One of the most powerful messages of life is hidden in the Torah Portion Mishpatim ( משפטים ).
It is the foundational importance and great value of empathy.
“You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger: you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus. 23:9).
Unless you too have suffered and experienced pain, you can not be fully empathetic. It is only when we have experienced something similar to the pain and suffering of another that we can truly empathise with them and come alongside them in support and encouragement.
So all the challenging and painful experiences of your life can really be a blessing to others when they are in need.
But this is not always the way it turns out as Rabbi Sacks notes:“People who have suffered pain often respond by inflicting pain on others. The result is violence, sometimes emotional, sometimes physical, at times directed against individuals, at others, against whole groups. The only genuine, non-violent alternative is to enter into the pain of the other in such a way as to ensure that the other knows that he, she or they have been understood, their humanity recognized and their dignity affirmed.”.
Perhaps today, as you reflect on the moral imperative of empathy, you can change or refocus your perspective on your past trials and thank Yehovah for them as the experiences they have gifted you can be used to show empathy to those you meet who are hurting.
I believe that it is through our trials and suffering, our pain and heart-ache, that we can come to fully appreciate the message of Yeshua when he called us to ‘turn the other cheek‘: