Pharaoh’s officials said to him, “How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the people go, so that they may worship the LORD their God. Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?” — Exodus 10:7
The Torah portion for this week is Bo, which means “come,” from Exodus 10:1–13:16, and the Haftorah is from Jeremiah 46:13–28.
What was Pharaoh thinking? After yet another plague struck the land of Egypt every time he refused to let the Israelites leave, you would think that Pharaoh would catch on. But each time he promised to let them go and the plague passed, Pharaoh went right back to his original stance.
This time, however, before plague number eight was scheduled to arrive, his advisers had enough! They understood what was happening, and even they couldn’t believe that Pharaoh was being so stubborn. They pleaded with him, “Let the people go . . . Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?”
How could Pharaoh not realize that Egypt was being ruined? How could he not realize that he was up against a power far greater than himself and that he wasn’t going to win this battle? How could Pharaoh be so blind?
Have you ever seen a painting by the French painter Georges Seurat? Seurat devised a technique of painting known as pointillism. In this technique, the artist creates a masterpiece comprised of tiny dots of paint. If you stand close to the painting, all you will see is dots and more dots. But you can’t connect them and see what picture they are forming. Only when you step back from the painting and take in the whole canvass does the entire picture become clear.
This is a great analogy for understanding how Pharaoh could be so blind when the picture was so clear. Simply put, he was too close to the situation. This was his country at stake. It was also his honor, his ego, and his entire sense of self. Pharaoh was too emotionally invested in the conflict to be able to see it objectively. His advisers, on the other hand, were more removed. They could see the whole picture and understand its meaning. Pharaoh could not connect the dots.
Like Pharaoh, sometimes even the smartest of us aren’t able to think clearly. Maybe you’ve known a friend who was so obviously in a hurtful relationship, but he or she refused to get out of it. Your friend couldn’t see the repeating pattern of hurt and destruction. He or she was too close to the situation. Or maybe you have experienced being unable to make an important decision because you lost your perspective on the situation. Sometimes, when we are so close to a situation, we have difficulty seeing it clearly and we don’t know what to do.
In those kinds of situations, we have to be wise enough to do what Pharaoh didn’t: Listen to the advice of others! Who are your trusted advisers? Keep them close and turn to them in times of need. And don’t forget to ask for guidance from the most trusted adviser of all – God Almighty! He will help you connect the dots.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President