This past Shabbat (Sabbath) we began the second book of the Torah, the book of Shemot. This book, and sedrah starts with a new Pharaoh arising, “Who knew not Joseph”. This was actually one of my dad’s favorite quotes. Anytime there was some shul politics going on and my dad felt people were working against him he would say, “A new Pharaoh arose who knew not Joseph”.
It is an interesting quote and perhaps on the surface a very innocent one, but there is a lot here. How is it possible that a new king, a leader of all of Egypt, someone who would have been well schooled in the history of the country, could not know a person who had saved Egypt from complete and utter destruction? Would it be possible for a President of the United States to “Know not George Washington”. How about not knowing Christopher Columbus? There are some things we expect all adult citizens to know, especially those in power.
This is why some of the Biblical commentators suggest that it wasn’t Pharaoh knew not Joseph, but he chose to know not. He closed his eyes and deliberately forgot or ignored all Joseph had done so he could take advantage of the Jews living in Egypt at the time and get work done by slave labor.
In this day and age, when seemingly there is little loyalty, it is a good lesson to learn. Unfortunately the loyalty is not always there so be prepared for someone to ignore or forget all the good you have done if it is in his or her best interest to do so.
I was raised being taught the value of loyalty and being taught to be loyal. I was also raised with the knowledge that while we rely on others and all have to work together, to be prepared for people not to have the same dedication and determination to this value.
While I have been fortunate that many people have remained loyal to me, not everyone has and being taught this at an early age has helped. And, we have an example right in the Torah of what can and does happen when we ignore other people.
As we get set to start the secular new year, let us all redouble our efforts not to forget what others have done for us, not to forget the many blessings we have, some of which are a direct result of what others have done for us.