You have a decision to make. Before you lies a conflict you haven’t been able to resolve, or a new reality that is causing anxiety and stress. Or maybe something in your life is asking you to take a leap of faith, change your perspective or become a bigger version of yourself.

AreAre you searching for truth or defending an agenda? you willing to open up to new possibilities? Or will you shut down and stick with what you know? Are you searching for truth or defending an agenda? That choice may depend on how you define yourself, your mission in life—and what you are willing to see.

In the second book of the Torah, Shemot, we read about two polar opposite personalities—Moses and the Pharaoh—one who committed one of the most transcendent actions recorded in the Torah, and the other, who committed one of the most heinous.

One was a servant of G‑d, who brought redemption and light; the other a self-proclaimed “god” who served his own agenda and brought destruction and darkness. Yet they shared something in common: the word, “Behold!”

With that one word, both Moses and Pharaoh had paradigm shifts, and they both set into motion world events consistent with their respective visions.

What Have You Done for Me Lately?

In Shemot, we see in Pharaoh words, the blueprint for anti-Semitism (in fact, it is said that Hitler modeled his propaganda machine after Pharaoh’s strategy). The Torah introduces us to Pharaoh as a “new king who did not know Joseph.” It is patently impossible that any Egyptian ruler would not have known the “Joseph Story” and how the Jewish people came to be in Egypt. At first, the Jews were honored guests and invited to settle in Egypt as appreciation for Joseph having not just saved Egypt from famine, but filling Egyptian coffers beyond imagination as the entire civilized world showed up on Egypt’s doorstep in need of grain.

The Dark Side of Appreciation

But there is a dark side to appreciation.

For someone like the Pharaoh, who considered himself all-powerful and divine, it was mortifying to feel indebted to the Jewish people—and their G‑d. And so, with the death of Jacob, Joseph and all his brothers, Pharaoh shirked off any vestige of gratitude. It was, therefore, not a case of “not knowing,” but creating a new historical/political narrative that recast a people that had been meaningful contributors to society into a so-called threat to that very society.

As any good despot knows, the shortest road to power is to create an enemy and then dedicate yourself to its destruction.

The Process of Dehumanization

“Behold! The people, the Children of Israel are more numerous and stronger than we. Come, let us outsmart it lest it become numerous, and it may be that if a war will occur, it may join our enemies, and wage war against us and go up from the land.” To refer to the Jewish people as an “it” is to dehumanize them.

Brené Brown defines dehumanization as “the psychological process of demonizing the enemy, making them seem less than human and hence not worthy of humane treatment. Once we see people on ‘the other side’ of a conflict as morally inferior and even dangerous, the conflict starts being framed as good versus evil.” Thus, we are free to “behold” any perception or narrative we want to create and nothing is off the table—oppression, subjugation, slavery, genocide, etc.

My Way or the Highway

What this can look like in a relationship is the “my way or the highway” attitude—an ultimatum to “take it or leave it,” where the other person must conform or suffer the consequences.

In asserting our absolute autonomy, if we come home late without a heads up, we may blow away our upset partner for being “controlling.” Our sense of time prevails; the thermostat is set at our comfort level. We make unilateral decisions since we don’t see other people’s opinions or feelings as worthy of consideration.

The Way of Moses

While tending the flock of his father-in-law, Moses noticed one of the sheep was missing. Concerned for its safety, he was in hot pursuit when he came upon an unusual sight: “Behold! The bush was burning in the fire but was not consumed.” That in itself required a level of awareness for Moses could easily have been too preoccupied with looking for the sheep to see that there was something very peculiar about a common brush fire. But Moses had a history of “noticing.”

TheSeeing it in others is not so common first time we meet him as an adult, Moses is the “Prince of Egypt.” Removed from the confines of the palace, he witnessed the suffering all around him, and when he observed a taskmaster viciously beating a Jewish slave, he took action and killed the man. Fleeing Egypt, Moses arrived in Midian, and when he saw a group of women being tormented by shepherds came to their rescue. While we’re usually in touch with our suffering, seeing it in others is not so common.

G‑d did not call out to Moses until Moses made a point of showing his willingness to enter this unknown territory—“to turn aside and look.” Then, G‑d summoned him, “Moses, Moses!” to which Moses replied, “Here I am.” This pivotal moment was built on a lifelong pursuit of truth, no matter where it led.

Behold! For everything in life asks for our attention. That’s the challenge. It is a struggle to remain open and not grow numb when negative news pounds our psyche daily. On the other hand, there is a price to pay when we cannot see the suffering of others. Says neuroscientist Rick Hanson, “You miss information about the nature of life, miss chances to have your heart opened, miss learning what your impact on others might be.” And closer to home, “Small issues that could have been resolved early on grow until they blow up. People don’t like having their pain overlooked.”

As a servant of G‑d, Moses was always ready to serve the moment, whether saving a lost sheep or an entire nation. “Here I am,” went his refrain. By being selfless, he had everything! In contrast, Pharaoh served only himself—and wound up with nothing.

Behold! The moments of life ask for your response.

What will you see?