This week we learn in Parshat Veyeishev the very important middah of ‘Remembering those who have helped you.’ So often in our lives, it is easy to think that we have achieved our accomplishments all on our own, and forget those who have helped us along the way. This is what happened to Pharoah’s cup-bearer (his sommelier). The cup-bearer was one of Yosef’s cell mates in the dungeon of Pharaoh. Yosef saved the cup-bearer from despair by interpreting his dream, and foretelling his release from prison and return to his honoured position. Yosef asked the cup-bearer to remember him languishing in prison, but once released, the cup-bearer forgot all about Joseph.
Often we question the character of Yosef, and think of him as a little bit arrogant. After-all, he told his brothers about his dream of eleven stars bowing down to the sun, which they (not he) interpreted as a message about their subservience to him. But a closer reading suggests that Yosef was a gifted person, who, while perhaps a bit naive, always remembered those who had helped him. When Yosef was finally released from prison and brought to interpret the Egyptian King’s dream he told Pharoah that his ability to interpret dreams was not his own, but rather a gift from God.
Those familiar with this story will remember that Yosef ended up in Egypt becuase his brothers, jealous of his dream, had sold him into slavery. For years the brothers remained apart, and Yosef rose to become the second in command of all Egypt. After many years, a famine struck Eretz Canaan, and so the brothers came to Egypt in search of food. Unbeknownst to them, they came before Yosef their brother to plead for food. For a while, angry and unable to forgive his brothers, Yosef concealed himself from them. When at last Yosef revealed himself to his brothers, he said to them: “Do not be angry with yourselves, for it is God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.” Yosef found the ability to forgive his brothers by remembering the help he received from God to survive and thrive in Egypt.
It isn’t always to easy to remember those who have helped us; sometimes sadness, resentment, or anger blinds us from remembering the help we have received. Yet by recalling where help has come from, and acknowledging those who have helped us, we can remarkably transform our perspective. When we asked the children about remembering those who have helped us, they recalled: “our parents, our teachers, our friends, our nannies.” This Shabbat may we follow their lead and Yosef’s lead and remember who have helped us.