Yosef Hatzaddik performed his duties far above & beyond any expectation, plus Egypt benefitted in every way from Yosef Hatzaddik's leadership.
Instead, this pretending-not-to-know of Yosef Hatzaddik emanated from a deplorable lack of appreciation.
This sealed the eventual doom of Mitzrayim.
As Rav Miller notes (page 4):
“Oooh,” said Hashem, “If you can be a kafui tov, a denier of good that a person bestows on you, then you’re never going to recognize what Hashem does for you. A man who can throw stones at Yosef will surely throw stones at Me. There’ll come a time when the one who said, 'I don’t know Yosef,’ he’ll say, [lo yadaati et Hashem] – I don’t know Hashem either.’ ”
That’s what happened eventually.
Eventually, when Moshe and Aharon came to Pharaoh, he said, “Who is Hashem? I never heard of Him” (Shemos 5:2).
Your Divine Aspect
Gratitude is what leads to love of Hashem, and also to a healthy fear of Hashem.
Gratitude opens up the heart's conduit for joy to come gushing in; it enables a person to serve Hashem b'simcha.
Our very label "Yehudim" comes from the name of Leah & Yaakov's son, Yehudah.
It carries within it the root hoda'ah—gratitude, thanks.
It's a defining quality for us, whether we realize it or not.
On pages 4-6, Rav Miller appealingly details the gratitude we should feel for parents & apples.
He acknowledges that it's much easier to feel gratitude toward people than to Hashem because we see more clearly people & the direct results of their actions.
On page 7, Rav Miller recalls the verse from Beresheit in which Hashem breathed into Adam's nostrils.
Seeing as Adam is the spiritual & biological root of every human being who has ever & will ever live, we must realize this means that Hashem breathed something of Himself into each & everyone of us:
The Creator breathed into a man’s nostrils the spirit of life (Bereishis 2:7).
Now, that sentence is so important that we should talk for forty years on that one subject; I’m not exaggerating!
Because who breathed into Man's nostrils Hashem? And...if somebody breathes, he breathes from himself.
So it means Hashem breathed into Mankind something of Himself – there is in Mankind something of Hashem.
It means that every single human being—Jewish or not Jewish, physically disabled or Olympic gold medalist, mentally disabled or screaming genius, slave or king, white or black or yellow or red or blue, billionaire or impoverished--EVERY single human being possesses something Godly within himself or herself.
"Why Should We Have Any More Scruples Than Algae?"
For example, with the exception of truly humble people, most human beings expect gratitude.
We expect appreciation for our efforts—even when our efforts result in foolishness or destruction.
Rav Miller offers the example of how Communists expect you to appreciate any benefit they bestow on you.
They take away all your rights, torture & kill people, lower the standard of living & quality of life...but expect you to grovel to them for offering you free healthcare.
They will break your bones & slaughter you, they will steal everything you've put heart & soul into, they will force you to live a lower-class lifestyle (while they enjoy a life of wealth)...but as long as you aren't a threat to their power & luxury, you can have free visits to the doctor & free operations.
And you darned well better be grateful for it, you insignificant pawn!
Atheists feel same way, of course.
Here's Rav Miller again, explaining it as only he can (page 7):
Let’s say a college professor; he believes that a man is descended from algae.
Now the algae doesn’t have any qualms about ingratitude.
And yet this college professor is outraged, he has an instinctive indignation at people who don’t appreciate what he does for them.
Now if you would question him, “Why should we have any more scruples than algae? After all according to your own teachings we are merely the result of accidents and development, and therefore all these things – gratitude, honesty, decency – are merely figments of imagination according to you; they’re imaginary social structures. So why should we be obligated?”
But despite all the theories, although he doesn’t believe in anything, the professor is still influenced by his non-evolutionist mother.
He still believes in the innate decency of gratitude because he can’t escape the inherent traits of character in every man’s soul.
And that includes the basic decency of feeling thankful and indebted to anyone who does even the smallest favor to you.
"When a man is deficient in his conduct towards his fellowman,
we know that he’s deficient in his conduct with Hashem."
–Rav Avigdor Miller (page 8)
Derech eretz, he says, means the correct qualities of character.
And correct qualities of character derive from gratitude & appreciation.
BTW, from personal experience...every time you see a person who seems very frum & knowledgeable, but displays bad middot on a regular basis, you can trace it back to lack of gratitude toward Hashem.
Again, emphasis on REGULAR basis. No one is perfect, and it could also be that you're misjudging someone who is genuinely behaving well but seems like not.
But if someone regularly displays bad middot, you can trace it back to lack of appreciation.
Boy, could I tell you stories of examples about this!
But I won't this time. 😉
Praise Your Real BFF
Rav Miller reminds us that Hashem is our Best Friend.
It doesn't always feel like it, but in our soul, we know that Hashem is our true BFF.
(And make sure to check out the practical tip on page 15!)