Friday, December 24, 2010

Remembering the Good: Parashat Shemot

In this week's portion, Parashat Shemot, we learn about the beginnings of Jewish enslavement in Egypt: In Exodus 1:6-10 we are told:

ו וַיָּמָת יוֹסֵף וְכָל-אֶחָיו, וְכֹל הַדּוֹר הַהוּא.6 And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.
ז וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, פָּרוּ וַיִּשְׁרְצוּ וַיִּרְבּוּ וַיַּעַצְמוּ--בִּמְאֹד מְאֹד; וַתִּמָּלֵא הָאָרֶץ, אֹתָם. {פ}7 And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.
ח וַיָּקָם מֶלֶךְ-חָדָשׁ, עַל-מִצְרָיִם, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָדַע, אֶת-יוֹסֵף.8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph.
ט וַיֹּאמֶר, אֶל-עַמּוֹ: הִנֵּה, עַם בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל--רַב וְעָצוּם, מִמֶּנּוּ.9 And he said unto his people: 'Behold, the people of the children of Israel are too many and too mighty for us;
י הָבָה נִתְחַכְּמָה, לוֹ: פֶּן-יִרְבֶּה, וְהָיָה כִּי-תִקְרֶאנָה מִלְחָמָה וְנוֹסַף גַּם-הוּא עַל-שֹׂנְאֵינוּ, וְנִלְחַם-בָּנוּ, וְעָלָה מִן-הָאָרֶץ.
10 come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there befalleth us any war, they also join themselves unto our enemies, and fight against us, and get them up out of the land.'

It is at this point that the Jews' trouble begins. Joseph gave so much to the people of Egypt and prevented their downfall, but within a generation, all was forgotten. It is easy in life to have a "what have you done for me lately" attitude, remembering only those events and favors which have happened in the recent past.

However, sometimes those in our lives cannot be there for us in every moment at their highest capacity. Often the people we rely on the most get tired, worn out, and might actually need to receive help from us. Had the Egyptians kept in mind all that Joseph and his brethren did for the Egyptians, a productive and respectful relationship could have continued and developed further.

When we remember the Exodus, we remember the distant past as if we were there in real time. Just as we remember the heroism of Moses, Miriam, the people Israel, and God in the distant past, we should also remember the great contributions and small kindnesses shown to us a while back. This type of remembering is what keeps relationships healthy, holy, and balanced.

A Happy December 25th and a Shabbat Shalom from Tel Aviv!