Feeling the Pain
By Rabbi Dovid Begoun
"And it came to pass in those days that Moshe grew up and he went out
his brothers and saw their burdens." (Shemos/Exodus 2:11)
The Medrash explains that Moshe's intention was to observe their suffering
to enable him share in their pain and empathize with their misfortune.
Moshe, who was raised in the palace of Pharoah, in the lap of royal
luxury, had been spared the anguish and misery of his Jewish brethren, and
certainly could have remained aloof and oblivious. Instead, he chose to
accept their burden as his own, to share in their suffering and to forgo a
life of extravagance and opulence. It was for this reason, explains the
Medrash, that Moshe was chosen to be the Redeemer of Israel and to lead
his people out from Egyptian bondage. And, expounds Rabbi Simcha Zissel
Ziv (1), it is this character trait, the ability to share in the anguish
and affliction of another Jew, to empathize with his needs and feelings,
which is the channel to the ultimate redemption of our people.
The Medrash elsewhere teaches that it was only when G-d observed the
compassion displayed by the young shepherd David toward the sheep under his
protection that He deemed David fit to be the King of Israel. It was not
his intellect, his shrewdness of mind or his mighty prowess that earned
him the position of progenitor of the Royal Davidic lineage. Rather, the
consideration he showed his sheep when sending them out to pasture earned
him this distinction. When leading the sheep to graze, he would first send
forth the young, tender sheep so they would be afforded the opportunity to
graze from the softest grass. Next he would send the elderly sheep to eat
from the reasonably soft grass. Only then would he send out the strapping,
strong sheep to eat from the hard grass. Knowing that if he allowed them
all to graze simultaneously the strong would overpower the weak and devour
the softest grass, leaving the young and elderly with what they could not
consume, he devised this system to ensure each animal's needs were met. The
Medrash concludes that G-d said, "the one who knows to pasture his sheep,
each according to its ability, let him come and shepherd my people."
Life presents constant opportunities to identify with the anguish and
distress of our fellow Jews. We should constantly seek out those in need of
empathy and search for opportunities to help bear the burden of a Jew in
need. Often the greatest kindness we can do for someone who is suffering is
to merely accept their pain upon ourselves as our own. In doing so, we will
merit to see the ultimate redemption of our holy nation and the restoration
of the Davidic dynasty.
Have a Good Shabbos!
(1) The "Alter of Kelm"; 1824 - 8 Av 1898; of the three leading students of
Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, founder of the mussar movement, Rabbi Simcha Zissel
was the one who Rabbi Yisrael expected to carry on the movement; R' Simcha
Zissel devoted his entire adult life to R' Yisrael's teachings; Rabbi
Simcha Zissel taught that the whole world is a classroom where one can
learn to improve his character and increase his belief in G-d.
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Dovid Begoun
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