Understanding the Scope of Kindness Among Jews
This week, Parshas Shemos, we discuss the beginnings of the terrible trials and tribulations the Israelites faced being slaves in Egypt. One interesting thing to point out is that within this gloom there was already a salvation being prepared by G-d Himself. He orchestrated that Moshe the future leader of the Jewish People was saved and being brought up by none other than the King of Egypt himself.
Moshe despite being brought up in royalty with everything he needed and every desire fulfilled, still maintained a sense of loyalty and sharing of the pain of the Jewish People.
The verse says as follows: (Shemos 2:11) ”ויגדל משה ויצא אל אחיו וירא בסבלתם” which means Moshe had grown up & decided to go out to his brethren, and saw their pain. Rashi explains this as follows: “נתן עיניו ולבו להיות מצר עליהם” He (Moshe) placed his heart and mind to be in pain with them (the Israelites).
Moshe decided to go out of the comforts that he was being brought up in and went to go and see how the rest of his People were doing. It says he saw their pain. With Rashi’s explanation though, this seeing of Moshe was not just that he saw with his eyes. Rather, he made a conscious decision in his mind and heart to be with them and share in their pain.
When we think of the word charity we think of putting a coin or two into the pushka. Once a year we’ll even donate to the Oorah Auction.
The Talmud in Tractate Sukkah (49b) discusses the different forms of charity. “ואמר רבי אלעזר, גדולה גמילות חסדים יותר מן הצדקה” – Rabbi Elazar differentiates between kindness and charity or tzedaka. Kindness is bigger than donating to charity. Kindness is paying attention to what the person needs. That can be financially, emotionally, or practically. When one puts their heart and soul into a kind deed, when one thinks ahead and strategically plans how to help someone, that is far greater than giving them a few dollars. Kindness can be done at work, kindness can be done at home with your spouse, children, siblings, parents etc. etc. Thinking ahead doesn’t only accomplish an outcome that someone has been helped. It connects two Jewish people together in heart and soul.
One of the reasons the Jews merited to be redeemed from slavery in Egypt was because they did this sort of kindness with each other. We live in a world where everyone is worried just about themselves. The Jewish People are left alone. It’s the perfect time for us to practice thinking more deeply about each other. How can I go about helping so and so? How can I help him/her feel better? Those will be our redeeming factors for our personal redemption and the building of the third Beis Hamikdash (temple) speedily in our days.
Have a delightful Shabbos!