It makes perfect sense that we see our lives mostly from our own points of view. Generally speaking, what I see is not necessarily what you see; neither of us is necessarily wrong, rather we are coming from different viewpoints.
When an event occurs, our viewpoints are coloured by how we’re personally affected rather than the random outcome of a series of events, chosen from an infinite number of possibilities, by 7.1 billion people. My reality exists because I exist and my context is the one that is most real to me, right?
When I cut in front of someone in the traffic, I see it as merely a mistake, perhaps I hadn’t checked all my car mirrors carefully enough, or was distracted by a passenger, or exhausted because life is, lets face it, tiring. When someone cuts in front of me, they become a self- important idiot, a string of expletives muttered under my breath. My point being, there are extenuating circumstances for my behaviour, but definitely none for theirs. Fair? Not so much.
And then we turn to Pesach, my favourite holiday of the year. An excuse to declutter, scrub my house to within an inch of its life and eat as observantly as I can for eight days. It’s a time for Family, where we uphold the themes of remembering, redemption and freedom.
When I shift my point of view off myself and to the broader Pesach picture though, how can I celebrate a day that commemorates the suffering of so many people? Surely not every Egyptian was evil and deserving of the 10 Plagues? How can a toddler be evil, (a subject for another column) and yet every single Egyptian firstborn son paid with his life.
Shifting our focus off ourselves, there is an Egyptian heroine we gratefully remember at our Seder tables. Pharaoh’s daughter, despite the considerable danger to herself, defied her father and brought into motion events that would lead to our freedom. Not only a woman, she was a non-Jewish woman without whom the outcome of our story as Jews would have been very different.
Like the ‘Righteous Amongst the Nations’ who, under unthinkable personal danger, helped Jews to escape Nazi Germany, Pharaoh’s daughter saved Moses from certain death, facilitating the liberation of Israel. She shifted her focus onto someone else and changed everything. Her name was Bithiah.
I know we remove drops of wine from our glasses when we speak of the plagues, to lessen the joy of our redemption, remembering that everything comes at a cost. Do we think of it enough, and speak of it to our children, so that they can consider their place in a world that should be seen from many points of view? If we can recognise the existence and importance of people like Bithiah, perhaps we can find extenuating circumstances in the actions of others, even if they are ‘other’.
In my broader view, Pesach should be time for the reflection that our successes often come at a very high price, affecting those who can ill afford it. There is most certainly a place for humanitarian concepts at my Seder table, because most importantly, we are human.
I want my Jewishness to be sensitive and relevant in an ever-changing world. By looking at the story from another point of view, I think we add to, rather than diminish, the richness of the storytelling. Closer to home, by seeing ‘the other’ as worthy of a shift in personal viewpoint, perhaps we can forge a path that leads to a story as inspirational as the Exodus from Mitzraim.