Like the Hebrew women of Egypt, focus on the bigger picture


Mimi David


How did she know

That on this journey

There would be

Cause to sing

— “Ashira Lashem” by Ashira Morgenstern (1983)

Sometimes, it’s about seeing the bigger picture.

It’s about taking a step back and zooming our focus out, off the details, and getting the whole view instead.

That does not mean ignoring the details. Those pieces are still there and still very much part of the picture, but they are not the focus right now. It’s the bigger picture that we are looking at.

This is the story of Passover. Having been slaves to Pharaoh for 210 years, the Jews in Egypt 3,334 years ago were very much focused on the details.

Backbreaking labor was the story of their lives, and it was impossible to think of the future, let alone five minutes ahead in time. Just making it through the next few seconds of slave labor was all they could think about. Pushing themselves, one moment after the other, just to survive the hell they were living in was a tremendous physical and emotional challenge. It was almost impossible to believe that there was a bigger picture going on.

Except for the fact that the women in Egypt believed just that.  Somehow, with superhuman strength, they widened their view and saw bigger things, larger picture stuff that was happening.

Let’s not have children, the men said, as all Jewish baby boys are being thrown into the Nile. Let’s not give in to that, the women said, as they knew the breakdown of Jewish families would be the end of their nation. We are on our way out of this place of misery? Bring the tambourines, all the women said, there is undoubtedly going to be singing and dancing and celebrating soon!

Thank G-d I never have had the experience of being a slave. But I do know what it is like to feel powerless or to have lost control — to desire for something, for instance, or to a negative character trait. Sometimes when that happens, we get stuck on the details. Trying to get through the next minute, just putting one foot in front of the other, takes all our attention.

Trapped by the tendrils of the trait or desire, it is really hard to take that step back and see things from a wider view. A wider  perspective would let me understand why it is worth all the effort it takes to break out of those clutches. A wider perspective helps me realize that better times are ahead and that I better bring along my tambourine.

Egypt of 3,334 years ago required seeing the bigger picture. The struggles we endure today require the same thing. Let’s use this Passover to learn the lesson from the women then, not to get stuck on the details, so that we can experience real freedom in our lives. Let’s widen our perspective, seeing ourselves in the bigger picture, so that we can have the energy we need to break through.

And don’t forget your tambourine.

Mimi David is director of women’s education at Aish St. Louis and has been a longtime teacher at Esther Miller Bais Yaakov of St. Louis. She is a certified Mikvah Mentor and a professional dating coach.