He May Be Heavy, but He's My Brother
by Rabbi Chaim Dovid Green
In this week's parsha we are introduced to one of the most revolutionary
people ever to live - Moshe Rabbainu (Moses, our teacher). Three major
world religions are based on the Torah which Moshe Rabbainu brought down
for us. The rise of monotheism and a sharp drop in polytheism is a result
of Torah coming into the world. Much of judicial law has its source in the
Bible. What did Moshe do which made him such a pivotal person in Jewish and
The Torah states: "And Moshe grew, and he went out to his brethren, and he
saw their burdens" (Exodus 2:11). On this verse the Midrash Rabah writes:
What is the deeper meaning of "he saw (their burdens)"? He saw their
burdens and cried, and said "a pity on you, I could die over you. Working
with mortar is such a difficult form of work." Moshe would personally help
each one in his work.
G-d (saw this and) said (to Himself) "You (Moshe), left your own concerns
to occupy yourself with the concerns of Yisrael (the Jews), (for that) I
will leave (My concerns) the upper and lower (worlds), and come down to
speak to you." That is the meaning of the verse (which is later stated),
"and G-d saw that he (Moshe) turned to see, and He called to him from the
midst of the (burning) bush" (Exodus 3:4)
G-d saw that Moshe diverted from his way to see the sight of the burning
bush, so He called to Moshe. On a deeper level, the Midrash understands
that the reason that G-d called to Moshe was because he "turned" to see. It
means that while he was in Egypt, when he went out to his brethren, he
"turned" from his own important matters to "see," that is, to share, and to
feel the pain of their troubles. The verse is hinting to us that for that
reason he merited that G-d spoke to him. This character trait is termed
"carrying the load with one's fellow," when one experiences another's pain
and suffering as if it was his own.
The "Alter" from Kelm praises this character trait very highly. He notes
that all of the wonderful things which Moshe Rabbainu accomplished, namely,
bringing them close to G-d, bringing them to Mount Sinai to receive the
Torah, preparing them to inherit the Land of Israel, and building the Holy
Temple, all were ultimately because of this character trait which he
Moshe's concern for his brethren is what led him to slay the Egyptian who
was mercilessly oppressing another Jew. This is what caused him to leave
Egypt and go to Midyan where he would come close to the Mountain of G-d,
and the vision of the burning bush.
We see, then, that this trait of sharing actively in another's pain and
troubles has unlimited positive implications. This is not a mere story of a
hero. There is an important life-lesson which the Torah is conveying to us.
We too can achieve greatness through our own acquisition of this trait. We
should all see what we can to to put this into practice. Anyone who lives
among people has countless opportunities to empathize with others and
lighten their load by carrying it together with them. Let us all put it on
the top of our priority list, so we can reap the benefits together.
Text Copyright © 1998 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.