Seeing The Broader Picture

The differences between the midwives' encounter with Pharaoh and the officers' and taskmasters' encounter teach us to appreciate the context of biblical narratives.

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Against this background, when we read of the officers and their valiant but fruitless attempt to ease the slaves' burden, their efforts serve as an illustration of Pharaoh's unflinching stubbornness and impudence in the face of God's wishes. In a sense, the passage is not about the officers at all--it's about Pharaoh. Therefore, it's unnecessary to mention the reward given to the officers; to do so, in fact, would divert our attention from the matter at hand, the God-Pharaoh encounter.

This literary value of appreciating the "larger picture" is meaningful to each of our lives. In an age of hastily-forwarded emails, media sound-bytes, and frenetic transfer of information, it's easy--perhaps inevitable--for us to view things out of context. But if we're to judge others fairly and otherwise act responsibly, we must slow down and seek out that context, to ensure that we understand things as they truly are. If we do so, we'll avoid the pitfalls that eventually ensnare those who don't.

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Yossi Ziffer works in the interactive services department of UJA-Federation of New York.