“ויקם מלך חדש אשר לא ידע את יוסף”
“A new king arose, that did not know Joseph”
After Joseph and his brothers died, the Torah tells us that a new King arose.
What does it mean when the Torah states that Pharaoh did not know Joseph?
After all, by accurately interpreting Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph saved the Egyptian Kingdom from starvation & turned Egypt into the greatest empire in the world!
Rather: When the Torah tells us that the new Pharaoh did not know Joseph, it’s hinting at something else!
The new Pharaoh consciously ignored Joseph’s contribution! He wanted to eradicate Joseph’s contribution from Egyptian History.
וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אֶל־עַמּ֑וֹ הִנֵּ֗ה עַ֚ם בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל רַ֥ב וְעָצ֖וּם מִמֶּֽנּוּ
הָ֥בָה נִתְחַכְּמָ֖ה ל֑וֹ פֶּן־יִרְבֶּ֗ה וְהָיָ֞ה כִּֽי־תִקְרֶ֤אנָה מִלְחָמָה֙ וְנוֹסַ֤ף גַּם־הוּא֙ עַל־שׂ֣נְאֵ֔ינוּ וְנִלְחַם־בָּ֖נוּ וְעָלָ֥ה מִן־הָאָֽרֶץ:
He said to his people, “Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more numerous and stronger than we are.
Get ready, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they increase, and a war befall us, and they join our enemies and wage war against us and depart from the land.”
Look at Pharaoh’s reaction to Bnei Yisrael’s contribution here!
Instead of having gratitude for everything that Bnei Yisrael were doing for the Egyptian economy and society, Pharaoh gives in to his Paranoia.
Measure for Measure
In Jewish Thought, there’s the concept of Measure for Measure (‘Middah K’neged Middah’) which translates roughly to ‘what you give is what you get.’
In Parashat Shemot already, Pharaoh’s lack of gratitude comes back to bite him – specifically regarding Moshe’s attitude towards him.
Seemingly, Moshe should have had gratitude to Pharaoh for raising him!
Pharaoh’s daughter pulled him out of the river, and saved him. Moshe grew up in Pharaoh’s palace, and was treated to every luxury known to man (at the time).
Therefore, a second question remains to be asked: ‘What happened to Moshe’s gratitude towards Pharaoh?’
Within Parashat Shemot, Moshe confronts Pharaoh and demands to ‘Let my people go!’ Is this how an adopted son should talk to the man who raised him?
Rather: Due to Pharaoh’s lack of gratitude to Joseph and the Jewish People, Moshe also didn’t have gratitude to Pharaoh for raising him!
Meaning, the Torah is teaching us a lesson.
If someone is lacking gratitude towards others, the main detriment is not towards the person whose not receiving the appreciation! The main detriment is towards the person whose lacking gratitude.
Having a lack of gratitude towards others leads to a chain reaction where people also won’t show gratitude back to you!
In other words, you simply lose your merits.
Parshat Va’era – Moshe Exercises Gratitude Towards the Water & Earth
Even though Moshe didn’t have gratitude to Pharaoh, we do see that Moshe is capable of exercising gratitude when the right time comes.
When the time came for the First Plague of Blood, Hashem commanded Moshe to tell Aharon to take his stick and place it over the water.
The question begs to be asked: ‘Why doesn’t G-d ask Moshe to hit the water himself’?
Rashi says: ‘the Water saved Moshe’s life [as a baby], therefore the water was not plagued by him.’
We learn a lot about gratitude within Parashat Shemot and Va’era.
The more a person is humble, the more he feels an obligation to show his gratitude towards others.
Meanwhile, we also see here the very powerful negative impact when we don’t have gratitude.
If Pharaoh would have remembered Joseph, he wouldn’t have enslaved the Jewish People so harshly!
Therefore, the ripple effect that led to the Ten Plagues actually began due to Pharaoh’s lack of gratitude.
Think of all the suffering that the Egyptians could have spared if one man had dug deep inside and appreciated someone else’s contribution.
Inspired by Rabbi Reuven Elbaz’s Weekly Torah Interpretations