“‘You shall be [appointed] over my household, and through your command all my people shall be nourished; only [with] the throne will I be greater than you.’ So Pharaoh said to Yosef (Joseph), ‘Look, I have appointed you over the entire land of Egypt.’” (Beresishit/Genesis 41:40-41)
In this week’s Torah portion, Yosef interprets Pharaoh’s dreams and Pharaoh appoints him to the highest position in Egypt. This is expressed in verse 40. Rabbi Yissocher Frand on torah.org notes that verse 41 appears redundant and asks why Pharaoh seems to reiterate the obvious.
Rav Frand explains: “Without subtleties, without social grace, Pharaoh is clobbering it over his [Yosef’s] head: ‘Don’t forget: I am the one who made you who you are – always remember that!’” The Rav continues: “Normally, even the best of human beings feel the need to remind people of the fact that they have done them a favor. However, the less one reminds a person of a favor he has done for him in the past, the closer he is to being angel-like.”
Citing an insight from Rav Shalom Schwadron, Rav Frand relates an incident from Shoftim/Judges 13. An angel visits a barren woman and her husband, Manoach, to announce that they will have a baby. When the baby is born, the angel feels no need to reappear to remind the couple of the debt they owe him for his role in the joyous event.
Writes Rav Frand: “We may never reach the scale of the Angel of G-d; nonetheless, we should not be Pharaohs either! When we do a person a favor – get him a job, help him find a shidduch (match), give him a loan – do not go looking for gratitude. It is hard enough to be the recipient of a favor; we should avoid constantly ‘rubbing it in.’”
As parents, it is tempting to remind our children of all the “favors” we have done for them – spending hours in labor before delivering them, quitting a promising career to stay at home, or foregoing luxuries to send them to summer camp. These actions are not favors – they simply are the choices we have made as parents. We should never hold these actions over the heads of our children in order to get them to do something for us, to thank us, or to “repay” us. As they mature, they will understand and perform the mitzvah (commandment) of kibud av v’em (honoring parents) and we will receive our “payment.”