, added to him by the sages. They took the Persian names and played with them as though they were Hebrew. Ibn Ezra wrote (Daniel 1:4) “And he (Daniel) was very old in the days of Esther, perhaps even dead, and he did not go up to the Second Temple, and he is absolutely proven not to be Shashbtzar.” In Pirkei D’Rabei Eliezer chapter 49, “And he saw Haman coming out and Hatach coming to kill him,” means that Daniel was not Hatach.
And we will bring a proof that Chazal distorted the times and mixed up the people who appear in the Scriptures from Gemara Rosh HaShana 3b, “The sage says: Koresh is Darius is Artchashsata. Koresh for he was a righteous king, Artchashsata as the name of his kingdom, and his name was Darius.” There is no greater nonsense than this. We know the Persian dynasty well from their letters and from the letters of their enemies the Greeks (the historians Herodutus and Kasnopnos) and we know that Koresh is not Darius and Artchashsata (Artaxerxes) is neither of these. Each of them was king in his own era. Koresh captured Babylon and allowed the Jews to return and build the Second Temple; the era of his reign was 559-529 B.C.E. Darius I ruled after Koresh’s son, from 522 to 486 B.C.E., and Artaxerxes I ruled between 465 and 424 B.C.E. Each of them has a long and well known life history, separate from all others. Go and see the quality of the “chain of transmission” through which they tell us the smallest details of the Oral Torah were handed down from the receiving of the Torah to the time of the Tanaaim, a span of nearly 1500 years. About these kings, who reigned only some 500 years before the time of the Tanaaim and who were well known to Ezra and Nehemiah and the Men of the Great Assembly who lived at the time of the return to Zion, the Tanaaim get confused and do not know their right from their left, but halachot of interest and treifot were handed down over the course of 1500 years with perfect accuracy? Only a sucker would believe it. What Chazal said they said from their own hearts and opinions and not according to tradition or the Glory. They also made up the information on the Persian kings on their own.
All that we wrote in the pamphlets will testify like a thousand witnesses that this is the way things are.
Let us also add that according to the Ibn Ezra (Esther 1:1) Achashverosh is Artchashsata, and there is no end to the confusion. It is said about Moredchai the Jew (Esther 2:5) “Who was banished from Jerusalem with Jechinah king of Judah.” The exile of Jehoiahin was in 597 B.C.E. And you, the student who desires truth, go and see: If Achashverosh is Artchashsata who reigned in the year 465 B.C.E., then even if Moredchai were only one year old at the time of the exile he would have been 131 years old at the beginning of the story of the megillah! So even the words of Ibn Ezra have nothing to them. And about the issue of the maze Chazal made of the era of the Persian kings we will publish a special pamphlet.
Words of True knowledge.