With the new Iran/Free World deal ringing in our ears, I got thinking about that piece of negotiation we Jews just read about, the one between Moshie and the mighty P of E. Together, those two important men produced complete slavery, ten plagues, untold numbers of dead and a poorly planned, super long road trip: the old winner takes all, win-lose dichotomy.
What if Moses had entered the palace with more thought about his negotiation strategy? Could we have left sooner after fewer plagues? For sure, we needed to go, but what if Pharaoh had experienced less humiliation? Maybe the entire Egyptian army wouldn’t have been sent after us and drowned.
Actually, how might the whole leaving Egypt story have been different if Miriam had led the way? Research indicates Miriam might have done it better. Study after study demonstrates that women are not as good at negotiating for a raise. They are punished by both male and female superiors for being “too demanding” and “not nice.” But they are better, up to 23% better, at negotiating on behalf of others. And they are at their best when they use an inclusive approach.
Imagine: Miriam strides into the palace and says, “We need to talk. I’m not sure that you know everything that’s going on but we have a problem. We need to address my people’s enslavement and I really need your input to come up with a solution that will be good for both of us. Can you help me?” It’s not like she’s without back up. She has the Big G. on her team and 10 mother-lodes of suffering up her sleeve.
What if Mims also shared with the Palace exactly what would happen if there was no give on the Egyptian side? What if she shared information about consequences? “I know you hated the Nile turning to blood. We need to talk about what’s going on or the next plague will be frogs. And I’m taking about big ones.” She could have used this prior knowledge for leverage. “Let’s talk about an early departure package for me. You’ll suffer no more plagues and you get to keep all your kids.”
In fact, if I’ve already replaced Moses with Miriam as lead negotiator, then I’ll bring in Mrs. Pharaoh as well. Perhaps Miriam could have had coffee with the Queen of Egypt. Maybe they could have had one of those profound, direct, bonding -through-self-revelation conversations that women are often good at.
Perhaps Miriam could have helped the Q of E. feel included. Less, “Let my people go!!” and more, “We are thinking of leaving. D’you wanna come with us?” Maybe, no longer hurt at being excluded from the party, the Queen would have let our people go earlier.
Maybe the Egyptians would have suffered fewer plagues.
Maybe fewer children would have died.
Maybe, we could have packed in a leisurely manner and included some appropriate supplies for a long trip in the desert. And we wouldn’t have been thirsty or hungry or quite so complain-y.
Jewish history would not be the same if we hadn’t left Egypt, but I wouldn’t mind if we lost the matza for a week. And maybe the bitter herbs as well.