Part 1 of 4...
Exodus 1:8 A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph.
1:8 who did not know Joseph He was ignorant of or indifferent to the extraordinary service that Joseph had rendered to Egypt and the crown. He did not let the information change his outlook. Through much of Jewish history, the people’s well-being depended on the goodwill of a ruler. When the leadership changed, the fortunes of the Jewish community often changed as well. Pharaoh begins by refusing to acknowledge Joseph, and later refusing to acknowledge God, saying, “Who is the LORD that I should heed Him?” [Exod. 5:21]
(Source: Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary; The Rabbinical Assembly; USCJ)
POSSIBLE DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
I. This story begins with the statement that a new king arose in Egypt who did not know Joseph. For how long should someone’s meritorious contributions be remembered and affect the way his/her descendents are regarded?
Contrast this first statement with the frequent references in Jewish liturgy to the Exodus:
a. ani adonai elocheihem asher hotziti etchem mei’eretz mitzrai’im “I am Adonai your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (v’ahavta)
b. moshe umiriam uvney yis’rael leha anu shira besimhah rabah ve’ameru hulam “Moses, Miriam, and all athe Israelites broke out in song, abundant in their joy, and all as one, they said…”(Mi Hamohah)
c. zeher li’tzi’at mitzrai’im “[remember] the Exodus from Egypt” (Kiddush)
d. mi’mitzrai’im g’altanu adonai eloheinu u’mibeit avadim f’ritanu “From Egypt you redeemed us Adonai our God, and from the house of servitude you rescued us.” (Pesukey Dezimrah, Emet Veyatziv)
Why do you think that those who compiled our siddur decided to include so many references to our Exodus from Egypt?
II. Sometimes, when we frequently recall difficult past experiences, people get impatient and tell us to “Get over it – it’s done. You have to live in the present.” Is the emphasis in these citations on the slavery experience (an admittedly “difficult” experience) or on the liberation – becoming a free people? Share some thoughts on why it could be beneficial to remember the process of becoming a free people.
(Source: Oseh Shalom "Exodus" curriculum; co-written by Rabbi Gary S. Fink and Mary F. Meyerson; © 2004)
III. Think about a difficult time in your family's history which became a watershed event -- your family's story became divided between "before [the event] and after [the event]." Has the story been retold? Has it changed in the retelling? What "lesson" did your family learn from this event? Why is it important to remember?