Exodus 1:8 – “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph.”
The new Pharaoh did not know Joseph, nor did he understand how Joseph had saved the kingdom from famine. The assumption we make is that if he had known about Joseph, he would not have enslaved the Israelites out of fear of their potential disloyalty. To him, the Israelites were merely a threatening group of foreigners, not the descendants of a great man who had, if nothing else, greatly enriched the house of Pharaoh. In recovery, we can probably identify with both Pharaoh and the Israelites in this part of the story. When we are drinking and using, we often conveniently “forget” those people who have contributed to our success and well-being and associate instead with new, downward companions. We may even lash out and try to destroy friends and family who care about us because they are interfering with our addictive drives. On the flip side, our behavior may cause those who cared about us in the past to “forget” about us. Like the Israelites in the story, we may get burned by people we thought were our friends, though perhaps it is due to our own actions. Finally, this verse should remind us that it is dangerous for us to place too much importance on the goodwill of other people to assure our recovery. Only God has the ultimate power to help us in recovery. If we place our faith in God and pray for recovery, then it will not matter if the people in our lives forget who we are.
Genesis 47:29 – “And the time drew near that Israel must die; and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him: ‘If now I have found favor in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt.”
In this verse, Jacob asks his powerful son, Joseph, to bury him in the cave of Machpelah in Hebron. Shortly after, in 47:31, he makes Joseph swear an oath to follow through on this promise. Why does Jacob insist that Joseph swear an oath? Isn’t Joseph’s word alone good enough? Jacob must have understood that Joseph, as the number two leader in Egypt after Pharaoh, might have faced considerable pressure not to let his father be buried abroad. Burying Jacob in Egypt would have been a sign of respect to Pharaoh, and Jacob saw that Joseph could be tempted to please Pharaoh in this way. Hence the oath. In recovery, we experience similar situations, though usually not so profound. However, we should recognize the similarity to our own experience in the story of Joseph’s oath to this father. We often have the best of intentions to follow through on an action, but circumstances intervene – often driven by addiction or bad recovery – and we rationalize taking a different, and usually incorrect course.
We should all be asking ourselves, why did Joseph never communicate with his father that he was alive? You would think that after Joseph had risen to the position of Viceroy of Egypt, he could have sent word to Jacob, who was wracked with grief over his son’s alleged death. Yet, we learn that Joseph felt bound by the solemn vow that his brothers had made not to tell their father the truth about Joseph. It is perplexing to our modern minds, but we need to understand that Joseph knew of the prophecy that predicted he was to play the role he did in saving the world from starvation. And, as we learn from The Sages, a vow to God made by 10 or more men cannot be violated, even under the most extreme of circumstances. Joseph held by this rule. Connecting this idea to recovery, we can learn something about the power of an oath to God. An oath to God is a very serious matter, and should not be taken lightly. If you are an addict, or are close to one, you may have made an oath at some point – “God – help me and I will never do this again…” only to violate that oath later. We should approach such oaths with great seriousness, and never treat them as trivial.