Recently a warning was issued by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the instability of governments in the Middle East, in which the political leader cited from Judaism’s Biblical reading for that week. It was from the beginning of the Book of Exodus in which we learn that a new Pharaoh has become king of Egypt, and he doesn’t know Joseph or apparently the salvation from famine that Joseph had wrought for Egypt.
Netanyahu’s warning was that people, and governments as well, are fickle and can change quite suddenly. As a result, peace agreements aren’t worth any more than the paper and ink that established them. So Netanyahu called for a cautious approach to resolving the Palestinian conflict that established necessary security guarantees for Israel. But Netanyahu’s understanding of the fickle spirit extends beyond the rulers of Cairo, Damascus and Ramallah. It’s true about you and I as well.
Pharaoh had every reason to revere Joseph. His country had been faced with starvation and instead had become incredibly wealthy by selling the food Joseph had wisely stored prior to the eventual famine. What’s more, Joseph had purchased virtually all the land of Egypt from the populace for Pharaoh in exchange for food as well.
So Egypt was a world superpower and Pharaoh its supreme leader thanks to Joseph. Yet within a few generations at most, the new Pharaoh completely ignores all that Joseph had done and turns viciously against Israel, the people of Joseph.
Perhaps that Pharaoh was not a descendant of the one of Joseph’s day, perhaps he was a conspirator who had taken the throne or a foreign conqueror. But the sad truth about humans is that he doesn’t need to be. People really are that ungrateful.
A “what have you done for me lately” attitude is much too easy to develop.
So teenagers argue and disrespect parents who have paid for most, if not all, of their lives thus far. Husbands selectively forget the hard work and sacrifices their wives have made to help keep the home and marriage stable and successful. Employees ignore the charitable hand of employers that took a chance on them. And believers lose sight of the innumerable blessings and provisions of the gracious G-d who created all.
Rather than ignore, we should be inspired. Rather than forget, these acts of the past should earn our fealty. Rather than languish, our hearts should be loyal.
Later in Exodus, we read of Moses rescuing the daughters of a priest of Midian from some antagonizing shepherds. Moses waters the daughters’ flocks as well.
So when the women return home, their father appears shocked and troubled that they have left this heroic man behind. He then sends for Moses and welcomes him into his home.
So too, when others care for us, we should reciprocate. We should be quick to repay favors, eager to give thanks and gratitude.
How? Write a thank you note to someone different every week the rest of the year. Bring wine or food to people’s homes when you visit for a meal. Insist on sharing the costs of gas or parking. Or better yet, be the one whose abundant favors and generosity leave everyone else striving to keep up.
Even then we cannot measure up to the grace and goodness of G-d, who has called us to be generous in response to His children.
Don’t be a fickle Pharaoh. Don’t forget the Josephs in your life.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, January 9, 2013)