From the Desk of Rabbi Mordecai Silver, Ph.D.
SETTING THE STANDARD
People learn by example. To forge an Israelite nation characterized by the trait of sharing one another’s burdens, Hashem provided a vivid model to emulate. From the depths of their misery, the enslaved Hebrews called for Hashem’s mercy. Hashem then appeared to Moses in the burning bush, signaling that “I am with them in their suffering.”
Moses, in turn, shouldered an unimaginable burden that stands for all time as the gold standard for empathy for one’s fellow. Raised with royal privilege, Moses could easily have insulated himself from the suffering of the Hebrews. He keenly felt, however, that his fate was tied to that of his brethren and he sought to instill within himself the full measure of compassion for them.
The rabbis write: “He went out to his brethren and saw their suffering.”
From the precedent of Hashem Himself, followed by Moses and, in turn, the great Torah figures of each generation, we come to understand that the challenges and adversities besetting others demand a response from us. They are our concern. Sometimes, we are able to help in a practical way. Sometimes, we can only offer comforting words of a listening ear. Always, we can let their suffering touch our hearts, and beg Hashem through prayer to shower them with compassion.
POINTS TO PONDER
Hashem set the example of sharing others’ burdens by conveying the message to Moses that He was with the Hebrew people in their suffering.
Moses purposefully chose to share the suffering of the Hebrew people so that he would feel their pain.
Each of us has the ability to provide some sort of succor for another person’s pain. Praying on behalf of the other person is an important way to do this.
Psalm 135:13 O LORD, Your name endures forever, Your fame, O LORD, through all generations; 14 for the LORD will champion His people, and obtain satisfaction for His servants. (TNK)