The Egyptians had just experienced seven severe plagues that God set upon them. Even though Pharaoh had also witnessed all of it, he still remained stubborn in refusing to let all of the Jews go free. However, Pharaoh’s servants – the ones who waited on their master hand and foot – had complete clarity: if the Jews were not freed, then Egypt and its inhabitants would be completely destroyed.

How is it that a king was unable to see what was so abundantly clear to everyone else?

The reason is that often we’re much too close to a situation to be able to see it objectively. Since it was Pharaoh who was speaking directly to Moses, he was too emotionally charged with what was happening to “his” country. Too close to the forest to be able to see the trees. Pharaoh – like many of us who are too close to something in our own lives – has the misguided belief that since we feel we know the situation the best, then we’re also in the best position to know what should be done. Therefore, we won’t entertain any other ideas or opinions.

It all comes down to objectivity. Whenever someone is emotionally immersed in something, then by definition he will have little or no objectivity. How often have you known someone who was involved in an unhealthy personal relationship but failed to see just how detrimental it was? And he justified being closed-minded to any other opinions because he embraced the notion that “no one knows the person like he does.” And that’s exactly why he can never be objective or act rationally. Anyone so close to a situation loses the larger picture and cannot see it clearly.

This is why it’s imperative always to seek others out and sincerely ask for and hear their advice. Our human nature will oftentimes discount what other people are telling us. This is because if we embrace their viewpoints, then we have to admit to ourselves that we made poor choices and will continue to do so. This “saving face” mentality of not hearing good advice is why people continue to just rationalize their poor behavior instead of changing.

One can never grow or become great with this philosophy. The greatest men have always been able to admit their wrongs of the past and then, based upon a new perspective, choose to make healthy and productive choices.

So listen to those around you who know you well and whose opinions you value. But the ball will ultimately still be in your court, so fight the urge to justify your past actions and start taking good advice. While it might not be easy on your ego to do this, it will, however, make you great.


Rabbi Ken Alter