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    The royal minders – Va’era

    Much of the Book of Exodus deals with the encounters of the two titans, Pharaoh and Moses.

    According to the rabbinic sages (Sotah 11a) Pharaoh had a council of minders. The three chief royal advisers were Bilam (Balaam), Iyov (Job) and Yitro (Jethro).

    Without worrying too much about the historical context, let’s ask why each of these three was chosen.

    Bilam, as we see from his later relationship with Balak, king of Moab, was good at cursing. If the king was hostile to someone, Bilam was brought in to pronounce a curse on that person.

    Iyov – whom we meet again in the Biblical book named for him – was known for counselling silence in the face of evil: his view was “Put up and shut up”.

    Minder Number Three, Yitro, turned his back on evil but opted out in favour of building a new, changed society based on more positive principles.

    All three had their limitations.

    The person we don’t hear of in this context was the Hebrew leader Moses. Though Moses was not a 100% Egyptian he was brought up in the royal palace and was well aware of what was going on in the intricacies of palace administration.

    So if we imagine Moses as a fourth counsellor, his contribution to royal policy making would have been unique. Neither cursing, silence or abdication, but consulting God. In the Moses story the Burning Bush (Ex. 3) symbolised the support of the Almighty.

    Pharaoh had his gods but the greatest deity in his pantheon was himself. Moses however had a different God, the One who ruled over the rulers – the Supreme King of Kings.

    When earthly rulers thought they were the greatest, Moses knew that the real Greatest was the one to listen to.

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