How many of us have seen the movie Gone with the Wind and wished that Rhett Butler would make an about face and actually “give a damn?”
It is with that same remorse that I read about the Biblical Joseph’s death and how a new “Pharaoh arose over Egypt who knew not Joseph”--the very Joseph who made the country rich and saved it from ruin. And so the new Pharaoh showed his gratitude by enslaving Israel and murdering their firstborn. Talk about appreciation. A “Thank You” card would have sufficed for me.
But Bible experts say that the new Pharaoh was not a different person at all, but rather the very same Pharaoh arose with a NEW attitude. Once the bad times were over, he figured the Jews were expendable; he didn’t need them anymore and he didn’t want to owe them anything. After all, a lifetime of gratitude is a heavy debt to pay, no?
Boy oh boy, doesn’t this Biblical tale sound all too familiar? How many of us can think of all those times when we were there for people when they were down and out? But then one day, when they "made it," they forgot our name, forgot all we did for them, and offered begrudging hellos when they saw us? Once they walked through those doors of opportunity, they never turned back; they no longer seemed to “give a damn.” And poor us. We gave our hearts, our time, our money with the best of intentions and we are left standing there like epic idiots, depleted, hurt and bitter. And so the fundamental question is: Does gratitude have an expiration date?
And are we any different? It seems we often remember what we do for others, even the $5 we lent someone 20 years ago and insist we are only upset "on principle" that they didn’t pay us back. But when we owe others, we can manufacture excuses a mile a minute as to why the account has been settled.
It took the Jews less than five minutes to forget the Ten Plagues and the splitting of the sea and everything God did for them. Thus, it is no wonder that He had to command the Jews to remember that He took them out of bondage. Nonetheless, He still gave them the choice to remember, as it is our choice to fulfill the commandments or not. For the burden of feeling that we owe anybody anything may seem tantamount to slavery; we may feel that it shackles our pride and stride to drag along that weighty ball-and-chain of knowing that if it wasn’t for so-and-so, I’d still be a nothing and a nobody. Mankind does not want to be a slave, either to taskmasters, to favors, or to the past.
And so God freed the Jews from slavery and with their new freedom, He gave them a gift of sorts — the ability to forget. But along with that gift (batteries not included), came very important instructions: REMEMBER!!!
At the end of day, it all comes down to one thing. Are you a mensch? Are you a grateful person? Do you live your life in gratitude and appreciation? Do you think people are just rungs on a ladder that you can step on as you rise? I advise you to remember and to “be grateful to people on your way up because you will meet them on your way down.”
And for those of us who feel like the steps on the ladder, know that the Hebrew word for ladder (sulam)and Sinai (the host mountain where God gave His commandments) both have the same numerical value of 130. So, know you’ve done the right thing and you add up to decency. Be grateful that the Almighty endowed you with something to give. And know also that God has a long term memory, despite all those who quickly forget!