Shemot – Thoughts On The Perasha

How often do we see someone that we have helped and done so many favors in the past and yet they ignore us? They make believe as though they don’t know us. Worse than that, not only their ignore us and let us be, but they act negatively towards us; they hurt or injure us. There is a term for people like that; Ingrates! The Oxford Dictionary defines the term ‘ingrate’ as “a person who does not show proper appreciation or thanks for something : an ungrateful person – not feeling or showing gratitude”.

Perashat Shemot introduces us to ancient Egypt, the land of the Pharaohs that din not know what gratitude is. The Israelites, descendants of Jacob, Joseph and his family had been living there for over 130 years in relative peace and tranquility.  The new Egyptian leadership ‘did not know of Joseph’ and therefore reneged on all of the promises and agreements made to Joseph and his family to host them and treat them properly.  The new Pharaoh began mistreating the Israelites, oppressing them, enslaving them, and ultimately killing them at birth if they were male.  He proclaimed to his entire population that ‘behold, the People, Children of Israel, are more numerous and stronger than us; come let us outsmart it..’  The rest of the story is well known to all of us and to the rest of the world.  Despite the crushing and oppressing slavery that Egypt dealt to the Israelites, ultimately the Israelites were freed.  Moshe was born and eventually was selected to lead the Israelites out of the country after a crushing defeat of Egyptian forces.  This was a result of the devastating 10 plagues and the war at the Sea of Reeds, where Egypt saw its final demise.

Could it be that Egypt and its leaders, new or old, “did not know of Joseph” and his family? Could it be that the Egyptian elite and population did not remember that Joseph saved their empire and that entire civilization? The Egyptians were well known to documents their history and show reverence to their political leaders. The Pyramids, Sphinx and other statures in Egypt of today, over 4000 years later, demonstrates how respectful and careful were the Ancient Egyptians to documents their history. Then how could it be that “There rose a new king over Egypt who did not know of Joseph”?

Our Sages comment that it could have been the same king who “did not want to know of Joseph“, or even if it was a new king,  could it be that he didn’t know Joseph? No, it couldn’t be. After all what Joseph and his family did for them. Joseph and his family brought prosperity and success to Egypt. Joseph managed the economy and stored food so the Egyptians can survive during the 7 years of famine. Egypt retained its hegemony for two more centuries while all other empires around it decayed completely; all thanks to Joseph.

The Egyptians typified the term “Ingrates”. They were ungrateful to Joseph and his family and to all their descendant after.  For the Egyptians to free themselves from their obligation to be grateful to Joseph’s People, they demonized the Israelites, they accused them of treason and conspiracy against Egypt. Not only the Egyptians did not demonstrate gratitude to the Israelites, they acted negatively against them, by demonizing them, enslaving them and ultimately killing their new born males.

The world that we live in has not changed much from yesteryear and Ancient Egypt. Instead of thanking the Jews and Israel for most of the progress in the world, for the economy, technology, science, agriculture, computerization, medicine, the arts and humanities and much more, the nations of the world not only ignore Israel and let it be, but show their ungratefulness by attacking Israel and the Jewish People. They demonize, and delegitimize our history, our people and our rights. That’s how ingrates behave!

As individuals, I am sure we all have experienced such situations. We have helped people, done so much for them, advised them and gave them ideas and and helped them develop those ideas into projects. They in turn, not only they don’t demonstrate gratitude and appreciation, but demonstrate ungratefulness, disdain and disregard.

King David in Psalm 130:7 says: “hope in the G-d; For [only] with G-d there is lovingkindness, And with Him is abundant redemption“. As humans, we ought to do good and favors without any expectation for any favor or good in return. For only G-d is the One who does acts of lovingkindeness without anything in return, and we ought to learn from Him and not expect anything from anyone!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Elie Abadie, M.D.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *