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Parashat Va’erah – “We act with kindness because we know what it feels like to be in need of kindness.” Rabbi Sacks


Being in servitude in Egypt is a very large part of continuing Jewish identity. We are told over and over again to remember that we were once slaves in Egypt and we’ve been redeemed. For over 3,000 years we have dedicated one night a year to relive our past bondage and redemption. In fact, the special commandment to free slaves was given while they themselves had the status of slaves in Egypt!

Of all our national experiences, why does our former subjugation have to be etched into our DNA for all generations?

The Torah begins with kindness (when G-d clothed Adam and Hava) and the Torah ends with kindness ( when G-d buried Moshe). Indeed, loving-kindness is a Mitzva which is never exhausted and fundamental to every part of the Torah. Kindness, itself, requires a prerequisite, empathy, which leads to sympathy. There is a popular saying that the person who is satiated is unlikely to believe someone who claims to be hungry.

In many communities around the world, fundraising to feed the poor is done in the closing moments of Yom Kippur, when everyone feels the pangs of hunger.

The Torah is teaching us a marvelous mechanism for personal growth, to see every pitfall and challenge in our lives as a wake-up call to identify and empathize with others who are going through the same challenges, as is common practice in support groups around the world.

Therefore, our history of slavery is an ongoing experiential lesson to identify with and help others in distress.

~Rabbi Shaul